c/o Cate Baldwin

c/o Cate Baldwin

The highly anticipated and talent-packed Students of Color (SOC) Fashion Show returned with a vengeance for another year on Saturday, April 27 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Olin Memorial Library. Before COVID-19, this event was open to attendance by prospective students during WesFest, but since the pandemic, it has become its own occasion. This has created more hype around the fashion show among current students, transforming it into a popular stand-alone event.

Featuring 11 lines by 16 different designers—more designers than ever before in the event’s history—the 2024 SOC Fashion Show provided a space for University students of color to highlight their talents in fashion. Because the University does not offer fashion design courses where students can create their own clothing, this event is intended to allow them to craft and share outfits to their heart’s desire. Participants have absolute creative freedom. Over the past four months, students have brainstormed, interviewed for their design proposals, sketched out, and created countless pieces for their fashion lines. The result was a broad range of designs, varying in materials and inspiration.

While some lines were nearly exclusively crocheted, others were made from upcycled clothing. Others were crafted from patterned fabrics and sewn together, while still others were adorned with bags, chains, and other accessories. Each collection was also accompanied by music, immersing the audience more fully into each designer’s creative process and further bringing their designs to life. Colorful lights flashed as soundtracks blared and models proudly presented each top, bottom, skirt, and jacket.

At a predominantly white institution, it is important for University students of color to have spaces solely for them and their creative expression. Being able to define and exhibit creativity in a fashion showcase provided an empowering display of bodily expression, autonomy, and individuality. Oluchi Chukwuemeka ’25, designer and model for the line “Born Again,” discussed the importance of claiming a community for students of color that is dedicated to fashion, and how it allows them to take ownership of and redirect external projections they may face.

“A lot of the time, people of color aren’t allowed to express who they are because when they do, they either get fetishized or they have discrimination or microaggressions towards them,” Chukwuemeka said. “And that was something that was really important to me…having that space where we can be in community with each other and kind of be in community with ourselves.”

Many of the designers and models grew up interested in fashion. The SOC Fashion Show provides a unique opportunity to display their solidified interests and talents through a structured event. As they began to bring their ideas to life, SOC Fashion Show designers chose other students of color to model their pieces and embody their visions. Cate Baldwin ’26 designed her line “Homage” with the specific measurements of her models in mind.

“It’s a great place for students of color on a predominantly white campus and I just thought it was really cool to have my POC friends be included and have them feel special with clothes that I made,” Baldwin said.

In describing the inspiration behind “Homage,” Baldwin referenced her hometown in Thailand as having sparked her motivation to use traditional fabrics in combination with her original hand-sewn designs to create the pieces in her line.

“I do really miss the culture and I really want to re-immerse myself in it,” Baldwin said. “The fabrics especially and traditional clothing is super important in my hometown, so I wanted to re-modernize it and make it more 20th century. So I made this line with Thai fabric that I chose and sewed myself.”

For first-year students like Andrew Hsu ’27, one of the co-designers of the “Metamorphosis” line, participating in the SOC Fashion Show early in his time at Wesleyan provided an important foray into a unique community of like-minded, fashion-oriented students on campus.

“I think the biggest thing that the SOC fashion show has done for me has gotten me introduced to the people in the fashion community,” Hsu said. “Some of the other designers make some incredibly cool pieces, ones I feel like should be on a real runway. [They] inspire me to be better in my construction and give me some creativity for pieces to make for next year.”

With Hsu and his co-designers Yuyang Zhang ’27 and Zuhayr Masud ’27 entering the space as first-years, they will ensure the legacy and vibrance of this event continues in the years to come.

“Fashion is a choice you make every day in how you present and express yourself, and I’ve always been interested in that,” Masud said. “Wes definitely fosters that…everyone here is super creative and I’m inspired by all my peers.”

Zhang echoed Masud’s feelings and discussed appreciating the talents on display at the SOC Fashion Show. 

“I feel like the SOC Fashion Show really highlights the talents of the students of color we have at this school,” Zhang said. “Especially this year, we had the most participants that we’ve ever had and I just feel like that’s really awesome to see that this is something that’s growing.”

Similarly to Masud, Zhang stressed the importance of fashion as personal artistry.

“I’ve always been really interested in fashion growing up because it’s always fascinated me how it’s such an effortless form of self-expression,” Zhang said. “What you put on and what you choose to put on is how the world and everyone else perceives you.”

Fashion means something different to everyone, and this year’s SOC Fashion Show was lucky enough to have 11 different definitions of style from 16 different designers. The plethora of artistic visions brought together in this year’s show made the event a fresh and diverse window into student fashion design.

“Fashion is so fluid,” Chukwuemeka said. “It doesn’t have to be confined to one specific thing.”

Hsu encourages all students of color with a knack for or even an inkling of interest in fashion to get involved with this event.

“If you’re into fashion and you’re a student of color, you should do it,” Hsu urged. “I think the big thing is that it seems really daunting at first and honestly, just making clothing in general seems really daunting at first…. If you find yourself enjoying picking out an outfit every day, I think you would really enjoy this. It’s a great way to express your love for fashion within the greater community, and I think it’s something that everyone who’s into fashion should consider.”

Oluchi Chukwuemeka is a Sports Editor for The Argus. 

Langley Maciejewski can be reached at lmaciejewski@wesleyan.edu.

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