Elise Hu loves everything runway.
"I can feel the emotion coming through the clothing," the Los Altos High sophomore said of her habit of watching runway shows on the Internet. "I feel alive."
So she started Debut, a club for like-minded classmates at LAHS, aimed at all aspects of fashion and a broad appreciation—photography, modeling, design.
Just before the holidays got underway, staff at the new downtown boutique, Apricot Lane, was trying to connect with local schools ... where teens naturally have an interest in fashion. They proposed a holiday window and styling competition, with store fashion merchandising employees mentoring the students. The entire club got to create a holiday backdrop for the window, and four students, senior Jennifer Helguera, and sophomores Janna Wang, Michelle Deng and Hu, competed with their styling. Each competitor acted as the lead during her week, and the team would help carry it out, dressing the mannequins, finding the models and shooting photos. After the holidays, fans got to vote on Apricot Lane's Facebook page for a winner. Apricot Lane doubled its Facebook fan page "likes" during the holiday run, said employee Naida Ergas.
"At the beginning, we didn't know what we were doing, and we got the window all tricked out," Hu said ruefully. "We had to do it over, because we learned that the idea is to show the clothes.
Manager Angela Forte laughed at the memory. "They learned that if they put out fake snow, the fibers were going to get all over the clothing."
All the contestants will go on a trip to the Feb. 5 CALA Fashion show in San Francisco, and lunch with Apricot Lane owner Nikolina Bergstrom.
Winner Hu also received a beribboned mannequin ("I think every fashion girl wants one," quipped manager Angela Forte) and "Windows" a huge coffee table book on the store windows of the storied Bergdorf Goodman department store. Deng, whose photography impressed Bergstrom, was offered a three-month internship to shoot fashion at the store.
"It really really motivated me, that it could help in a future in fashion marketing," Hu said. "