By Adeshola Adigun
“Style is definitely in the genes, and I don’t mean Levi’s.” — Andre Leon Talley, from “Catwalk” (1996)
It was my first fashion show, and as hundreds of other people dressed in their best outfits flooded into Trustees Theater I wondered, what’s the big deal? Why are all these people here to see pretty clothes on skinny models?
The high ticket prices, the visiting families, the hours upon hours that student designers spent not sleeping. It seems like a bit much just for some clothes. With a underlying skepticism, I looked forward to the show.
I found my seat next to a retired 77-year-old woman named Carolyn McElven and her husband (who were there as friends of Paula Wallace) and asked the woman what fashion meant to her. She looked at me intensely and said, “Looking the best you can. Whether it’s casual or you’re dressed up or in your night clothes, it’s looking the best you can.”
And who wouldn’t want to look their best?
The theater looked great. It was a huge production. The stage design, the music, the lighting and the flashes from all the cameras that added to it. They captured me.
The event began when Paula Wallace came out and told us how awesome the students’ work was. Then she presented fashion writer and guru André Leon Talley whose tall frame fit all the praise and acclaim he received. After his speech, Talley presented Ralph Rucci with the André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award. Rucci was happy to receive the award but was happier that the award was amber.
Then the cats came walking in.
Girls (and guys) came out wearing things I could never imagine conceptualizing, with textures that you could feel just by looking at them. One model reached the front of the runway, stopped, posed, then rubbed her hand down the center of her dress to emphasize the softness of it. And just to look sexy.
The part that brought the most cheer from the audience though, was when kids came out wearing the students’ designs from their children’s wear lines. Some added a little flare when they reached the front of the runway. One even blew a kiss. The audience ate that up.
In the days leading up to the fashion show, I asked some of the designers what inspired them to get into fashion. Emily Dawn Long, a fourth-year fashion design major said, ”My whole family is very thin so I had to teach myself to tailor my clothing to fit myself. Then my brother starting asking [me to tailor his clothes] so I basically set up a little sweat shop in [our] house and starting making bags, quilts and cutting up random things to make clothes.”
That says a lot about the non-materialistic side of the fashion industry. Some people create clothes out of necessity, not just to look good.
I truly enjoyed the fashion show. I was genuinely engaged the whole time. I also decided that fashion is similar to writing and photography (and cooking), we all do it but it’s the extent to which we do it that makes the difference.Contact Adeshola Adigun.