Otis College of Art and Design recently hosted its first-ever virtual fashion show to celebrate students’ creative work and fundraise.

Otis College hosts online fashion show and benefit celebrating students’ creative work

By Kamala Kirk

Recently, Otis College of Art and Design hosted Virtually Cool, an online fashion show and benefit. For the first time in its history, Otis invited the public to the first-ever virtual fashion show to celebrate the creative work of the fashion design classes of 2020 and 2021, and tp help fundraise to support students.

“We were unable to complete the plans we had in 2019-2020 for the Scholarship Benefits Fashion Show,” said Jill Zeleznik, chair of fashion design. “It was heartbreaking due to the pandemic that the class of 2020 did not have an opportunity to showcase their work. However, in 2021 we knew that we must find a way to present the work of both 2020 and 2021 graduates. We explored many options and decided to move forward with a virtual fashion presentation due to state and local restrictions.”

Charles Hirschhorn, president of Otis, added, “Having an online event this year meant that viewers around the world could see the extraordinary work of Otis College’s fashion design students and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.”

Over the past two years, students worked with leading fashion designers, stylists and entertainment industry mentors who guided their work through these unprecedented times of remote learning and social distancing to produce innovative pieces.

“In the process of planning the event, the priority was the location,” Zeleznik said. “We looked at several alternatives and then realized that we had the ideal spot on our campus. The next question was how to reinvent the space into a production space. The Forum on campus was perfect and very convenient because our department is just upstairs. We then assembled all our faculty to help dress our models, a job usually done with our students, but we needed the staffing due to state restrictions. Finally, we worked on a format of a video fashion show and acquired our fantastic production team, and the rest is history!”

New mentorship projects shown for the first time at the show included work overseen by costume designer Ruth Carter, who received an Academy Award in 2019 for Best Costume Design for “Black Panther.” Under her mentorship, students created modern-day eveningwear based on African tribal clothing.

During the pandemic, students created work through a close collaboration with the faculty of the fashion design program and utilized a hybrid approach of in-person fittings paired with video conferencing. Local students dropped off their work at the campus via a safe, socially distance process, while students that were out of state or international were shipped fabric and notions, then shipped back their garments to Otis for final fittings and mentor reviews.

Most mentor fittings were completed via Zoom, but select fashion design faculty, models and some locally-based mentors attended fittings in person while observing social distancing guidelines. Zeleznik closely facilitated all fittings and mentor visits to ensure the same high standards from all students.

Mentor and contemporary fashion designer Vivienne Hu directed students to create a collection using prints inspired by the elements of earth and water. Other unique mentorship projects included Vince designers Deborah Sabet and Otis fashion design alumnus Arthur Thammavong, who directed students to create a collection inspired by the works of the late American painter Noah Davis.

“It was an extraordinary moment when the shoot was complete to realize what a fantastic group of professionals coming together could make this happen,” Zeleznik said. “Our exceptional department and senior class took on the unprecedented challenge of navigating through uncharted waters. I was proud to present our 2020 and 2021 graduates as solid creative forces, ready to take on the fashion industry as the design leaders of tomorrow, changing the world positively beyond what they imagined possible.”

Now in its 39th year, the Otis College Fashion Show is an essential event that raises critical funds for students. This year, the virtual event raised funds to support first-generation students who make up 30% of Otis’ overall student population, helping to propel future artists and designers across all academic departments.

“The event raised money for much-needed scholarships for our first-generation students, who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college and who make up 30% of Otis College students,” Hirschorn said. “More than 50 scholarships were funded as a result of donations received on the night of the event.”

For more information, visit otis.edu