Less “Devil Wears Prada” and more community and belonging, the student-run Identities Fashion Show drives home the idea that the runway needn’t be all beanpole models and bizarro looks. It can also be a place that is welcoming and open, embracing all types of people and backgrounds.
Behind the glitz and glamour, this annual show stays true to its name by championing the diverse identities found on campus while also providing students with the experience of producing a fashion show from start to finish.
“The vision of Identities is to make fashion more accessible,” said international student Dogus Mordeniz ’20, a co-executive producer for the show’s creative board. “We are trying to recruit models from all these diverse backgrounds, from all these different ethnicities and body sizes. We want to bring all their stories together with this show.”
Identities has been doing just that for 13 years now. The club’s 25 members and 62 models represent various gender identities, sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities. Almost 70 percent identify as nonwhite. They’re tall and short, slim and not so, and about a quarter of them are international students, from Filipino to Turkish.
“It perfectly encapsulates the diversity and creativity of Harvard,” said Nika Besker ’20, who joined Identities her sophomore year and is now executive producer for the design board.
Identities has found a welcoming audience in the Harvard community, drawing crowds of more than 500 in the past few years. One reason is that while the Identities team works with local designers and brands that fit its mission, it has also showcased pieces from fashion icons such as Nanette Lepore and Vera Wang. Wang, whose daughter Josephine graduated from the College in 2016, attended the 2010 show, where she accepted the group’s annual Leadership in the Arts Award.
This year, among the designers and brands featured are Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and New York-based iRi, the shoe label that got a boost last year from being spotted on supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid. Runway legend Coco Rocha will be on hand to accept this year’s Leadership in the Arts Award. Rocha arrived a few days early and ran a training for the show’s models on how to pose and strut down the runway with flair.
“When you do your runway shot, I want you to own it,” she told more than 30 models in the Winthrop House junior common room.
Under Rocha’s expert guidance, the models rehearsed facial expressions and hand and body positioning, and even staged fights to get comfortable carrying out various tasks in front of the camera, no matter how absurd. Rocha also had them channel different emotions, like anger and sadness, by asking them to draw from memories of times they felt that way in order to appear ecstatic or even cry.