On the first Saturday of April, Penn students had a chance to showcase their love of designer clothing down a runway that wasn’t Locust Walk. Student models strutted through the Dental School wearing clothing both hand–designed and pulled from the rack by Penn undergrads at the Spring Penn Fashion Show, the final event of Penn Fashion Week.
This year’s theme was called “FOCUS.” As VP of the Fashion Show for the Penn Fashion Collective, Madeline McCallum (C’17) was tasked with envisioning its direction. Her inspiration for the marketing campaign came from photography, either from fashion magazines or from surfing Pinterest. When people are photographed in their everyday lives, the camera focuses in and out on them and the lighting creates different shades. The show then worked to “blur out,” in the same way you would in a photograph, aspects like color, styling and accessories. Each outfit kept a neutral palette so that the architecture and texture of the clothing was the focal point of the show. “It was great to see the designers take the vision that I had and apply it to their own artistic talent,” says Madeline.
In addition to student sewing machine creations, stylists pulled clothes from nine boutiques, including Knit Wit, Jack Wills, Aioki Boutique and Metro Mens. This year, the show also included two featured designers. One was Chicago–based designer Hogan Mclaughlin, who has worked for Lady Gaga (and has aspirations to design costumes for Game of Thrones). They also pulled from Ramy Brooke, a New York designer. “Something we’ve never done before is expand the show to include designers from places outside Philadelphia,” Madeline says. Since the previously bi–annual Fashion Show only materialized in the Spring this year, “we wanted to make it a bigger deal with bigger names.”
The Penn Fashion Collective offers students interested in fashion a creative outlet at a school where pre–professionalism can sometime threaten to squash artistic expression. “The PFC is definitely more artistic minded than other fashion organizations on campus,” says Cat Ding (C’17), the VP of Internal Events. Cat is also involved in the Wharton Retail Club, which collaborated on Fashion Week along with business frat Delta Sigma Pi.
Cat thinks that Penn is a hotspot for fashion largely because of the diverse student population and international contingent. “People care about appearance and pay more attention.” She points out, “We don’t often walk around in Nike shorts and t–shirts.”
Although Penn students can be known for their style, we don’t have a Fashion or Textiles major, like the degree found in Cornell’s Agricultural School. Cat, who knew she was interested in fashion retail before coming to Penn, appreciates that her Wharton classes give her the opportunity to learn more general things about the business side of fashion marketing. Instead of straight marketing, however, Cat is concentrating in retail. She mentions that the Baker Retailing Center, which is part of Wharton, is a great resource that Penn has to teach students about the industry. Penn Fashion Week strives to provide networking opportunities for underclassmen who are considering a career in fashion. “We created a fashion internship panel with upperclassmen because that’s not something that career services really does,” says Cat. They also organized speaker events, such as an event with the company “Negative Underwear,” founded by two Penn Alums.
A communications major in the College, Madeline isn’t sure if she plans to fit a passion for fashion into her future career. “Having been in this club for the past three years, I see the show as a really good example of people pulling from their outside interests. Even if people eventually go into investment banking, it’s fun to see your friends modeling or designing clothing or doing anything they don’t normally do in school.”
(Photo credit in order: Aran Rana, Teresa Xu and Emily Cheng)