- Marissa McClain/Daily
By Anna Sadovskaya, Senior Arts Editor
Published March 28, 2013
The lights dim, the music bumps and slouchy, unimpressed models begin their seemingly grueling walk down the wood-clad runway. Taking on the role of walking hangers, models are an afterthought to the impressive designs of Prada and the atmospheric indulgence of Dior. These are the faces of fashion worldwide: The solemn, concentrated looks of incredulity, a patented and well executed face.
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But in a small office on the fourth floor of the Michigan Union, nine people work toward a different approach to fashion. NOiR’s stake has less to do with a classic model pout or avant-garde designs and focuses primarily on the purpose behind the show.
“The thing that’s unique about NOiR from other organizations in fashion is that NOiR was one of the few organizations that actually got into service,” said Canon Thomas, College of Engineering junior and NOiR’s president.
BE bold, BE kind, BE you
Each year, the group decides on a community service venture. Last year, NOiR’s annual fashion show helped raise money for Autism Speaks, an autism spectrum disorder awareness association. The show raised $1,500, the largest amount the organization has been able to donate to date. This spring, NOiR is donating money to Food Gatherers, an Ann Arbor-based group that provides hot meals, snacks and groceries for seniors, children and low-income individuals in Washtenaw County.
“We chose Food Gatherers because we noticed that a lot of times we’ve worked in communities outside of Ann Arbor, and we want to see how to implement change inside the Ann Arbor community,” explained Jonathan Glymph, an LSA junior and NOiR stylist. “After doing our research, we figured out that there were a lot of communities within Washtenaw County who go hungry and who needed those types of resources, and we wanted to provide that.”
NOiR hopes to raise $2,000, beating its previous record and providing thousands of meals through Food Gatherers.
“A dollar provides three meals at Food Gatherers, so if we provide $2,000, it would be 6,000 meals,” Thomas said. “Every year, we try to strive towards a cause that we feel is essential to all of us, and we feel like we can make a change.”
The fashion-forward group’s slogan, “BE bold, BE kind, BE you,” resonates with every project it chooses to take on and has a profound impact on the members of the executive board.
“We wanted to raise awareness about bullying,” Glymph said. “There was a big problem with how people treated one another, and we wanted our motto as well as anyone who went to see the show, anyone who has an awareness of the NOiR show, to be conscious of the fact that individualism is appreciated and wanted.”
This same cognizance of originality and independence led to the creation of NOiR in 1999. The group was then spearheaded by two University students who aimed to affix themselves in the fashion world by building a new outlet for their artistic expression.
Anchored in the black community
“It was two women who were interested in creating something that was serious about fashion, but also centered in the black community,” said NOiR’s vice president Ciarra Ross, an LSA sophomore. “They wanted something different, something of higher quality to represent the fashion industry.”
Though NOiR has matured and carved its own space among the many student groups at the University, Ross said the original mission is still very much a part of the organization.
“Now we’re here and wanting to encapsulate it, but also broaden it a bit, always wanting to be more diverse but to be anchored in the black community, knowing that that is what the vision was for it to begin with.”
Despite having close ties with the African American community, NOiR is a large advocate of diversity and multi-culturalism.
“We have premier fashion in our organization, and we are very diverse,” Thomas said.