Color Me Spring Fashion Show

The beauty of the Color Me Spring fashion show is undeniable as is the hard work that accompanies it. Just look at the numbers — 20 students from the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, 16 retailers, four student designers, more than 160 fashion looks, 24 models, 61 silent auction items, around 225 tickets sold and one alumnus honoree. It all added up to $8,000 for travel scholarships for retailing and tourism management students. This year’s show was the most successful yet.

Color Me Spring Fashion ShowWhat began as a club fund-raiser 10 years ago with five student volunteers has blossomed into a learning experience for more and more students every year. Dr. Scarlett Wesley, associate professor in the Department of Retail and Tourism Management, thinks next year’s show will require even more students than this year.

The event, held April 18, 2019, moved to the Grand Ballroom in the Gatton Student Center, which brought unique challenges including increased expenses. That meant needing to raise more money.

One way the MAT 559: Fashion Show students did that was to find corporate sponsors and to solicit 61 silent auction items.

“Reaching out to local businesses for sponsorships and donations really made me step out of my comfort zone and helped me build better communication skills,” said Lexi Watts, a senior from Lexington.

Another way the show raised money was to rely on the creativity of Wesley’s teaching assistant, graduate student Nicholas Fazzino.

Fazzino devised a three-tier sponsorship system that allowed retailers a certain number of looks in the show for a fee – the more looks, the higher the fee. Nine retailers like Bella Rose, E. Leigh’s Contemporary Boutique, and Country Club Prep paid to join corporate sponsors including UK Federal Credit Union, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Field and Main Bank, and VisitLex.

“If not for him, we would not have been as successful as we were,” Wesley said. “He pushed me to try some things that I thought were crazy, but he was totally right, and I was totally wrong.”

With Fazzino’s strategy, the show was able to cover the expenses like catering, lighting, and space rental. That left ticket sales and auction proceeds as profit to provide scholarships for travel opportunities for retailing and tourism management students.

“The fashion show certainly was a lot of work, but I was more than happy to do it for our department,” said Katherine Dale, a merchandising, apparel and textiles student from Johnson County. “As a student who has had the joy of going on multiple department trips, I know the impact these scholarships will make on upcoming students.”

Wesley agreed. “These opportunities are so important for our majors, and some students have no way of getting there,” she said. “These scholarships could literally change their lives.”

Color Me Spring Fashion ShowLife-changing experiences are part of the package with the spring fashion show. Students in the class put in a lot of work to gain real-life experience by planning, organizing, and funding a huge show. This year 16 retailers contributed more than 160 looks and one special alumnus provided 10 vintage pieces.

“Next year I’d like the students to reach out to the sponsors instead of my teaching assistant,” Wesley said. “And we’ll need to start it earlier in the fall so that businesses can fit this into their budget.”

Eventually Wesley wants the class to be wholly responsible for the show while she serves in a purely advisory position. That way the students learn as much as possible from beginning to end.

A big part of a fashion show is the models, and this show uses only UK students. Because some of those students have no modeling experience, Images Model and Talent agency donated a boot camp to provide training. Opening the model casting to all UK students means the show included male and female models of all shapes and sizes.

“The boutiques liked that part (size-inclusive models),” Wesley said. “Because their customer is a normal person.”

Another part of the show that attendees loved is the addition of an honored alumnus. In 2018, the show honored Kathy Jansen, an alumnus who traveled the world collecting fabrics and fashion. She then donated her collection to the department for fundraising. Wesley decided to organize that show around Jansen’s donation and a tradition was born.

TColor Me Spring Fashion Showhis year’s honoree was Matt Smith, a 2006 graduate who created his own fashion-forecasting business called D. Matt Smith. The business is based on his expansive collection of vintage clothing and textiles. Smith hires UK interns and graduates, giving them a foot in the door of fashion.

“It can be very tricky for those that have ambitions to work in New York City to get that first position,” Smith said. “I was lucky enough to have a former alumni take me into Donna Karan when I was graduating, and that opened so many doors for me in the industry. I say if you can do something to help someone starting their journey that is truly paying it forward. I am happy to always do that in life in general.”

Smith’s helping hand extended to this year’s show. “As the emcee, I was extremely honored to honor Matt Smith in this year’s show,” Dale said. “He was a joy to work with and did everything he could to help us. You could see a shift in the crowd’s energy when the first model stepped on stage in one of his curated outfits.”

Those outfits inspire his business, which works with brands around the world in creating their fashions. He has been working since 2011 to build the business and was shocked to be chosen for this honor. “It was a very reflective moment for me and made me stop to think and reflect more about the journey,” Smith said. “I am pretty modest when it comes to these things, but it felt truly amazing to be recognized by the University of Kentucky after all these years.”

Over the years, the fashion show itself has seen many changes. After beginning as a club fund-raiser, the show evolved into an independent study course taught by Wesley that included only five students. The next year, 60 students applied to organize the show, but Wesley could only take 15.

“Kids have always loved the show,” Wesley said. “To be able to produce the show and get credit is an ideal scenario.”

This year, the show became a class complete with a GPA requirement and application process. “It’s a lot of work,” Wesley said. “People are counting on you, and if you’re willing to fill out an application then you are at least semi-serious.”

All that work pays off. The first year of independent study, the show earned $2,500 for department travel scholarships. The second year it earned $4,500, and this year the total is $8,000.

“Eight thousand dollars can change lives,” Wesley said. “It can make an immediate difference between going and not going (on a department trip to New York or abroad). We don’t want these trips to be elitist, and we can help students have all those experiences.”

Author: Alyssa Simms
Terms: RTM