Fashion is supposed to be insular, out-of-reach, in New York and Milan and celebrated by the elite who can afford such couture. The extravagant pieces of clothing which embody this high-end culture make us all feel kind of like Andrea in “The Devil Wears Prada” at her first day of work at Vogue.
UNITY Charity Fashion Show shattered these stereotypes. Far from being exclusive and aloof, the show featured performances across the spectrum, from Afrothunda Dance Group and the Treblemakers, NU’s premier East Asian-interest A cappella group. Student designers showcased their work, and all of the proceeds for the event went to GirlForward, an organization that empowers girls in the Chicago area who are refugees and immigrants. It was an event that promoted diversity, celebrated inclusion and, naturally, boasted fabulous clothes.
“The representation on the catwalk was incredible,” said Yasmine Diara, a Weinberg sophomore. “There was diversity from everyone, like all body types as well, backgrounds and the boys were highlighted. It’s just amazing to showcase student art ... There were a lot of looks that surprised me, ones I just wanted to buy off the models.”
The UNITY models were Northwestern students who began rehearsing for the show during Winter Quarter. “I had no idea we had such good models here,” said Chris LaMountain, a dual-degree freshman. Raghavendra Pai, one of the models, felt modeling was simply a fulfilling experience. “Putting on a lot of makeup and to be vulnerable to like, the spotlight, there’s something valid in that.” They wore pieces from Timberland, True Religion and White House Black Market, to name a few brands.
A representative from GirlForward also took her flair to the catwalk.
“There are so many organizations in the city, and the fact that they chose GirlForward to support is really exciting and special for us” said Temitope Famodu, who serves as director of communications. She spoke on stage with Anisha, (GirlForward asked that she only be identified by her first name) a 13-year-old girl who immigrated to the United States from Nepal six years ago. Anisha is one of the most “enthusiastic” participants in Girl Forward programming, according to Famodu.
“It is not only a place where you do your homework, but where you can hang out," Anisha said. "It’s like my second home.”
They both expressed gratitude to Northwestern and the UNITY team for their work. “We are thankful that you guys are now supporters of us and are part of the GirlForward family,” Famou said.
In order to support GirlForward, the UNITY team put on a number of events throughout the year, including a promotional flash-mob-style catwalk through the library, a makeup competition and a raffle during the show. Lucky winners received prizes including Cheesie’s gift cards, an Aloha Pokē Co. bowl catering event for 10 and a Benefit Brow Bar private Beauty Bash.
The UNITY Fashion show team began planning the event Fall Quarter. They selected models after auditions, called designers to borrow clothing for the show, solicited sponsors and advertised the event to the Northwestern community.
“It was really stressful, but seeing it all come together is a great experience,” said Angel Yu, co-president of UNITY.
The impressive growth of UNITY is evident. Ten years ago, the first UNITY show was held in the Louis room of Norris. For the last two years, it’s been in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Garden Inn. The event was sponsored by corporations from Gap to Talia, showcased clothes designed by Project Runway contestant Amanda Valentine and featured performances from talent like rapper Prez Harris.
In introducing the show, Carmen Mackins, co-president of UNITY, talked about choosing the title of the event, “What Comes Next.”
“It changes every year based on what we’re feeling and what’s going on in the world,” she said. With the optimism of a group like GirlForward, it wasn’t hard to see the deeper meaning behind slogan as she gestured for the show to begin: “Without further ado, here is what comes next.”