‘Art of being’ fashion show highlights Black creators

A model walks down the runway during the Black History Fashion Show on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Haley Simpkins

Several student organizations came together Friday night to host The Art of Being fashion show in celebration of Black History Month.

The show featured BIPOC designers from around the country and performances by UK students.

Newer student organization Fashion Crew spearheaded the event, but organizations such as the MLK Center, Black Student Union, Collegiate Curls, UK’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and the NAACP were all involved in the show.

Fashion Crew was founded this year by sophomores Brandy Jackson and Yasmin Ogundepo, who both organized the event. The group focuses on bringing together any students in fashion to explore that passion.

“We started it so it could be an outlet for people interested in the same things that we are which is fashion, and we try to be a foundation for students that are interested in like any avenue of fashion,” Jackson said.

Fashion Crew hosted their first successful fashion show last fall and was approached by the MLK center to orchestrate this event for the Black History Month lineup. Jackson and Ogundepo have big plans for the organization’s future with networking events and a possible red-carpet type event later on down the road once COVID-19 restrictions ease up.

For now, Jackson and Ogundepo had their hands full possible planning and orchestrating Friday’s fashion show, which has been in the works for two months.

Ogundepo even designed her own line for the show based on her love for both simple and expensive fashion. Ogundepo’s designs consisted of simple, almost street or loungewear-like silhouettes but with a detailed Chanel band and trimming that meshed Ogundepo’s two loves.

“I wanted to do something that was very creative, but I know at the same time that people our age are very simple, so you can dress it up or you can dress it down. I just wanted something as simple yet expensive as possible,” Ogundepo said.

The show also featured five other vendors: Pinksky Boutique, Afro Delight, Zoe Pizarro, Bag Behavior and Demestik.

Pinksky Boutique is an Atlanta-based boutique that focuses on both trendy and timeless affordable fashion and accessories. Afro Delight is a company that focuses on fashion t-shirts, founded in 2017 by Pam Clark, a mother of seven who got back into fashion after putting her dreams on hold for 20 years to raise her children. Zoe Pizarro decided to create her own line of clothing just last November after graduating from college with a degree in medical sonography but a passion for helping others through fashion. Bag Behavior is a bag company focused on providing fashionable yet affordable bags and some clothing. Demestik (pronounced domestic) is a sustainable lifestyle brand full of vibrant color directed by Reuben Reuel.

With a crowd of over 100 students, the show was performed almost as if COVID-19 had never dampened in-person events, besides the occasional mask.

Though the seats were socially distanced, those barriers fell away during intermission.

The crowd took to line-dancing, taking pictures at the photo booth and mingling while models changed for the second half of the show and student performers warmed up for their acts.

The show featured a performance of “Never Enough”, a song from The Greatest Showman by UK student Cymone Webb and an original choreographed dance piece by UK student Arianna White.

Students attended the event for a variety of reasons, but many said they were there to support friends and the cause.

Sofia Bonilla, a freshman pre-nursing major, said she came out to support her roommate who was modeling for the show. Bonilla jumped and clapped in support of the model each time she showed up on the stage.

Keyarius Kibler, a junior psychology and sociology double major, said he also came out to support his friend Arianna White, the show’s featured dancing act.

Kibler also said that as a member of Phi Beta Sigma, a historically Black fraternity, he and other members wanted to show support for the event and the Black businesses they were showcasing.

“We like to support Black-owned businesses, and of course, this is a fashion show featuring Black-owned companies. So, I really just wanted to patronize and show my support,” Kibler said.

Social justice, Black history and celebrating Black joy were some of the major topics of conversation at the show.

The show opened with a moment of silence for those lost to police brutality in the last year and remarks on the hardships that Black people have faced throughout history and even today.

“In the last year that we’ve had, the fact that we’re even here today means we’re truly overcomers,” Chandler Frierson, MLK Center intern, said at the start of the event.

The show’s host Junior Paul mentioned the importance of celebrating Black history and accomplishment several times, starting with the idea that each BIPOC person in the audience should be proud of themselves for just being where they are right now.

Paul went on to explain the meaning of the show’s title “The Art of Being” about halfway through the show.

“The art of being is way deeper than [a fashion show]. It’s the art of being Black in America. It’s the art of being accountable for your Black male counterparts. It’s the art of being comfortable in your own skin,” Paul said.

Jackson and Ogundepo said that fashion and art have a way of sparking these kinds of conversations and allowing others to express themselves in a way that may help to bridge those divides we see in society today.

“I think fashion for the African American Community is really important because a lot of people use fashion to express themselves and to show what you do support and what you don’t support,” Jackson said.

Jackson said that this often gives rise to a wide variety of styles, and she hopes that their show did a good job of showcasing a wide variety of styles and expressions in everything from t-shirts to bags to high-fashion dresses.

Ogundepo said she believes fashion has the power to open people’s eyes to new experiences and that is just one of the many things she loves about it.

“I’m Nigerian so my style growing up and the way our fashion was was totally different from how it is now and how it is here. I just felt it was important that when people know the differences, and they learn what they’re not used to and they see what they’re not used to, that maybe they’ll even accept it,” Ogundepo said.

Jackson and Ogundepo both said they hope this connection between fashion and the audience can create a sense of togetherness that extends far beyond the fashion show.

“I think fashion, art and music are parts of society that really influence, so they can really make a difference and make a change that people can bond over… When the world is so divided it’s really important to have things like that to bring people together,” Jackson said.

Jackson, Ogundepo, and all the students and organizations involved with the show have chosen to use their art and passion for this cause and keep that bonding and conversation about Black history and joy going beyond the end of February in hope that their art can change the world and make it a better place for all of us.

“Although [the world’s] divided, I know we don’t want to stay that way; we don’t want to be like that. We want to be together. We want to be cohesive. We want to like each other, and these are just different ways that we can bond. It’s like meeting somebody for the first time, and you want to find out what you have in common with them,” Jackson said.