On Thursday, April 7, the African American Textile Society (AATS) hosted its 24th annual Fashion Exposé in the Talley State Ballroom. This event was a part of Pan-Afrikan week and featured a hand-selected panel of highly decorated judges. The judges were Meredith Howell, a fourth-year in Fashion and Textile Management, Dr. Katherine Annett-Hitchcock from Wilson College of Textiles and Nick Trombetta from Climate Action NC. These judges determined the winners for each category, ultimately selecting the grand prize winners. 

The exposé was created to allow designers to gain exposure with leading industry officials in the area while competing for scholarship funding. The student members of AATS spend the months before the completely student-run competition taking care of everything from recruiting designers, securing funding, staging the show, selling tickets, and so much more. All Wilson College of Textiles students were encouraged to participate in the exposé. Additionally, this year’s exposé was open to students from North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

Jacori Crudup, a fourth-year Fashion and Textile Management student, AATS Fashion Exposé chair and Community Service Chair was able to give us insight into the behind-the-scenes work.

“Planning the event was all Deja, Tia, and I and we had help from our club advisor Jaquan. It took months. I believe we started planning [in] the end of January. I got involved because I have been in the club since I was a freshman and I was always interested in being involved in the show in some way. With the pandemic, I didn’t get to [participate in the fashion exposé] until this year.”

AATS was created to provide support for and serve as a network for the African American population in the College of Textiles. Though AATS was originally founded to support African American Students, all students are welcome to join.

The fashion exposé was structured into two rounds, a novice/beginner round and an intermediate/beyond round. The Novice Round was for more inexperienced designers and the Intermediate Round was for more advanced designers. 

The event began with a pre-show by Climate Action, a project of the League of Conservation Voters that uses grassroots organizing to turn the environmental values into priorities for the state of North Carolina. The pre-show featured several sustainable designs created by utilizing recycled materials. 

After the pre-show, the host moved into the Novice Category. The designers featured in the Novice Category were Isabella Fordin, Jada Williams, and Lilly Barozzini. Before each designer’s work was showcased, they allowed the designers to discuss the inspirations for their designs. Their inspirations were pulled from various places in their lives as well as from their loved ones. 

Isabella Fordin’s designs featured 3 models, all dressed in a silky, flowy material. 

Jada Williams’s designs featured 4 models, all dressed in varying materials. Williams’ designs featured unique cutouts in various shapes such as hearts and circles. 

Lilly Barozzini’s designs featured 4 models, all dressed in various earth-tone shades. Each model featured an earthy-looking accessory of some kind such as a purse or headband. 

Each designer was able to walk with their models and show off the designs they had created for themselves. The designers were also tasked with finding their own models and giving them direction on how they wanted their work to be showcased.  

After a short intermission, they moved into the Intermediate Category. 

The designers featured in the Intermediate Category were Natalia Barnack, Savannah Cummings, Destiny Hill, and Sydni Mottley. Destiny Hill and Sydni Mottley were both from NCCU and created their designs together. 

Natalia Barnack featured 8 models, all wearing various shades of red and black. Her work featured wide sleeves with sheer material. 

Savannah Cummings featured 4 models, all wearing bright, light, spring-colored dresses. 

Lastly, Sydni Mottley and Destiny Hill featured 6 models, all dressed in bright colors with several animal prints highlighted. 

After the Intermediate Category, there was a brief break for the judges to discuss and ultimately select a winner from each category. 

Lilly Barozzini won in the Novice Category and Sydni Mottley and Destiny Hill were selected as the winners for the Intermediate Category. 

Kayla Hyman, a third-year Psychology student, enjoyed the various designs that the exposé had to offer. “I liked that there was a lot of diversity within the pieces. No two pieces were alike, so there was always this brief moment of curiosity for me before someone stepped out onto the stage.”

Hyman really enjoyed Mottley and Hill’s work, “My favorite designers were the two girls from Central. I loved how vibrant their color choices were, which made their pieces stand out to me. For almost all of their designs, I found myself wanting to be the model so that I could wear their work!”

Crudup also enjoyed the event and the community being able to see the hard work that was put in. “I was most excited about seeing what the designers created because we didn’t see any of the looks until the day of the show. I hoped people would leave having a great time and enjoying everyone’s hard work. I also wanted people to possibly be inspired and try to the show the following year if they’re interested because you don’t have to be a textiles student to be a part of the show.”

People had various reasons for wanting to attend the exposé, some people were leaders in the fashion industry while some were simply there as NC State students looking to support the community. 

Hyman attended the event to support her line sister, Jacori Crudup, who was one of the event planners. “I went first and foremost to support my line sister, Jacori, who helped make the event possible. I know she put a lot of hard work and effort in, so even though her work wasn’t on the stage, I knew I had to have a seat in the audience to cheer her on. I also went because this year was my first Pan-AF experience. Even though I’m a junior, covid took a lot of my college experience away. Now that the world is getting back to a new sense of normalcy, I wanted to participate in as many events as I could.”

The AATS Fashion Exposé served as a unique opportunity for student designers to showcase their work to a wider audience. Being attached to Pan-Afrikan Week adds to the overall legacy of the event, drawing from multiple histories to highlight Black students. Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the show.