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“History Retailored” | Runway 2021 Serves as Virtual Tribute to Black Fashion Designers

This Friday, May 14, at 8:00 pm, SUNY Buffalo State College will be virtually airing its annual Runway fashion show. The 2021 show is going to be a lot different for numerous reasons. Not only will it be a free event, where everyone can tune in from home, this year’s theme was developed as a response to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The show will feature the creations of seven senior designers who will all reflect, and pay tribute to, the accomplishments of past and present Black fashion designers.

To put the show together, Erin Habes, ’03, Runway faculty director and lecturer of Fashion and Textile Technology (FTT) Department, teamed up with associates in the Africana studies program. Along with her own students, Habes set out to create a Runway event that would be unlike any previous show. The collaborative effort for a cause resulted in an unprecedented undertaking that will open many doors in the process.

Fashion Technology senior student designer working on outfits. Photo by Bruce Fox

“These conversations on the theme would not be possible without the FTT alumni network and the collaboration with Dr. Marcus Watson, assistant professor of Africana studies and individualized studies, and Naila Ansari, assistant professor of theater and Africana studies,” Habes said.

Ansari has choreographing a special dance performance for Runway, with the help of her students.

“I’m excited about the chance to work with Naila and her students this year,” Habes said. “They are bringing incredible life to the production.”

Fashion Technology senior student designer working on outfits. Photo by Bruce Fox

Through this process, Habes explained, “Students got the chance to research designers through a social justice lens. So much of fashion history has been whitewashed. Our students have taken the time to honor Black designers from the 1950s through current day.”

One example of the “whitewashing” that Habes refers to is Ann Lowe, a prolific, yet relatively obscure dressmaker during the mid-twentieth century, whose esteemed clients included first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Lowe was never given the due credit that she deserved for making exquisite dresses and ballgowns for socialites of the era.

“One of our students created a wedding dress inspired by Lowe’s designs,” Habes said. “It’s interesting to see the seeds of inspiration our students got from this project.”

Along with the seven designers featured in the show, photographer Brandon Watson will be shooting a “Lookbook” for the event that will be posted to the Runway website. Watson will be joined by Aitina Fareed-Cooke, ’12, ’16, an award-winning filmmaker and owner of Get Fokus’d Productions, who will be filming a “behind the scenes” look at the inspired production. Brent Patterson, associate professor of graphic design, will also be contributing to the digital show – he and a handful of his students will be creating the animations.

Runway 2021 might not be “live” this year due to the pandemic. But that won’t prevent it from being a sensation in its own right… while righting some of the past injustices in the process.

“Our students get to participate in a social justice conversation, that will impact their futures as young professionals in the fashion industry,” Habes reflected.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, with a suggested donation to the Fashion and Textile Technology (FTT) Department’s new Black Fashion Scholarship.

Lead image: Fashion Technology senior student designers working on outfits for Runway Fashion Show at SUNY Buffalo State College. Photo by Bruce Fox, campus photographer.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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