Natasha Sayani's skirt on a model walking down the runway
Inspired by her Pakistani roots, designer Natasha Sayani, third-year international studies major, created a rainbow of silks that floated down the runway at Fashion Interest Group's spring show. Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

Who needs Heidi Klum or Tyra Banks? UC Irvine has its own version of “Project Runway” and “America’s Next Top Model.”

The Fashion Interest Group, created and run by UCI students, held its second annual Spring Fashion Show May 27 at the Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom. Ten student designers showcased their 10 best ensembles, vying for the coveted title of UCI’s “Top Designer.” Their work was judged by Jackie Chen, marketing coordinator, and Andia Bayandor, wholesale marketing assistant, of Los Angeles-based clothing company BCBG Max Azria Group.

The event also featured a “Greek Walk-Off,” in which sorority and fraternity models strutted their stuff (some even backflipping down the catwalk and channeling their inner “Zoolander”) for the chance to be crowned UCI’s “Top Model,” as decided by audience applause.

The energetic, standing-room-only crowd of about 500 grooved to DJ Geo del Carmen’s tunes while video clips ran from fashion shoots and “The Devil Wears Prada.” UCI student dance crew CADC opened the show, and techno-pop sensation Hyper Crush closed out the night.

Behind the scenes, the designers, models, makeup artists, coordinators and photographers — all UCI students — scurried to prepare for the show. Sewing machines whirred up to the last minute, while designers sweated over model walks, makeup and accessories.

FIG was founded in 2007 by Diana Kang, third-year international studies major, and Heidi Rom, global cultures senior. “Heidi and I created the Fashion Interest Group at UCI because when we came here as freshmen, we wanted to join a fashion club, but there wasn’t one,” Kang says.

Now more than 50 active FIG members meet biweekly, and the nonprofit group has 400 Facebook fans. “We’re very prominent,” Rom says, “and we’re excited to do our second fashion show.”

Kang adds: “The beauty of the fashion industry is that everyone who’s in it loves it. Everyone’s so passionate about it. It’s amazing how many people at UCI feel the same way.”

This year’s Top Model sorority winner was Jackie Tam of Delta Gamma, and the fraternity winner was Joey Saldana of Phi Kappa Psi.

The Top Designer was Ryan Villarina, third-year psychology major, who showed his work for the first time at FIG. “I had a story to tell,” he says of his creations. “I was trying to convey an emotion: mystery, melancholy.”

Villarina’s collection, inspired by hairstyles, played with form and structure. Standouts included softly ruched black shorts and a white tube dress adorned with golden bobby pins.

As for the other Anteater designers, Heidi Klum’s “Either you’re in or you’re out” doesn’t apply. “Everyone is welcome,” says Kang.

2009 Fashion Interest Group designers:

Hannah Hirsekorn, first-year studio art major:
“Fashion is my passion. I’m definitely inspired by my mom and grandma. They were both little fashion vixens of their time. Fashion has always been important to me, since my first pair of sparkly red boots when I was 3.”

“I’m an artist, and I also work with fabrics in sculptures. I really like working with my hands and getting intimate with the objects. It’s not just about fashion for me; it’s about art.”

Ruby Jou, fourth-year international studies major:
“For this collection, I decided to go simple, black and floral and try to incorporate the belts I wove myself. Also, some of the dresses were transformed from pants that people would probably think were unpleasing. I deconstructed them and made them into dresses that people would like.”

Louise Lao, second-year art history and literary journalism major:
“I write for the New University, and I have a fashion column called ‘Suburban Outfitter.’ I focus a lot on how to be stylish or follow trends, but on a college budget.”

“Fashion is a form of self-expression. And you don’t need a lot of money or material goods to do it. It’s about creativity. When people think of fashion, they always misconstrue it as materialism and labels and all that, but I really think that what’s most important is wearing what makes you feel like an individual.”

Melanie Y. Lee, third-year studio art major and FIG director of design:
“Fashion is a way to express your personality. Personally, I’m on a tight budget, so it’s being creative with what you’ve got. I just wear what I like and create what I like.”

“My inspirations come from all sources. I took a 2D-3D class for studio art, and we learned a lot about geometric shapes and organic shapes and contour lines, so I tried to grasp that and put it into my fashion creations.”

CoCo Mohnkern, second-year business economics major:
“Fashion’s meaningful to me because it has so much to do with how you present yourself and how people see you. And you can express your personality in what you wear.”

“The whole show experience is so much fun. I make things I would love to wear. I’m inspired by fabrics and bright colors. And without this show, I would never have had a cohesive line.”

Natasha Sayani, third-year international studies major:
“My collection is primarily Middle Eastern. I’m Pakistani, and Pakistani fashion is very traditional. But that’s not really what Pakistan is all about. It’s had multiple influences and culture clashes that amalgamate, and I want to bring that out in my line.”

“Fashion means fun. I think fashion makes the world a better place.”

Jess Suh, fourth-year international studies major:
“Fashion means individuality, creativity — a way to express yourself. It’s a way to show the world who you are.”

“My inspiration for this collection was Betsey Johnson. I love floral prints, bright colors, lace and bows. It’s very girlie, very springtime.”

Grant Van Peski, second-year sociology major:
“Fashion means a lot to me personally. It’s a great way to reflect your own creativity out into the world. It’s also important because it goes into all aspects of life — economics, social classes, etc.”

“I’m inspired by runway shows, magazines and my travels, like my trip to Greece last summer.”

Ryan Villarina, third-year psychology major and winner:
“As for inspiration, for this collection, it’s certain aspects of hairstyles. Since hairstyles are one form of self-representation and fashion is another, I blended those two together to form one cohesive, continuous collection.”

“I’d love to move to Paris and become a well-established designer, or at least well-known within some people’s hearts.”

Teresa Williams, fourth-year art history major:
“For me, fashion is a form of art. I love art, so I’m really drawn to it. And I love making things with my hands, especially clothing.”

“I was really inspired by my fall study abroad in Barcelona — the architecture by Gaudi, and Picasso and all the artists who lived there. So my collection has a summery, European feel to it. I used a lot of bright colors and nature patterns, like leaves.”