Katie Rodgers has only a few minutes to get ready. She's heading to Milan for the night, and it's not the average evening out—it's the Moschino fashion show, and she's just found out she has tickets. She throws on a black dress with pinpoint ivory polka dots and slips into tights and neon pink heels. With a beaded black necklace completing the look, the Carnegie Mellon industrial design major heads toward the train for the three-hour ride to Milan from Florence, where she's studying abroad.
She's never been to Milan, doesn't speak Italian, and has just minutes to find the Moschino store and pick up the tickets her fashion illustration professor left for her.
Success! Tickets in hand, she gets in line outside the show. Suddenly something cold and wet drops onto her head. Bird poop. In some cultures, superstition holds that if a bird poops on you as it's flying by, you'll have good luck. Some versions specify that the excrement must land on your head to count.
Check and check.
A kind woman in front of her thrusts hand sanitizer and Kleenex into her hand. After an impromptu bath, she heads into the show. Her luck has begun.
The show astounds her. The runway is splattered with random streaks of paint. The intro music is simply dogs barking. A skinny slip of a thing steps onto the runway, wearing a slate-colored coat with a rounded, ruffled collar. On her head is perched a camel-colored hat that's half-a-foot high. At the end of the show, the designer doesn't come out to greet the crowd, as is custom. For this brand, runway shows are only about the clothes.
Watching fashion live and smitten by the show's disregard of industry standards, Rodgers has a revelation—this is what she wants to do. Suddenly, the six-hour round-trip travel for a 15-minute show seems worth it.
Upon returning to the Pittsburgh campus, she puts her forte for apparel design into practice. She takes costume design classes and designs for Lunar Gala, the university's annual celebration of the Lunar New Year through fashion and dance.
Fast-forward a few years after her 2008 graduation. Her fashion sketches are now seen around the world more than 100,000 times a month, and that's just on her blog, PaperFashion.net, where she showcases and sells her apparel illustrations. She's been commissioned by several large retailers—including Target and Coach—to do illustration work, and she's worked with Lauren Bosworth and Stephanie Pratt (of MTV's The Hills fame) on illustrations for their upcoming business venture. Also, to be announced soon, is a collaboration with a popular Grammy-winning artist. And her work has been published in ELLEgirl Korea and numerous fashion illustration books. All that's just in her spare time.
By day, she's an apparel designer for Reebok, which will soon relocate her to Barcelona, where she'll design for the company's European collections. Her hope is to one day have her own runway show in Milan, minus the bird accoutrement, even if it is good luck.