While Brown students may be stereotyped as hippies who wear Birkenstocks and flowy skirts, this image tends to be far from the truth. There is no single uniform on campus, and there is no shortage of fashion awareness. Now that the second annual Fashion Week has arrived on campus - events started Tuesday - the members of Fashion at Brown hope students will tap into and appreciate this fashion consciousness.
Inaugurated last year, Fashion Week consists of activities that celebrate the creativity of Brown students. The three-day-long festival culminates in a fashion show Thursday night.
Yesterday the group worked with the Vault, Brown's student-run consignment shop, to host a do-it-yourself workshop, allowing people with little or no creative experience to make something of their own and familiarize themselves with the design and creation process. Attendees used old t-shirts to make unique and redesigned blouses.
Tonight there will be a business panel "for people who might not be fashion-world or style-oriented," said Mia Zachary '14, director of Fashion at Brown. The panel features designers - such as Jonathan Joseph Peters of the seventh season of "Project Runway" - as well as local store-owners and business founders.
A mixed closet
Fashion at Brown considers Fashion Week an outlet for Brown students to share both their talents and love for fashion, particularly "to celebrate and be aware of the fashion that exists here on a daily basis," said Eve Blazo '12, the model coordinator and stylist.
"So many people who you would not expect to have a style, just from the stereotype you would apply to them, do have this very interesting, unique style," said John White '14, designer coordinator and former Herald copy editor.
It is this sense of personal style that Fashion Week hopes to highlight.
"Obviously people think about what they're wearing and think about their social identity and how fashion contributes to that," Blazo said. "But people (at Brown) generally know what's going on in fashion and know what's trendy."
Because fashion and style affect everyone, the group tried to make the activities equally accessible to students from different social groups, which White said was one of the founding principles of the organization. "We don't want it to be exclusive or isolating," he said.
Strutting their style
The group hopes the show draws a diverse crowd consisting of friends of the models and designers as well as students who have not explored the world of fashion at Brown before, White said. "I hope they not only get out of it that there is so much talent around them, but that they can do it too," he added, pointing to the fact that two of the designers who will be displaying their works have not taken formal classes or created garments before.
The show, which last year only ran once and contained 18 looks by eight designers, will take place twice this year and has expanded to feature 14 Brown designers showcasing about 35 looks.
"It's not about what is trendy for next spring or what's hip at Brown, but more like 'this is what inspires me,'" Blazo said, explaining how the designs represent the individual styles and influences that make the fashions at Brown so diverse.
"What's going to be shown is not what's on the pulse or on the pages of magazines or even Brown style, but it is extremely varied," White said.
Some designers attempted to make their designs eco-friendly by using recycled materials such as zippers and metro-cards, while others looked for cultural inspirations.
Ramya Mahalingam's '14 collection was inspired by her attachment to multiple cultures - her parents are both from India, while she is American. Another designer, Sofia Ruiz '14, is showing shirts made to spread awareness for her charity Hands for Latin America, exemplifying how fashion can be used for socially-conscious causes. She will provide information on how to purchase these shirts, and profits will go to the charity's mission of improving the quality of life for children in Latin America.
The hair, makeup, lighting and sound are also completely student-run. "They are really on top of their game," said model Alisa Currimjee '14 of the designers and coordinators of the show. "They know exactly what they want from each of us and are very professional." As a model, Currimjee got fitted by her designer and attended two run-throughs to practice her walk.
The models also exhibit Brown's diversity, with varying heights and ethnicities. One model, Genevieve Moss-Hawkins '14, is only 5'4'' - short compared to traditional models.
"Modeling is the last thing my friends would expect me to do, which is why I'm so excited to do it," she said. "It's very empowering being one of the shortest people in the show because most girls are not super tall ... it's fun to represent that demographic and show that average-sized girls can still model clothes."
While Fashion Week has grown and is much better organized this year, according to Blazo, the group still faced challenges in the planning process.
"We had really ambitious plans, and some fell through," White said, discussing how they had hoped for more industry guests and wider news coverage. It was also difficult to mobilize everyone involved in the show for planning and rehearsals.
But despite these setbacks, the coordinators are generally pleased with the prospects for the week.
"It's so awesome to work with a group of people that really care about this, are passionate about it and actually see it through," Blazo said.
In the future the group hopes to grow in number, get more funding from the University, receive widespread news coverage and host a more diverse set of events to make the week even more accessible to all types of students.
"There are only so many people that can or are willing to design clothes, but there are a lot of people willing to get involved in the business aspect or the advertising aspect," said Amy Kallman '14, a coordinator. "We can pull from different communities at Brown. People who may not be just directly interested in fashion design will be important in years to come."
An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Ramya Mahalingam '14 as American. In fact, she is in an international student from Dubai. The Herald regrets the error.