Date February 25, 2021
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Student-organized Fashion Week boasts can’t-miss lineup of preeminent fashion industry leaders

Held virtually over the span of nearly three weeks, Fashion@Brown’s annual event may look different this year, but organizers lined up an award-winning slate of designers, journalists, business leaders, models and more.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Gwyneth Paltrow. Sarah Jessica Parker. Steve Madden. Kenneth Cole. Stella McCartney. Even the least fashion-inclined would be hard-pressed to skip over those luminaries, who make up just a fraction of the speakers slated to present at the student-run Fashion@Brown’s Fashion Week 2021.

This year’s event, which will be held virtually over the span of nearly three weeks, will look quite different from years past, but Fashion@Brown president and Class of 2021 student Sasha Pinto says the mission will remain the same: to host a robust lineup of professionals to present, chat, encourage and educate the community on the ins and outs of all aspects of the fashion industry.

“We wanted to give the community something to look forward to — something wonderful, something interesting,” Pinto said. “Everyone will get something out of it, and I suspect that may look different for everyone.”

Brown Fashion Week ’21 will feature presentations by 26 renowned fashion and film experts across 16 events, including student-led conversations and panel discussions on journalism, business, modeling, sustainability, design and more.

Costume designersIn addition to the fashion powerhouses listed above, the lineup includes the award-winning costume designers for “Black Panther,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Crown” and “Mamma Mia!”; the editors-in-chief of Glamour Magazine and; the CEOs of Yves St. Laurent, Ralph Lauren and Maje; creative directors and fashion influencers; models and many more.

The weeks of virtual programming will culminate in Fashion@Brown’s 11th Annual Runway Show, though the COVID-19 pandemic and current public health guidelines transformed what the show will look like. In lieu of an in-person runway event, the organization will premiere a student film showcasing the creations of its student designers. Because of pandemic-induced gathering size limitations, designers will feature members of their own living pods as models for their creations.

“The designers are extremely creative,” Pinto said. “They’re using high fashion films as inspiration, and it’s going to transcend the boundaries of a traditional runway show. I believe the end result is going to be something great.”

While Pinto acknowledges that the need to execute all programming virtually came with some challenges, it was a necessary decision for the organization. Pinto, who also serves as a director for the student-organized Ivy Film Festival, noted that Brown’s decision to complete the Spring 2020 semester remotely in the early weeks of the pandemic’s arrival came right before the film festival had been scheduled to take place.

“The office of President Paxson sent us, the directors, a message expressing their hope that we would do it virtually to help build community and create shared experiences.” she said. “That idea stayed with me all summer, and I was thinking that Fashion@Brown should really do something big this year. It would just be a great thing to do for Brown, and a great way to pull the community together and give them something of value.”

It’s both entertaining and instructional, and just kind of fun. So when we got all of these positive responses, I realized that this could go beyond just Brown. Let’s have our local community, our schools and everyone else know about it.

Sasha Pinto President of Fashion@Brown
Sasha Pinto

From then on, it was all-hands-on-deck as the 130 members that make up the 11 teams — finance, design, editorial, social media and others — comprising Fashion@Brown got to work. Pinto estimates the teams sent out hundreds of invitations and follow-ups, with one out of every 25 invitations accepted. That was a huge change from last year’s Ivy Film Festival, where Pinto said it was exceedingly difficult to secure speakers, perhaps because the pandemic was still so new and celebrities were unsure about taking public-facing roles.

Indeed, the decision to go virtual may have been one of the contributing factors in securing such a star-studded lineup. Instead of asking speakers to commit to traveling to Providence, they could instead speak from their own homes. Plus, Pinto says, more and more guests expressed the desire to connect with new communities in ways they simply weren’t logistically able to connect previously.

“I’m sitting on my cell phone one night and I see an email address come in that says Sarah Jessica Parker, and I almost fainted,” Pinto said. “She said something like, ‘I really want to do this right now.’ She remembered I had invited her last year, but she was in the middle of previews for a play she was working on. That’s kind of what we’ve been getting — people are responding well to the invitation because it’s all tied up into the moment, and this is something they can do to help.”

Given the number of confirmed speakers, Pinto had the idea of expanding the programming beyond the usual weeklong series — not just to accommodate the guests, but to include the greater community.

“It’s both entertaining and instructional, and just kind of fun,” she said. “So when we got all of these positive responses, I realized that this could go beyond just Brown. Let’s have our local community, our schools and everyone else know about it... We’re hoping that everyone is excited that these people are happy to donate their time and expertise to speak to us and help out during a difficult time.”

The full slate of Fashion Week ’21 activities, which begin with a Thursday, March 4, presentation by Sarah Jessica Parker, is available on the Fashion@Brown website. All events are free and open to the public virtually, but advance registration is required and information can be found on their Facebook page.