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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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Fredo Gillis, an SDSU business major, addresses the crowd at SDSU's Montezuma Hall to close the inaugural Black Fashion Show event on Friday, March 17, 2023. (Courtesy SDSU Black Fashion Week) Fredo Gillis, an SDSU business major, addresses the crowd at SDSU's Montezuma Hall to close the inaugural Black Fashion Show event on Friday, March 17, 2023. (Courtesy SDSU Black Fashion Week)

Crowds Support SDSU's First Black Fashion Show

The inaugural student-led event designed to “amplify Black beauty through fashion” involved the work of dozens of SDSU students interested in the field.
By Nandi Maunder

Last fall Keiana Foster felt something was missing on campus, and in her final year at San Diego State University, she began working on exactly that. She came up with Black Fashion Week, a week of different clothing themes leading up to a fully produced runway show. 


“Walking into the room and seeing it crowded took me by surprise,” said Taryn Smith, an SDSU student who was in the audience, “I wasn’t even a part of the show and I felt very connected. It was wonderful to see how we could all come together and help one another.”


Prior to the Black Fashion Show, Black designers, models, and creators like Foster had to build their brands on their own, gaining followings through word-of-mouth and social media. Though the products presented differed across style and occasion, the one thing they all had in common was success. 


People were wearing their clothes. 


From streetwear to more editorial brands, it’s not uncommon to see someone on campus in clothes made by another student. But until this event, Black designers still did not have a space to congregate and collaborate. 


Last Friday, SDSU held its first Black Fashion Show at Montezuma Hall where Black student creatives contributed to an exciting, innovative fashion culture over 200 students, faculty, and families came to see at no cost. 


“I always see how we have so many Black-owned businesses among our students, and not enough people are seeing their style, their creativity,” Foster said. 


Along with support from the SDSU Student Success and Black Resource centers, she began planning this runway last semester, steadily recruiting eager Black creatives who never could have expected a platform for their fresh, experimental designs. 


“Why not help your people? Why not bring exposure to your family, because we’re all family here,” Foster continued, reflecting on a growing fashion community at SDSU. Runway categories varied by each designer, creating a cohesive fashion campaign meant to “amplify Black beauty through fashion.”


While Foster has been involved in fashion before, the Black Fashion Show marked her first time as a producer, guiding the event from its inception to the final bow.


“Keiana is representing different types of Black people all throughout campus,” added student designer Destiny Washington, who plans to pursue fashion full-time next year.


Designing new pieces is “freeing,” she said. “It’s what I do when I am happy or sad. It’s just what I do.”


For two months Washington and co-designer Zoe Rogers worked on a three-part runway collection inspired by Afropunk, an alternative, punk rock style combined with Black cultural aesthetics. Handcrafted looks made from completely raw materials walked the runway while the packed audience cheered for their favorite pieces or a model’s confident performance in those pieces. 


Designer and recent SDSU alum Michael Allen (’22) pulled his pieces from 2painless, a clothing brand he founded during the pandemic. Like Washington and Rogers, Allen’s collection featured Afropunk elements, but most importantly, they captured the rock star spirit Allen was inspired by. The crowd also reacted to Foster, who took a break from hosting to walk the runway in Allen’s designs as well. 


When asked about the runway as a whole, Allen spoke to the dedication of the participants and what he hoped people took away from this experience. 


“I feel like everyone who’s walking, everyone who is a part of it, everyone who’s designing, even the people who are coming out, it just makes us feel like stars,” he said.


A total of six designers including Washington, Rogers, and Allen debuted original designs, custom-made to fit the models wearing them. Everyone involved has gone through months of rehearsal and attention to detail to make this event happen, and fill in a gap no one knew was there. 


Foster ended by praising the creative team, hoping audiences and creators left feeling empowered by the show.


“It was definitely worth it,” said Kailani Smith, another SDSU student who attended, “This was a high-quality event, something we should honestly be paying for.”


The Black Fashion Show was an opportunity to create a new tradition on campus, one that honors and reaffirms the legacy of Black creative minds in fashion for years to come.