Photo by Stefanie Harper
Jada Williams celebrates on the runway after earning first place at the 25th Annual Fashion Expose event for Pan-Afirkan Week in Talley Student Union on Thursday, April 6, 2023. Jada Williams showcased a collection called “Ease It Down.

The African American Textile Society (AATS) held their 25th annual Fashion Exposé on Thursday, April 6, 2023. It featured 16 designers made up of students from North Carolina State and North Carolina Central University. The event lasted an hour and a half, and Nubian Message got the full inside scoop of the event before, during and after the show. 

Backstage, many designers were putting the finishing touches on their models’ makeup and hair. Some designers were even finishing up their garments right up to the last second. Nubian Message interviewed model Kayla Hillman, walking for designer Natalia Barnack,“I’m really excited for everyone to be able to see her collection because she worked so hard on it,” Hillman stated. Nubian asked Hillman how she was feeling about walking in the show. “I’m a little nervous, but I’m excited too, so it cancels out.” Hillman is a first-year student studying Fashion & Textile Management. 

Watching everyone backstage, you could really sense the energy in the room. Lots of people were nervous before the show, with models still practicing their walks, and designers shaking with nerves. Others were just pacing around in general. 

A few designers had a lot to prove, with family members in the audience awaiting their showcase. This was the case for designer Alexa Karrenbauer, a second-year studying Fashion & Textile Design. “It’s my first collection and my parents, my family is coming and they have been hyping me up so I don’t want to disappoint them.” Karrenbauer said that if they could describe their collection in one word, they would describe it as whimsical, “Well, my collection is kind of inspired by feminine songs and gothic kind of things so I tried to envision that.” 

In no time, the show was ready to begin. The Mountains Ballroom quickly filled up with people rushing to find their seats. Reserved seats also filled up in a heartbeat with parents, family and friends coming to support their loved ones participating in the show.

The show was hosted by the AATS faculty advisor, Jaquan Scott, who introduced the designers and got the ball rolling on the exposé. 

Scott introduced the first category of designers: the Novice Designers. Designers in this category were beginners when it came to creating their own collection. 

After briefly giving thanks to everyone who came out and to the AATS’ sponsors, Scott left the stage to the first novice designer.

The Novice category showed a wide range of designers and highlighted the talents and hard work of everyone involved. Dominique Bell’s collection opened the show. The collection was completely crocheted. Bell stated in a video they played before her showcase that she was inspired by nature, the environment around her and that the color of every garment had some correlation to nature. Bell also stated in the video that she had been crocheting since she was ten-years-old. 

Like Bell, all the designers had a video that premiered before their work was showcased to give background information to the audience such as the designers inspirations, the fabrics and materials they used, and any other information they felt needed to be shared with the audience. This allowed the audience to appreciate each artist’s work individually and view it from different perspectives. 

Alexa Karrenbauer wanted to experiment with aesthetics and gender, using her skills of crochet and knitting to create a collection that did just that. The final designer of the showcase was a student at North Carolina Central University. She said that the collection was the first one that she had ever done. Her inspiration was the popular TV show from the early 2000s “Bratz,” which exuded throughout her collection. 

There was one novice designer who dedicated her collection to her dog, RoRo, and had a print of his face on every garment she showcased. 

The Novice category soon came to a close. After a brief intermission, the next category of designers began: The Intermediate and Beyond. This category featured designers who have had experience creating clothes on a large scale and have a higher skill set when it comes to creating garments from scratch. 

Similar to the novice set of designs, the intermediate category included lots of talented designers. The size of their collections were different, with the novice designers only having to do four to five designs, but the intermediate designers could create up to eight designs for their showcase. 

The Intermediate category included designs that exemplified retro-futurism, afro-futurism, experimentation with colors and stories and lots and lots of themes. 

At the end of the show, Jaquan Scott came back out to give thanks to everyone and announce the winners. The first-place winner from the novice category was Dominique Bell, a first-year Fashion & Textile Design student. The first-place winner from the intermediate and beyond category was Jada Williams, a third-year studying in Fashion & Textile Management. 

Nubian Message had the chance to speak to Jada Williams after the show ended. 

When asked about her win Williams stated, “I’m just in shock. It’s just great to do something you’re passionate about and just get recognized for it. I’m so excited.” Williams stated that the inspiration behind her collection was her favorite childhood play, “The Wiz.” “The cast was all Black you know. Diana Ross, and Michael Jackson, and full of iconic Black actors and comedians, like Richard Pryor. All different areas of Black people who were successful in coming together to make such a great piece of art known as ‘The Wiz.’” Williams’ design showcased her version of each of the iconic characters from the film, with her garment being Dorothy. 

Nubian Message also got a chance to also speak with the president of AATS, Jordan Everett, a second-year studying Textile Technology. “I’m just proud of all the designers that we were able to showcase tonight. I’m also proud of the show being sold out. That was my biggest thing just trying to have the numbers and also just to have the people in attendance you know, the people that I tried to invite were alumni. Also people within the field just so the designers can get that connection to talk to people so that’s the part that really means the world to me.” 

Nubian Message asked Evertt how they felt with the winners being two Black women. “It means the world that to Black women won like shout out to them. Just love Dominique’s collection, Jada’s idea of using the Wiz and just like the way that she had the models present themselves was really amazing. So, that really means a lot to just showcase the diversity here at the Wilson College of Textile and also at NC State. So I really love that and I’m so glad that I’m able to support them during this process and give them the opportunity on the stage to showcase who they are.” 

The AATS 25th Annual Fashion Exposé was a night that highlighted the talent and hard work of black and other insanely creative designers.