When she and her fellow fashion design majors found out their senior fashion show was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, senior Dayjah Lee said the group was devastated. Students were upset and angry at the situation, and there were many tears, Lee said.
Every year, fashion design majors premiere a collection they create in a fashion show at Assembly Hall, Lee said. While they knew this year was going to be different due to the pandemic, she said it came as a shock when IU canceled their fashion show 10 days before the scheduled date due to risk of having too many people. After that, Lee said she and some other fashion designers came up with the idea to premiere their own off-campus fashion show to debut their collections.
“Instead of wasting time being upset about it, we started to make something happen for ourselves,” Lee said. “Because especially for most of us who are seniors, this is our big chance to be able to have a show, and we wanted to be able to pull something off.”
The show premiered at 2 p.m. Sunday in Fairfax State Recreation Area, where the group rented a pavilion. The show lasted about 10 minutes as models from six different designers walked a red carpet for an audience of friends and family. Audience members were told to bring chairs and blankets to spread out, and masks were required.
“Honestly, I'm just happy that we got the opportunity to show off our stuff,” designer and senior Cassidy Benbow said. “I know that meant a lot to all of us after spending countless hours in the studio, and I think as none of us have ever produced our own show before, it went really well.”
Lee said the show was an intimate and exclusive event. Everyone involved was discouraged from posting about the show on social media and inviting too many people. She said this show was to be kept a secret to keep the audience number low, but also to keep anyone from getting in trouble.
Lee said the time constraint was a significant challenge with producing the show as she and the designers spent many late nights in the studio working to put it together.
The designers used their own contacts and relationships to help fulfill aspects of the show.
Designer and junior McKenna Yankel said her parents rented the pavilion, and designer and senior Jamie Westphal’s parents built a dressing room for the area. Underclassmen and people not presenting helped by creating posters and kept everything organized, Lee said. The videographers and band volunteered to work the show, but Lee said the audience donations would go to them.
“Everybody really came out to work on this,” Yankel said. “Everyone banded together, and we all just did whatever we could to make it happen.”
Ultimately, the entire process allowed everyone involved to take on new roles as producers. Lee said it was cool to have creative freedom for the show, something the designers normally do not have full say over.
“I think the show getting canceled is kind of like a blessing in disguise,” Yankel said. “It made us not only designers, but now we are producers too.”