Since 1999 NOiR Runway Fashion has been bringing Ann Arbor fashion, philanthropy and awareness of the importance of community involvement. The University of Michigan-established organization’s efforts culminate each year with their annual fashion show — this year, the theme was the “Elements.” The organization defines “element” as a group of people singled out within a larger context, which is indicative of the organization’s commitment to their sense of identity. An extensive amount of work is put into the planning of their fashion shows, which often starts immediately after the closing of the previous year’s show.
“I’ve really seen (NOiR) revolutionize fashion and philanthropy on campus,” said first-year School of Social Work graduate student, Kendall Johnson, the president of NOiR. “We are a very unique organization in that we mix fashion and philanthropy.”
Specifically, all of the proceeds from the show go to a particular charity each year.
This year, NOiR chose the WIN Network, formerly known as “Sew up the Safety Net,” to donate their proceeds to. The WIN Network is run through Henry Ford Health System and helps to reduce the infant mortality rate in Detroit by providing disadvantaged new mothers with the necessary supportive resources to raise their child.
When it comes to thinking outside the box, Johnson notes that NOiR tries to “think big and go big.” She said one of the biggest challenges in holding their fashion shows are the costs associated with it. Putting on a show of such size and scope is expensive, so members of NOiR are constantly fundraising.
“It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of hours,” to host the event with success, Johnson said.
That work appears to be paying off, though. With a record-breaking number of 550 tickets sold, the organization completely sold out for this year’s event.
The preparation for the runway show starts well in advance, such as casting calls for models. NOiR holds the casting calls as early as the fall each year. Though members of the organization are usually locals, the model calls are unique in that they are not exclusive to University students. In fact, Johnson noted that many of the models in this year’s show hailed from many different universities and colleges throughout the state, including Eastern Michigan University and Central Michigan University.
To be considered to walk in the show, models must audition, which may include showcasing their signature “walk.” Out of the 100 people who auditioned this year, only 47 were selected. This selective process was clearly showcased through each model’s impressive runway presence at the show. In addition to being featured in the show, both NOiR models and executive board members were required to complete a set number of community service hours.
When it comes to the fashion itself, NOiR tracks the latest trends, and tries to cater their clothes to the theme of the show. Even amid the typical Michigan snowy weather, the energetic atmosphere inside the tent on Ingalls Mall never faltered. The fashion-week inspired event was meticulously planned and calculated, from the playlist executed by DJ Vincent, all the way down to the model walks.
“Elements” was compiled of ten scenes, with roughly 18 looks per scene. Elements’s segments included: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. The final segment of the show is always the NOiR scene, which was more emblematic of the organization as a whole. It showcased NOiR-inspired outfits styled by famed celebrity stylist Dutch the Omen, who has styled pop-culture icons such as Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. The four elemental scenes featured clothing and designs from both local Ann Arbor stores, such as Bivouac, Renaissance and Pitaya, as well as handmade pieces from aspiring student designers. The University does not have a fashion or textiles major, so it was refreshing to see designs not only from local stores, but trendy pieces that came straight from the minds of dedicated and young fashion designers.
The first scene, Earth, was a showcase of lingerie and Amazon-themed clothes. It featured minimalist work from students with a touch of subtleness and craftsmanship. Featuring camisoles and slips with a nude pallette, the lingerie models wowed with ornate gold headpieces and ethereal makeup to complete the look and feel of the set. A white lace bodysuit, in particular, stunned audience members. With both male and female models, this scene embraced the true forms of the masculine and feminine bodies.
The Air segment featured athleisure and formal wear. With models zipping down the runway in trendy two-piece sets, cropped leggings and denim-inspired silhouettes, it would seem that athleisure has evolved to become more adaptable to everyday streetwear and is here to stay. The formal-wear segment, while featuring gowns and suits from local Ann Arbor stores, ultimately fell flat in comparison to the other formal-wear attire seen on the other scenes.
Water focused on denim, which is making a huge comeback. The pieces showcased distressed looks, overalls, jean jackets with fringe as well as popular whitewash denim. This segment, while having one focus, managed to stay diverse in its delivery and never left audience members tired or bored of denim.
Fire was all about ‘90s grunge, with an added edge. NOiR honed in on a darker palette, featuring many pieces embellished with chains. Female models showcased gown silhouettes that featured all-chain necklines. Male models were also not forgotten, dressed in jean jackets that were emblazoned with chains all along the back.
NOiR’s Runway Fashion 2016 show, benefitting a Detroit-based charity, went above and beyond the average capabilities of a student-run organization. The organization is always looking to break new ground; Johnson notes that they are the first student organization to have a fashion show in a tent on campus. In addition, last year they were the first non-athletic student organization to have a show in the Chrysler Center. NOiR continues to showcase diversity not only through their membership, but as well as the motivational factors that drive different students to participate in the organization. While only a few members hope to pursue a career in modeling or fashion, what binds individuals together is their close connection to the organization’s philanthropic mission. One thing is for sure — NOiR is definitely leaving a legacy at the University.