Fashion Forward: UT Student Competes in Runway Challenge

Austin may have landed on GQ’s Worst-Dressed Cities in the U.S. list—number 18, to be exact—but chemical engineering senior Diya Liu refuses to accept that. Through her stylish blog, In Her Stilettos, and with a little help from Marie Claire magazine, Liu is bringing a bit of New York style to the Forty Acres.

Liu was one of four students chosen from 200 fashion-savvy applicants to participate in the Marie Claire Front Row College Challenge, a competition for a coveted internship at Marie Claire and Ann Taylor LOFT. The task: style and coordinate a full-blown runway production using clothing exclusively from LOFT and makeup from the contest’s other sponsor, Rimmel.

“Diya has a great aesthetic; she obviously knows how to style,” said Zanna Roberts Rassi, Marie Claire’s senior fashion editor, at Liu’s runway show last night. “She views things like an editor, always looking at the bigger picture.”

As a finalist, Liu was flown to New York City for a crash course in styling a runway show. When she returned to Austin, Liu was responsible for picking models, hairstyles, and style of makeup, in addition to putting together 14 different looks using LOFT merchandise—all while going to school.

“I think the hardest part has been trying to balance schoolwork and this show,” said Liu, who is graduating this December. “I’m just glad to see it come together.”

And come together it did. Last night, the rooftop at The Mohawk Austin on Red River transformed into a Fashion Week show, complete with a white runway, flashing lights, and big screen TVs that played clips of Liu’s trip to NYC. Rows of chairs lined the catwalk, and Liu’s family and friends got the celebrity treatment with front-row seats.

As the models came barreling down the runway, it was obvious that every look was infused with Liu’s eclectic and over-the-top style. The outfits were all about mixing textures—whether it be a leopard fur coat on top of a striped tee or a tweed jacket accessorized with a sequined clutch.

“We loved the abundance of fur,” said Tyler Neal, a UT student and public relations director for the University Fashion Group of which Liu is a member. “A friend and I were just talking about how much we wanted fur before the show, and here it is!”

The Front Row College Challenge winner will be announced Dec. 1. And whether or not Liu wins, she says she is thankful for the opportunity to learn more about the fashion world.

That said, she is looking forward to finishing school and pursing a career in—you’ll never guess—patent law.

To read more about Liu and the other Marie Claire Front Row College Challenge finalists, click here.

Photos by Camille Claudio. Top, a model poses at the end of the runway. Right, contestant Diya Liu struts down the catwalk after the show.


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