There’s more to fashion than the glitz and glamour of haute couture runway collections and models. The industry is a mesh of different business approaches and demands the same creativity of any other art form. Penn Fashion Week, which will take place from April 2nd to the 7th, is a celebration of all aspects of the industry and will feature speakers from renowned companies, interactive panels, and a runway show organized by the Penn Fashion Collective.
This year, the theme is ‘Disruption.’ “We’re trying to find ways in which different parts of fashion and fashion–adjacent industries have found methods of disrupting their industries,” explains Chrissy Walker (W ’19), who is Co–CEO of Penn Fashion Week alongside Daniel Jacobs (C ’18). Their role is to organize the events and the speakers, a task that they achieve through networking and collaboration with the Baker Retailing Center.
There will be three professional panels as well as a keynote speaker.
The first panel is Publications, in which representatives from Teen Vogue, NYLON, PAPER Magazine, and Refinery29 will be speaking. Walker says the focus will be on “how different publications have transformed the way they deliver content to their readers and stay current while consumer preferences change.”
She notes that the influence of technology has been a key pressure on such companies, as “lots of people don’t buy print magazines anymore.” The panel will be informative on how these fashion publications have responded to modern times and how they keep readers engaged and maintain their subscribers.
The second panel, Lifestyle and Technology, will host Gwenyth Paltrow’s company Goop and the cosmetics brand retailer Kiehl’s. “It’s less about direct fashion and more about how brands are able to encourage consumers into buying into a lifestyle or an idea of how they want to be,” says Walker.
The third panel, Fashion and Retail, will get to the core of the fashion industry with representatives from the fashion chain Express and department store chain Macy’s. They will discuss how brands maintain customers by refreshing their image.
Finally, the fourth day will star Stacey Bendet, CEO and Creative Director of Alice + Olivia, a women’s contemporary clothing company. The brand launched in 2002 and has grown on a global scale, now being sold in over 50 countries.
You don’t have to be interested in fashion or even have a fashion sense at all to learn something from Penn Fashion Week. Attendees will be exposed to the importance of marketing mentality, or "figuring out what your customer wants, how to appeal to them and how to maintain them.” Walker says, “Given the rising importance of customer analytics and customer centricity, there’s many cool things you can learn from [Penn Fashion Week].”
In addition to what she has learned from planning, Walker has gained a lot from attending the events herself. She’s learned that people working similar jobs in different companies bring vastly different perspectives despite having the same role. She says, “The way they approach different challenges within their companies is really insightful and encourages me to look to different people for advice and insights, because you can always keep learning.”
The week will culminate in a student–run fashion show, titled 'Verano', or 'Summer' in Spanish. "We were inspired by summer in Spain," says Emilio Frayre (C ’19), who serves as Vice President of the Fashion Show committee within the Penn Fashion Collective. He mentions "fun colors, brightness, and florals" as defining aspects of what attendees should expect to see on the runway.
He says that not only will the runway show be showcasing "really amazing clothes, really creative works of art by Philadelphia designers and student designers from Penn and other schools," but also a capella and dance performances. He emphasizes that it'll be "a great experience, not just for fashion lovers but for anyone who likes having fun."
See the website for specific dates, times, and locations of the events.