COVID forced the program to re-imagine the in-person fashion show; designers and faculty adapted and showcased their work.
Amid these abnormal times, we’ve all been forced to adapt to a still-undefined “new normal.” In that context, some fashion-design students at the University needed to invent a new way to showcase the unique designs and approaches they’ve honed over four years in the program.
Buoyed by student creativity and strength at a time when it’s not possible to host an annual in-person fashion show—the showcase event of their graduating years—May 8 saw the virtual premiere of the program’s first-ever Fashion Design Film which celebrates the work of the graduating senior students.
“Their four-year journey has been filled with ups, downs, the pandemic and moments of uncertainty. What we learned is that our students are resilient and they have the ability to create the most beautiful work in some of the darkest times,” says Farai Simoyi, fashion design program director.
Simoyi, who came to the University in the summer of 2020 amid the pandemic, says the highly anticipated event was about more than showcasing the fashion creations. It extended appreciation to faculty members “who are the driving force behind the work you will see in the film” as well as the students’ families “who have encouraged and supported our students to show up and be the best versions of themselves.”
In the film, the students’ inspirations, thought processes, motivations and dreams take center stage in “a larger-than-life narrative,” according to Simoyi.
Earlier this academic year, Simoyi says there was “water-cooler chatter about what would happen since nobody knew what the plans were for the fashion show.”
Not wanting to respond that there would not be a show without having a backup plan, the thought process went to what was the industry itself doing to get around the COVID-related restrictions on in-person gatherings. The department wanted to follow the lead of major brands and designers employing documentary style films in that regard.
It was a long journey but, as everyone who sees this film will soon find out, it was worth it. — Farai Simoyi, fashion design program director
“Our students have been called designers since their first day walking through that door, so we wanted to mirror what the industry was doing,” Simoyi says. “In fashion, everybody gets so caught up in the beauty of the end product, but this film shows the grit, the stories behind the concepts and how these beautiful pieces came to life.”
This effort started in February. Through a spring of balancing 20-some designers’ schedules (both school and work), relationships and “everything that entails being a young person in society,” it culminated with an April week of “dawn-till-dusk” filming sessions.
“Storytelling is the most important thing in every walk of life now. This film steps into the world of fashion design, and digs deep into where the beauty came from,” Simoyi says. “It was a long journey but, as everyone who sees this film will soon find out, it was worth it.”