Fashion show puts Western students' design skills, resilience on display

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—"My first sentence was 'I love shoes,'" says Chloe LePine, recalling the delight she felt when her mother showed her a pair of shimmering ruby red slippers as a toddler. "I just always knew, at a very young age, I wanted to get into fashion."

Chloe LePine crochets a yellow garment.

Chloe LePine

A click of the heels might have landed her on a runway where she now finds herself at home, debuting clothing she's dreamed up in her home studio.

LePine, of Grand Ledge, Michigan, is among several Western Michigan University students ready to fill the Kalamazoo State Theatre with vibrant colors, flowing fabrics and fashion-forward styles. The Merchandising Opportunities and Design Association (MODA) will host its Kaleidoscope Fashion Show Saturday, March 20—a livestreamed event that will also offer a select number of in-person, socially distanced VIP tickets.

Showcasing the unique works of innovative student designers, the show is the culmination of months of creating, planning and learning new skills to adapt to the pandemic punches thrown their way.

"Last year, COVID-19 shut down our show just days before it was supposed to happen. Our executive board this year was determined to make this show possible," says Samantha Morehead, MODA's director of marketing and public relations. "We really wanted to give students a chance to shine, have their hard work show and create an opportunity for students to build their portfolios, resume and experience."

Julia LeKander paints on fabric.

Julia LeKander

The show will feature a wide range of styles, from LePine's "Disco Daisy" collection of bold-colored, hand-crocheted festival wear she creates for her business, Chlo's Clothing, to Julia LeKander's ethereal, ocean-inspired dresses, which she painted with dye to mimic watercolor.

"Along with my collection, the music selection of Sibelius' 'Oceanides' provides a sparkling impressionistic depiction of the ocean and melds my background as a classical musician with my new endeavors in fashion design," says LeKander, of suburban Chicago, who initially considered a degree in music performance before transferring to Western to pursue fashion design. "Up until now, (designing clothing) has been a hobby rather than academic … so it's cool to have this extra push to help me learn how to juggle these things."

Interior design student Antione McCoy, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, planned to model in last year's fashion show but will be a featured stylist this year. He's curated a line of structured pieces, such as blazers, that reflect his personal aesthetic.

"It's important for this show to happen so MODA can come back strong, showing we can produce an event and elevate our peers while keeping in mind what's going on around us," he says. "It's amazing that a group of college students can come together and create an industry event in the midst of a pandemic!"

Antione McCoy poses in front of a residence hall.

Antione McCoy

Securing a large, professional venue for the show; adapting to and implementing strict and constantly evolving COVID-19 safety protocols; and developing assets for the livestream experience challenged students to work outside their comfort zones.

"Everyone's taken on new responsibilities that might not normally happen in a regular school year," says LePine, MODA's designer coach, who is looking forward to graduation in May. "It's been a great professional experience. I will be able to use the tools and skills I've demonstrated during this whole process in my future career in digital marketing."

"It's made us more prepared for whatever career we go into, and I think it's going to make us better individuals in the long run because we're able to work with change—and the fashion industry changes a lot. So, I think it prepares us more for the industry," adds Morehead, a marketing student who hopes to work in the fashion or beauty industry after graduation.

Tickets for MODA's Kaleidoscope Fashion Show range in price from $15 to $60 and are available on the Kalamazoo State Theatre's website.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.