On Nov. 4, a Friday night like any other, a party swings into motion at the heart of Penn’s campus. A flurry of students clamber up Castle’s steps, dressed to the nines. From inside, a pulsing beat can be heard. The frat house is abuzz, but not for the usual reasons.
27L, a joint effort between The WALK Magazine and Castle, saw the latter open its doors for a charity fashion show and pop–up clothing sale. Co–organized by a committee of four—Valentina Chang (C ’25), Grace Holden (C ’24), Guy Lorenzotti (Hunstman ’25), and Olivia Rezende (C ’23)—the event united local designers and vendors for a night of splashy celebration.
From tables piled high with hand–printed jeans to internationally sourced garments, Penn’s global reach is on display at 27L. Leaf through the event program and you’ll find designers proud of their roots, which range from "African authenticity" to Old World–chic. Fitting, then, that the event takes its title from the name of the longest runway at the Philadelphia airport, a deliberate nod to its sweeping ambition—and its origins across the pond.
As Lorenzotti says, the event was inspired by a longstanding University of St Andrews tradition: the student–led DON’T WALK fashion show. But even with these international roots, 27L remains firmly embedded in the Philly fashion scene. The word of the moment is local, and all featured designers are current or former Penn students. In fact, you’ve probably already spotted Nadnav Clothing’s colorful pants on the daily trek down Locust. Likewise, Penn’s very own Leslie Gregory brings her sustainable, locally sourced garments to the table.
But it’s not just the designers: All the stylists, photographers and models involved are Quakers. Many were hired through the Penn Fashion Collective, but don’t be fooled—novices though they are, these students have all perfected the high–fashion death glare and model pout. And while the event effectively showcases Penn’s homegrown talent, it also gives a snapshot of the city’s bustling fashion scene at large.
One of the featured designers, Danny Ruiz, moonlights as an assistant at Joan Shepp, meaning 27L has one foot in Philly’s close–knit cadre of local tailors. Unlike our big sister New York, ours is a city with no major fashion houses and a waning textile industry. But also unlike nearby D.C., with its pickets and pantsuits, Philly is still kicking.
Here, you’ll find a unique, vibrant community of local artisans, pop–up shops, and thrift stores. All you have to do is venture off campus, trade in the Telfar bag, and wriggle out of Miuccia Prada’s leather–gloved chokehold. Put another way, if you can’t see, feel, or touch Dimes Square (that would be the hypothetical eighth sacrament), it’s time to square up. As Rezende notes, "We’re all living in the Penn bubble—in a very gentrified area." But step outside and you may well find that Philly has an inventive, DIY spirit all its own.
It’s easy to see how The WALK could fit into this creative niche, with its emphasis on spontaneity and ordered chaos. In the words of Editor–in–Chief Grace Holden, the magazine embraces the "hodge–podge aesthetic." One previous project consisted of an impromptu jean–painting session inspired by Philly’s many public murals. The same bricolage tendency was on display at 27L, which saw the WALK team play it by ear. In place of lavish decorations, Rezende set to work "filling all the nooks and crannies" of Castle’s ground floor with pages of The WALK’s last issue. Likewise, a portion of the clothes at the event were cobbled together from donations.
To hear Lorenzotti and Holden tell it, putting the show together involved its fair share of improvisation. From impromptu sketches of the Castle floor plan in a GSR, to unexpected model swaps, to a last–minute scramble for chairs, the team learned to busk it. But on the day of the show, they faced every organizer’s nightmare: With the clock ticking, designers and models scheduled to arrive were nowhere to be seen.
Luckily, in the end, it all came together without a hitch. "Miraculously, everything went well," says Lorenzotti. The tightly choreographed runway routine, the background music, and even the decorations were in perfect key. But the real success is in the numbers: 27L sold out, raising over $2,600 for The People’s Emergency Shelter.
For Rezende, the enthusiasm came as something of a surprise. Likewise, Lorenzotti was
"totally surprised" to see all 145 tickets sold in a flash: In one of three ticket drops, seats sold out in 30 minutes flat. The night of the show, Castle was fully packed.
The money raised at 27L will go towards remedying Philly’s ever–pervasive homelessness, and the event highlights the way Penn students can think beyond campus—even as they express themselves, create exciting work, or simply have a good time. It’s also a reminder that institutions that seem off–limits to the general public, often for good cause, can very well implant themselves in a larger community.
To wit, 27L is something of an open–ended question: How can University spaces be repurposed? Whether the goal is highlighting local artists or countering urban poverty, we can always do more. And, to judge by the bombshell success of this event, the impact of these choices can go far beyond our expectations.