Colton Gerard

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a three-part series about the annual textiles and apparel seniors and their fashion show that will be held tonight.

Drawing inspiration from small, green toy soldiers, Colton Gerard created an ensemble that resembles his own legion of military officers for his collection, “Heritage,” which makes its debut tonight at the fashion show, “Innovation” at the Frank Erwin Center.

Although his collection is militaristic and exudes the regality of Napoleon Bonaparte, Gerard’s designs resonate with the same handwrought detailing that defines working class Americana circa 1940.

Gerard considered himself an artist from an early age, but pursued sports in high school and planned to play college football his freshman year at university. He sustained a knee injury his senior year that ended his football career and made him reassess his college ambitions.

He started at Texas Tech University as a pre-pharmacy major. After his first few months in Lubbock, he was determined to make the grades to transfer to UT and leave the small town for good.

While exploring other fields of study, he began designing graphic tees by using iron-on stencils as a hobby. His favorite shirt was a black tee with gold spray paint and writing that said “Beat Box Champion,” featuring his likeness holding a microphone ironed on to the shirt.

This hobby sparked his interest in fashion and, upon transferring to UT his sophomore year, he settled into the College of Natural Sciences as a textiles and apparel major.

Beginning fashion classes was difficult for Gerard. He was the only student pursuing menswear design in his class but was forced to study women’s fashion because the textiles and apparel department does not teach men’s design.

“As a menswear designer, I did not have a grasp of what makes a woman feel beautiful or how to flatter their curves,” Gerard said. “However, I feel like to be successful in this industry I had to mold myself into being a womenswear designer as well.”

During his first few classes, Gerard said he found himself sitting in the corner, feeling as if he had to prove himself to the class full of female students.

“I felt like I was being pushed to do something that wasn’t natural to me and felt like I needed to be overly masculine to prove myself to the other female designers,” Gerard said.

As time passed he became more comfortable with women’s design and created numerous dresses, including a Navajo print bubble dress that UT fashion designer Jessica Bird said she loved.

With four looks in his current Fall 2011 menswear collection, Gerard’s most prominent piece is a long khaki jacket with leather detailing, sturdy top stitching, epaulets and a heavy structure. He brings many natural elements into the jacket, which contribute to its ornate detailing, such as toggles made of deer antlers, elbow patches made of dark rabbit fur and a white rabbit’s foot that hangs close to the front pocket.

He said his work has been compared by panelists to Ralph Lauren’s Double RL collection. Coincidentally, Gerard hopes to soon work for that very brand.

His finale piece is a formal, gold and black velvet smoking jacket inspired by the Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man” campaign. It has a seven-inch cigar pocket on the inside of the jacket. The look features a lipstick-stained, collared white shirt underneath the jacket and also an eye patch that resembles something a James Bond villain would wear.

Though his formal look does not fit his collection’s rugged, military aesthetic, it has an eccentric, ornate quality that “Heritage” was meant to portray.

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WHAT: “Innovation” — the UT senior fashion show
WHEN: Tonight; pre-show exhibition at 6:30 p.m. / show at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Frank Erwin Center
HOW MUCH: Free