Short North resident makes impression at New York Fashion Week

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Just a few days before the designs of fashion brands Nicole Miller, Rebecca Minkoff and J.Crew hit the runway during New York Fashion Week this month, Short North resident Paige Meacham sent her own collection down the same celebrity-lined aisle.

Come Friday, this time at a Paris Fashion Week event, she will again show off her couture dresses.

“How many people can say that they showed at New York Fashion Week?” said Meacham, still elated in the days after her experience.

Indeed, many designers spend years trying to land their work on the runways of the gatherings sponsored by Mercedes-Benz.

Meacham, a 22-year-old recent graduate of Kent State University, seems to have a jump-start on her career.

Her move into the spotlight came courtesy of professors full of praise for the young designer as well as a Phoenix cotton brand.

Meacham was selected by Fashion School faculty members at Kent State — from among about 50 recent graduates — to participate in the Supima Design Competition.

The event, in its eighth year, features a graduating student from each of the top seven fashion schools nationwide.

Supima directed the designers to create five eveningwear looks during the spring and summer — each highlighting one of its five fabrics (twill, denim, shirting, jersey and corduroy). The designers then presented their creations during a professionally produced show on the first day of Fashion Week.

Although the Meacham collection wasn’t awarded the grand prize of $10,000, Supima representatives and her professors agreed that it ranked among the most well-received and cohesive.

“It was stunning,” said Buxton Midyette, vice president of marketing and promotions for Supima.

“It was great to see the cameras come out as her designs hit the runway. The large-scale prints that she created were gorgeous.”

Hearing such feedback and seeing her dresses showcased by professional models made losing the competition more than bearable.

“People kept asking me if I had thought about what I would do if I won, but I was like ‘No, not really,’??” Meacham said. “I feel like I’ve already won. I’m showing at Fashion Week; I have a flight booked to Paris.”

The work of the contestants will be displayed during the French capital’s version of the event — and cap off a whirlwind few months for Meacham, whose style began to emerge as a preschooler, said her mother, Kim.

“She had very specific ideas about what she wanted to wear and the accessories she would use,” Mom said. “But more than anything, from the minute she could hold a pencil, she was an artist.”

Paige Meacham recalled receiving her first sketchbook from a family friend while in middle school at St. Agatha in Upper Arlington.

The family had recently learned that her older brother, Chase, had a cancerous bone tumor.

“When he was having chemo, I used to sit with him and draw,” Meacham said of her brother, whose cancer has been in remission for 10 years.

“That’s when I really started illustrating fashion figures.”

She quickly filled the sketchbook — then another and another.

During high school at Bishop Watterson, when she began exploring colleges, she found Kent State to be a logical choice: It had a premier fashion program close to home.

Plus, the school offered the chance to study in four major fashion cities: New York; Paris; Florence, Italy; and Hong Kong.

“I think she’s possibly the first student to take advantage of all our study-away programs,” said J.R. Campbell, director of the Fashion School.

Her desire to study the cultural styles of the world partly explains why faculty members chose her to represent Kent State in the competition.

Her experiences abroad also helped her form a clear vision for a collection inspired by her travels.

“She was very eloquent with her ability to talk about her design ideas,” Campbell said.

Each of the five dresses suggests a place where Meacham studied while in college — including Kent State — and features an original photo digitally printed on the fabric.

The Paris gown, for example, highlights a picture she took of Notre Dame Cathedral.

“All the places I went had these hard building lines with beautiful landscapes and green spaces,” she said. “When you travel, you form these layers but you also dispose of layers. As you become more immersed in the culture, you change yourself. The ruffles (in the dresses) are like those layers.”

Meacham took the opportunity to stretch her design repertoire out of “my comfort zone,” she said.

For someone who prefers to sew coats and outerwear, she found a fun challenge in eveningwear, especially given the unconventional fabrics.

She typically works in earth tones, but she decided to be more daring with her color palette, relying on yellows, pinks and purples.

Throughout the process, Meacham leaned on the guidance of teachers and the support of her family.

Kim Hahn, an associate professor at Kent State, recalled using Skype with Meacham almost weekly during the spring to critique her progress in Hong Kong.

“She’s always so positive,” Hahn said. “She takes criticism very well, and she puts her own spin on it.”

Kim Meacham often kept her daughter company during late nights of sewing — with the help of reruns of Project Runway, a reality show and design competition.

Also throughout the process, younger sister Kendle served as her “fitting” model, and dad Jeff called to check on her “sanity.”

Mishaps that occurred during the construction phase — dye on one dress turned out neon green instead of mustard — and a model who dropped out of the show the night before the contest allowed Meacham to show off her problem-solving skills and flexibility.

(She painted the gown to achieve the perfect yellow and worked with a new model to alter the dress.)

“She was never nervous,” Hahn said.

The academic struggles that Paige faced as a child, her mother said, prepared her for the world of fashion:

“Whatever it takes to get it done, she gets it done. She’s really tenacious.”

And fashion and her artwork have long served as effective outlets.

Meacham hopes to translate her experiences in New York and Paris into a corporate design job in the Pacific Northwest.

She would like to develop more savvy in business and eventually open a boutique with her sister.

“All the feedback I got was good,” she said. “Lots of people came up to me after the show and told me that they like the photography and prints.

“I was really proud of what I came up with. My school was really proud of me.”



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