– The Cornell Fashion Collective puts together a fashion show every spring semester for an audience of 5,000 people.
– The collective is student-run and features pieces designed by Cornell University students.
– CFC spends time giving back to the community through volunteer programs.
Cornell University senior Olivia Freidman will spend countless hours every week until March in front of a sewing machine, pushing the needle in and out of garments. She will decide on a theme, design 10 to 12 garments and, finally, chose stage elements she wants for when she displays her work to 5,000 audience members.
Freidman joined the Cornell Fashion Collective her sophomore year and is now designing at level four, the highest level. She said she will be showing her work from the university’s class Collections, which requires students to create fashion pieces.
“It basically made sense to join to be able to show my designs from class,” she said. “While the fashion show and this club is not required, it’s definitely something most people are involved in.”
The March fashion show is completely student-run, from the advertising leading up to it to the clothing being shown to the models wearing the clothing. The show is held in Barton Hall, which is the university’s largest indoor space on campus, and the perfect location to fit the 4,000 to 5,000 audience members that typically attend the show.
The collective consists of 155 student members from all of the university’s undergraduate colleges. The group’s president, senior Jessa Chargois, said these students’ commitment and drive is one of her favorite things about being part of the collective.
“It’s so easy in Cornell to get really burnt out and to kind of lose the emotional ties you have with what you enter for,” Chargois said. “It’s so rewarding to get up on that stage [in March]and see how proud everyone is of their work.”
The student designers are split into four levels, depending on their design experience. Level one includes first-year designers, who are allowed to show one look in the same collection as level two designers, who are each granted two looks. Both levels must design around one theme for the show. Level three designers are given six looks and each show their collections individually, as do level four designers who show 10 or more looks. Most of these looks come from coursework completed by Fiber Science and Apparel Design majors. But, the show also features pieces from students outside this major. Senior Sloane Applebaum, VP of Management and Finance, said this diversity is her favorite aspect of the collective.
“I love that CFC promotes being part of the fashion community without necessarily having to study fashion,” she said. “I think that’s something we’ve really encouraged this year that I’m really proud of. Just seeing that there is such an interest for what I’ve always felt is a really specific interest … is just wonderful.”
When they’re not preparing for the show, the members of the Cornell Fashion Collective are giving back to their community. This year, they’ve teamed up with 4-H in Tompkins County to put together a fashion workshop for middle schoolers. At the workshop, collective members will teach the middle school students how to sew. Participating in volunteer events like this one is important to the organization as a way to educate youth about fashion careers, Chargois said.
“We try to give back to the community because they’re so supportive of us,” she said. “We’re kind of showing them that fashion is a career they can pursue. A lot of times people are encouraged to go into careers that are a little more typical. We want to reinforce that fashion is an option and it’s multifaceted, there’s a lot you can get involved in and you can pursue your dreams and that’s a viable option for your career.”
Chargois said she’s enjoyed watching the organization thrive since she first joined during her freshman year.
“It feels very rewarding to get to lead and grow this community. In past years we’ve had 40 members, now we have 155. Everyone is participating and the energy in this room has completely changed from years past. It’s been a really long road and a very rewarding road.”