STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

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On the evening of March 30, the inaugural 2018 U of T Fashion Week (UTFW) closed its three-day event series with a fashion show in the Hart House Great Hall, bringing a fresh mix of style, culture, and diversity to the campus scene. UTFW was part of University Fashion Week, which consisted of similar, simultaneous events at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

UTFW is the product of a vision held by Creative Director Dejanée Mikylah Bowles, a second-year student at the University of Toronto, as well as the hard work of her nine-person executive team. UTFW was designed to be a social enterprise that promotes awareness of important causes in the community, while also fostering entrepreneurial skills for grassroots designers within the Canadian fashion industry. In line with this vision, UTFW’s closing show was the capstone to other events and workshops held earlier in the week.

Speaking to her own creative passions as a musician, poet, and YouTube videographer, Bowles told The Varsity, “I would say that my favourite part in preparing for this event was being able to work with all the different creatives… Just being able to meet other people like myself and do something this grand and bring it all together was really beautiful.”

It’s not easy to spark a movement, especially given that UTFW was in its first year. Bowles acknowledged some of the logistical challenges that her team experienced trying to pave the way for a new initiative on campus. Nevertheless, with all tickets sold out for a runway space accommodating roughly 200 audience members, it was clear from the series’ grand finale that UTFW’s inaugural year was a resounding success.

The first half of the fashion show opened with a star-studded street style lineup. The shredded pieces and safety pins that adorned garments in the LFNT collection brought new meaning to the evolution of denim, 2036 presented a unique take on military-inspired wear, and Steezy Fresh showcased a series of structured bomber jackets and tees printed with their signature logo.

Post-intermission, the runway was overtaken by a mix of casual and luxe sportswear, featuring collections from the likes of AT, 6SIDE, and NIKE. Noname wowed the crowd with a striking collection of custom hand-painted sweatshirts in striking neon tones, while bright prints and funky jewelry by Tantalization provided the perfect transition into the show’s high fashion portion. The show closed with an abstract black-and-white collection courtesy of Faces by Celia, a stunning evening gown set by Ekaj, and a sassy collection of fur and and leather outerwear by M.A SKINZ.

UTFW’s engaging fashion lineup was complemented by a stunning belly dancing set from the Diva Diverse Professional Dance Company, as well as a duo performance of “Why Lie” by Romeyo Wilson. Also encouraging was UTFW’s commitment to charitable change: this year’s show donated proceeds to After Breast Cancer, an organization that provides help to survivors during recovery from their illness.

The organizers’ efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within the show’s lineup were evidenced both by the range of collections featured and by their nods to the connection between fashion and community-building. Overall, the range of UTFW’s show made a resounding impact that will hopefully propel the initiative forward for years to come.

“U of T is a school filled with talent — smart people, educated people,” said Bowles. “We need to see the intersectionality of those different things, and we need to embrace it… [We need to] have times where we can just enjoy ourselves and be happy and be around other people that are like ourselves.”

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