A full twenty minutes before Morgan MFG’s doors opened on Friday night, the building’s atmosphere was completely charged. After weaving through the spacious brick wall venue, we found the MODA Winter 2016 fashion show stage, lined on three sides with hundreds of chairs—the ones in the front reserved with charming black gift bags. Backstage, models and designers alike scattered the scene, installing last-minute changes to hair and hems, some taking photos in front of the few step and repeats. During this time, we were able to interview several key players in the night’s event, including those who work behind the scenes for MODA.
Second-year Shayla Harris, who worked as the assistant backstage coordinator last year, served as this year’s head backstage coordinator, responsible for overseeing designs and coordinating model calls and practices.
“Things go wrong all of the time,” Harris said. “Even today, for example, some hairstyles were too long for the outfits, so a few last-minute changes were made.”
Harris also noted that designers often forget to keep her updated, making the process even more hectic. However, Harris ultimately acknowledged that work backstage is still a lot of fun, and her experience was definitely worthwhile.
The work of MODA design director second-year Christopher Kloves was the first to hit the runway. Kloves, who has worked as a fashion intern since his freshman year of high school, freelances during the school year.
“I really like menswear for women,” Kloves said. “I feel like my inner hippie surfer vibe really comes out in my designs.”
For Kloves, this was a particularly exciting show for him: it was MODA’s first show in which all 25 designers were students, and it set the record for the highest gross ticket sales. An ambitious director and designer, Kloves elaborated on his future aspirations.
“I’m hoping to develop my own brand. I’ve worked Carolina Herrera and several other brands, and I’d love to be able to build my own…eventually.”
Another designer, first-year Emily Ehret, explained that, like most of the collections that night, hers was based on a specific cohesive theme. In her case, it was space: she used primarily black and white jersey knit and hologram lamé to create three futuristic looks. Other designers’ themes included wild animals and “cats, but elegant.”
Ehret and other designers participated in the Designer Boot Camp (DBC) that began this past fall. Exactly what it sounds like, this consolidated process gave designers the necessary skills to begin planning their collections. Ehret did not come in with the same level of experience as Kloves.
“In the summer, I just knew how to sew,” Ehret humbly admitted. She said that for many, a lot of the final construction took place in January and February.
Despite this condensed schedule and amid the clamorous backstage atmosphere, Ehret dispelled any notions of anxiety. When asked if she was worried about anything, she said that she was very comfortable with what she had made and was confident in her models. One of them, third-year Roux Nemaei, gave us an exclusive look at Ehret’s arguably coolest piece: a black and white reversible coat with accents of shimmering silvery hologram lamé.
“I’m definitely going to buy this coat,” Nemaei said.
Nemaei, along with Margaret Lazarovits, Tobi Gbile, and Laila Abdelmonem—rookie models for MODA who were among the last to walk the runway that night—spoke about the logistics of their day.
“We’ve been here since four. We got to the hotel at two to get hair and makeup,” one of them excitedly told us. The models explained their particularly eccentric outfits to us. “Our designer is very different in how she doesn’t like to sew,” another added. “So we’re a little glued into our outfits. No fabric.”
Nabila Lotayef, the designer responsible and the director of DBC, said she wanted to try her hand at pieces that were “unconventional, but not something borderlining on crafty.” Indeed, her designs looked anything but DIY—they struck the stage at the end of the night with ultramodern geometric bodices and arresting streaks of red.
At last, we took our seats. The show opened up with an electrifying performance from Maya, a fusion dance group on campus. Kloves’s works emerged first on the runway, asserting their designer’s signature look with tapestry-esque menswear-inspired pieces. The night unfolded with consistently high energy; a memorable roar of applause came from the audience when a model, sporting a cat-eared raincoat constructed of a transparent plastic fabric, threw her hood up onto her head with the confidence and manner of a seasoned runway model.
By the final lap, when designers joined their models in one last strut down the ramp, the enthusiasm of the crowd reached an all-time high. Front-row spectators proudly jumped out of their seats to high-five their model and designer friends.
Even an unfortunate experience with a mismanaged coat check could not spoil our appreciation of the spectacular achievements in student fashion design put on display at MODA.