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A student's brush with fame, high fashion
Former Gainesville resident gets coached by runway diva
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Former Gainesville resident Clare Bilbrough, a graphic design student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, models clothes designed by fellow student Samantha Rossignol during the annual SCADStyle fashion show this past May. - photo by Courtesy Stephanie Fylstra

Walking in an evening gown with a billowing 20 foot train is no easy feat. Add in a fashion show runway, and it sounds like a challenge straight out of the hit reality show “America’s Next Top Model.”

But after months of preparation and a week of training with “America’s Next Top Model” judge and runway coach J. Alexander, Gainesville native Clare Bilbrough said she felt “pumped, confident, and ready” to show off the centerpiece gown. Bilbrough attended Gainesville schools through the ninth-grade, but finished high school in Tennessee.

Savannah College of Art and Design’s seventh annual SCADStyle fashion show took place May 14 in Savannah. Fifty SCAD fashion students presented their collections to some 2,400 people, including representatives of such well-known fashion brands as Chanel, Marc Jacobs and Prada.

Bilbrough, 21, a graphic design major at SCAD, credited J. Alexander’s coaching with getting her ready for her first modeling experience.

J.Alexander’s fashion industry savvy and larger-than-life personality makes him a formidable presence on and off “America’s Next Top Model.”

“It’s nerve wracking at first because of the aura around him,” Bilbrough said.
During the week of nightly runway practices, Bilbrough said the runway coach showed the models tough love, singling out individuals for critiques in front of everyone after hours-long practice sessions.

“He’s not one to compliment you,” Bilbrough said. “But he’s there to make you the best model that you can be.”

But despite the modeling experience with such a high-profile runway expert, Bilbrough said going into her senior year she wanted to focus on school rather than a career in fashion.

“Modeling’s fun but a lot of work and a lot of time,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again unless I get paid a lot of money.”

She added that the highlight of the show was the fashion itself. “The one thing that made it special for me was knowing that I’m there to show off these designers’ work,” Bilbrough said. “It’s cool to talk about the modeling, but in the end, it’s about the clothes.”

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