It’s not just about clothes at Penn Fashion Week

Student fashionistas will get a chance to strike a pose and show off their finest inspirations during Penn Fashion Week, March 28 to April 2 at a number of campus locations.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the six-day celebration will feature keynote speakers, professional panel discussions and a student-produced runway show.
The week is a collaboration between Dzine2Show, an undergraduate fashion club, Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity and the Wharton Retail Club, in partnership with the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center (JHBRC), an interdisciplinary research hub at the Wharton School.

Erin Armendinger, managing director of the JHBRC, says the week “cuts across the College and Wharton” and offers an eclectic mix of the business and creative sides of the fashion industry.

This year’s keynote speakers are designer Vera Wang, best known for her elegant wedding dresses, and William Fung, managing director of Li & Fung Limited, a global manufacturing and supply company. They will speak on Thursday, March 31, at 3 p.m at the Annenberg Center’s Harold Prince Theatre.

In addition, David Yermack, a professor of finance and business transformation at New York University, will discuss the “Michelle Obama Effect,” the influence that the first lady’s clothing has had on designers and retailers, on Tuesday, March 29, at 6 p.m. in Huntsman Hall, G06.

Armendinger says the business education aspect of Penn Fashion Week distinguishes it from professional fashion weeks.

“Professional fashion weeks are more about creativity,” she says. “We try to always bring the business side of it as well.”

To attract the non-sartorial crowd, Fashion Week is holding a Food Retail Panel on Wednesday, March 30, at 6 p.m. in Huntsman Hall, 245. Speakers include Wharton alumna Ellen Yin, co-owner of Fork Restaurant; Marc Vetri, chef and owner of Vetri, Osteria and Amis restaurants; and Greg Root, general manager of Pod. Two years ago, the Fashion Week panel focused on luxury, with representatives from Maserati North America and Rolls-Royce, an event that Armendinger says “got a lot of gentlemen in the room.” Fashion Week organizers are aiming to attract a similar crowd with the Food Retail Panel.

On Friday, April 1, Fashion Week is presenting a Fashion Entrepreneurship Reception from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Pod featuring Pialy Aditya, president and co-founder of Mintbox. She will talk about how she broke into the fashion industry and offer advice to attendees.

The Penn Fashion Show, on Saturday, April 2, is the most student-oriented aspect of the week. Blaine Beshah, a senior communications major and director of fashion shows for Dzine2Show, says the show’s models, planners and designers are all Penn students.

The models must audition to ensure that they can walk across the room like Naomi Campbell, and must practice cat-walking between the auditions and the actual show.

“It’s a whole production with lights, music, everything you would see at a professional fashion show,” says Susan McMullen, associate director of the JHBRC. “Some of them [students] sew their own clothes.”

Dzine2Show selects the student designers who participate in the show. Beshah says auditions are conducted at the beginning of the fall semester. To help the student stylists prepare for the tryouts, she says they are given a presentation informing them of the show’s theme and guidelines, as well as the minimum number of pieces they must have in their collection (four).Dzine2Show also provides funding for the designers, helps with budgeting and offers them seamstresses.

Each fashion show follows a theme; this year it is “Reverie.”

“We got our inspiration from the idea of a fantasy land, kind of a fairy tale,” Beshah says. “We want to transform the space and make it like you’re entering a different world, like a dream-like place.”

There will be two showings of the Fashion Show at the Inn at Penn, one at 7 p.m. and another at 9 p.m.

Armendinger says she hopes Penn Fashion Week and the Fashion Show give students a true picture of retail and the fashion world.

“It’s an industry where students can do well and it’s an industry where a lot of our alumni have done very well,” she says.

Beshah, who will begin work at a merchandising job at Abercrombie & Fitch this summer, says Penn Fashion Week provides a way for fashion-interested individuals, or those purely interested in the business of fashion, to hear from leaders in the industry and learn more from people in the field.

“Penn is a school with a lot of creative-minded people who are interested in fashion, but there’s no real outlet for them, so Fashion Week is a way for people to get themselves out there,” she says.

Originally published on March 24, 2011