Last weekend's annual Art Institute graduate showcase and fundraiser fashion made me cry within the first 10 minutes. Sure, the complimentary VIP-tinis might have been an influence, but the show opened with an inspiring making-of documentary video, followed by a touching tribute to Sue Bonde, Academic Director for the Apparel Department that had me blinking back the floodworks. My eyes cleared up, however, to take a look at the evening's main event: the debut of graduates' senior collections, where I was keeping watch for the names I want to start keeping tabs on.

Courtni Tyrrell:

  • OSI

These Western-influenced leather bags are burly and solid looking, and no-nonsense cool without trying to hard. I thought this saddle-shaped courier bag was particularly interesting:

I wasn't a fan of the styling—I get that it went with the theme, but I think it would have worked better to be less literal, if not with some contrast. Take it away from the cowgirl boots an bolo here, and this bag is totally feasible for a city girl, reminiscent of Wendy Nichol:

Amelia Fuertes:

More indication that the school has hit upon a good thing with its new Accessory Design program. This has everything you'd want (including quilting) in an everyday warm-weather tote.

And she makes shoes! That is high atop the list of things I'd love to see done more often locally.

Sara Morris:

I'd do without the top, but on the bottom half there's an adorable black mini skirt with some actual interest that is still versatile enough for non-goths to run to as a staple.

I love the drape of this coat. It hits one of my favorite notes: '70s occult. And the subtle skull on the back kind of won me over despite myself.

Beth Mellone:

Amid a collection that featured flapper influence and Missoni-esque knits came this kicky party dress, which hits just the right mid-way spot between antique and modern.

Samantha Duncan:

This tunic in particular I found most impressive in this collection. With its rad deconstructed texture, it looks like something you'd find in an edgy boutique with really annoying care instructions (that's a compliment).

Ijeoma Okenwa

The next Joshua Buck? I hope so.

Kacie Cross Roseboro

Speaking of the 1970s, this collection would knock 'em dead at any shag carpeted coke party, but I am particularly enamored with this floaty, gauzy robe.

Shannon Welsh

There is something simultaneously awkward and appealing about the cut of these leather pants, as though they were authentically cut for someone who'd be astride a horse all day in the Wild West. There's an old-time authenticity that reads very tomboy on a woman, which I'm digging. (Don't ask me what's on her head.)

Devon Burrus

Walking the line between innovation and approachability in menswear is no small feat, but I think Burrus has done it here. I love that she clearly has lots of ideas but a controlled hand in meting them out.

Taylor Durgan

There's a sharp little preppy jacket under that cowl. I would be surprised if the the sportswear brands have taken note.

Lindsay Chapel

This collection perhaps could have had a bit more variation but Chapel did the geometric mod look very well. I'm especially fond of her color choices.

Seth Noles:

Straightforward, well tailored menswear. We need more of that.