When I first met with the executive board of the MasTERPiece Fashion Club, it laid out its vision for a spring Fashion Week that would be the first of its kind at the University of Maryland. At the time, it seemed like an overzealous plan, but within a few months, promotional photo shoots and fundraisers were rolling across social media, models were being fitted and the week's events were in full effect. Last week, this university's Fashion Week became a real, flourishing manifestation.
It began on Monday, when a whiteboard was set up outside McKeldin Library at about 11 a.m. as a blank canvas for passersby to express what fashion means to them. During day one of Fashion Week's festivities, old friends caught up, talked fabric and discussed what to wear to Friday's show. By the end of day one, the board was covered in spurts of green, black and blue Expo markings.
A do-it-yourself party was slated for Tuesday night. In the Benjamin Banneker room in Stamp Student Union, team leaders comprised of executive board members and volunteers set up stations for party attendees. Friends of the MasTERPiece team and models from Friday's impending show learned how to distress their jeans; there was also a tie-dye station, which was the brainchild of senior marketing major Fei Mancho, the original mastermind behind Fashion Week and the club's co-founder. Magazines and photographs were also strewn across the inspiration board table. Participants made visual encapsulations of their styles.
Day three's Woman Crush Wednesday activity set-up started later than anticipated as keynote speakers were collected and pampering stations were crafted. There were places to get manicures, experience a natural, homemade facial or try a do-it-yourself sugar hand scrub.
Gloria Majchrzak, store team leader of Target in Aberdeen, Maryland, spoke to a small crowd about ambition and achieving goals from a young adult's perspective. Following her was Desiree Venn Frederic, founder of vintage store Nomad Yard Collectiv in Washington, D.C., who gave an inspirational and interactive speech about her struggles as an African immigrant who once faced imprisonment and had to start her life anew.
Thursday was the men's turn. Few came through to see the art and fashion vendors, so the exhibitors turned the night into a networking party, going to each other's tables to discuss the visions and ambitions of their companies.
In the few days leading up to Friday's fashion show, countless late-night meetings were held in the upper floors of McKeldin. GroupMe texts popped up frantically on everyone's phones all day as the club made final preparations.
For all volunteers, models and designers, preparations for the show began at 4:00 p.m. in the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center. Like many event workers that night, senior marketing and supply chain management major Brittany McCoy, designer and the club's co-founder, hadn't eaten all day.
In the tiny, non-air-conditioned Crist Executive Board Room, 45 models, six designers and as many volunteers as possible conducted last-minute fittings, pinned models into their clothes and scrambled for the perfect pair of shoes or pants for each design. Run-through's quickly followed while other volunteers set up the red carpet, art exhibition and vendor tables. By 7:30 p.m., everyone was exhausted. Executive board members rushed to put on show outfits and get the delayed show on the road.
More than 300 seats filled the ballroom, split evenly down the center by a massive runway and stage. Audience members were asked by hosts Benay Walker and Hassan Bangurah to snap pictures of themselves in one of the five custom Snapchat filters that the club's team had designed for the night.
The show began with an eloquent spoken word poem from model Bree Osei. From the overflowing press box in the back, I, along with my many fellow club members, watched as the designs of Michelle C. Gibson, Benny Clothing, Nova Prints and Apparel, Fancy Muffin, Original Crackage and Dynasty by Brittany made their way down the runway. The show had a brief intermission and one incredibly animated performance from Kush Models Entertainment.
With one look around the flanks of the room where club members stood in clumps, the audience could easily see the pride on each of their faces. After all the meetings, cold nights outside of Blaze Pizza and baking parties, the first university Fashion Show opened and closed with grace. The social media response afterward was nothing but positive.
The next day, after the dust had settled around the wild Caribbean Student Association after party and club members got their first full night's sleep in months, a question popped up in the group chat.
"Real talk do we still have meetings this semester?"
"Yeah we do. Gotta start planning for next year."
Even after the curtains have been drawn, the Fashion Week hustle continues.