Not even 24 hours after returning from Spring Break, the members of Bronze Elegance, the University of Michigan’s longest-running fashion organization, hosted a Fashion Showcase to kick off their campus-wide Fashion Week.
On March 7th, the diversity fashion organization took over the UMMA’s vertical room to showcase fashion designs from both aspiring and accomplished artists including Jade younjung Lee, Julianna Periera, and Diane von Fürstenberg (SHEI Magazine’s Merin McDivitt interviewed Julianna Periera before the show - read the full text here).
“The designers are based out of New York City, and Jade and Julianna are students of fashion design,” said Shanae Pruitt, Bronze Elegance’s Fashion Coordinator. When I remarked on the DVF dress on display, Shanae told me how BE had to use their personal connections to borrow the piece for the showcase, “Our previous president actually got to intern for Diane, so that’s how we got that piece.”
The half-dozen female models joined the various works of art fixed to the walls of the Vertical Gallery of the UMMA. In the film The Devil Wears Prada, the character Nigel (played by Stanley Tucci) espouses that, for fashion designers, “…what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it.” Besides the great Movie Moment Come to Life surreality of the event, the members of Bronze Elegance proved that their organization is more than just beautiful people wearing beautiful clothing.
For close to 40 years, minority students at the University of Michigan have found an outlet through fashion. In 1978, members of the Alice Lloyd Residence Hall’s multicultural council founded Bronze Elegance to give underrepresented students a unique voice in the campus community. According to the official history on their website, Bronze Elegance “aimed to develop a united safe environment for students on campus regardless of different backgrounds and social inequalities.”
“BE is all inclusive,” said BE President Christian Worthy, talking about the group’s founding values. “We include all forms of diversity…race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, majors and socioeconomic status and we strive to bring that to the campus and to our audience. I hope what we can highlight how little of minorities we do have on campus, how there is a dominant race on campus and a lot of these minorities…they get left behind or less thought of, and the issues that we have on campus can be put on the back burner. My hope is that our fashion week brings attention to that minorities are still capable of doing great things and we deserve to be seen.”
As for the stereotypes BE hopes to combat through its presence on campus: “I hope that we combat that we are less intelligent, or that we are less creative, or that we are not as capable as others…because we are hard-core. We get the job done, and I don’t think it should matter what background you are from if, at the end of the day, you get the job done.”
Bronze Elegance’s Fashion Week 2016 runs through Saturday, March 12, when it will conclude with a party. Fashion Week events include a Makeup Night on Wednesday, March 9 and a week-long Instagram contest for the chance to win an H&M giftcard. All BE Fashion Week events are free and open to the public.