Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Virtual Fashion Show Comes to Life


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Story and photos by: 

Ethan Pickering / Assistant Lifestyles Editor 

Ashley Barrientos / Lifestyles Editor

The air bubbled with anticipation as designers hurriedly made final touches on their finished products. Models strutted backstage, clomping around in high heels and donning colorful fabrics and patterns. TV crew members flipped switches, fiddled with notches, and talked hurriedly through headsets.  

This is music to the fashion world’s ears.

After missing last year’s show due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Middle Tennessee University’s 2021 Textile and Merchandising Fashion Show finally was held last Tuesday.

But a few things were different for this show. 


This year’s fashion show was filmed all in one day so that they could stream the event on April 22 and televise it for the public on April 24. 

The True Blue TV crew was in charge of filming, editing and directing the show.

“Our biggest difficulty has been with the LED wall,” said Nate Parris, a crew member of True Blue TV. 

Nate Parris, a crew member of True Blue TV, running the LED wall.

The runway was accompanied by a large LED backdrop that flashed different vibrant backgrounds designed to supplement the designers’ collections. In accordance with this show’s theme, “Forces of Nature,” there were images of glistening blue ocean waves, emerald green forests, and red-orange hues of fire, all beaming brightly as models strutted down the runway. 

“That’s probably one of the hardest things we’ve had to set up, just because of all the technology, the networking, cables and all the other stuff that goes into it,” Parris said.  

The crew also experienced issues with lighting and digital multiplex channels, which are streams of data that control a variety of devices. 

“I’d say we just had a lot of challenges setting this up because technology has its own natural problems.”

The True Blue TV crew on set during filming on April 13, 2021 in the Miller Education Center.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, only a certain number of people were allowed in the building at one time, so the filming session was divided into six groups. These groups included four designers and one model for each designer— which equates to only eight students allowed from the fashion department at a time. 

Their scheduled times of appearance were staggered in order to maintain all proper social distancing guidelines and capacity limits. 

Since this year’s fashion show will be live streamed, it has been more difficult to find sponsors. 

“It has been a challenge to convince businesses after this tumultuous year to get them to sponsor us and put their faith in us,” said Gabe Clemons, the student contact for sponsorships from the fashion department. 

Clemons said that a lot of the donations have come from MTSU Alumni and that the $15 virtual admission should help cover production costs. 


According to fashion designer Ari Johnson, the show had a rocky start after experiencing some delays and technical issues. But the show smoothly shifted back on to schedule once they found a rhythm. 

Johnson also expressed his excitement at seeing his work finally come to life. 

“I was nervous at first, but once I saw my model coming down the runway, I was relieved,” Johnson said. The senior designer chose to center his designs on the Earth element.

“The element earth is just something I’m really into, it’s easier for me to design for,” Johnson said. “Plus, with my collection, I wasn’t really focusing on earth itself, I was focusing on more the spiritual aspect of it— mostly like the spirituality of mythology and stuff like that.”

Ari Johnson’s model, Giselle Lopez, poses for a photo behind the scenes. 

“I’m hoping to gain more inspiration for designs in the future. I think this is a valuable learning experience on what goes into creating a fashion show,” Johnson said. 

Fashion designer Myles Alexander offered his own insight into the show and what it had to offer.

Myles Alexander posing backstage in the Miller Education Center.

“This was a growing experience for designing, just seeing myself grow with everything that I’m doing, everything that I learned how to do, and the entire process,” Alexander said. “I’m just gaining a better sense of who I am as a designer and what I’m capable of.”

Alexander’s collection featured glistening strips of fabric varying different shades of blue, all artfully woven together and contributing to the senior designer’s goal to produce an “icy look.” 

“I chose fabrics that had embellished features like sequins, glitter, sparkles, and rhinestones. I like glittering, glistening and glam,” Alexander said. “I think it went really well and came together cohesively the way I wanted it to. I’m actually really proud of myself.”

Underclassman designer Walker Abee also explained some positive things that came out of the smaller class sizes as a result of the pandemic. 

“Even though we had to break up into smaller groups… we still were able to communicate well and get our own personal feedback with friends and get a personal opinion instead of only the teacher saying ‘it’s great’ or ‘it could use some work,’” said Abee.


MTSU Alumni Ayana Ife is currently at the university teaching fashion promotion, and she is hosting the fashion show alongside fashion professor Rick Cottle. 

Ife was featured as a finalist on Season 16 of Lifetime’s reality show Project Runway. Accompanied by her success as a designer, she is also the first Muslim designer to ever be featured in the show. This accomplishment boosted her career as a designer and prompted her to create her own line of sustainable womenswear apparel, according to her website

The African-American modest fashion designer has been a key player in helping students produce this spring’s fashion show and in influencing her students’ styles.

Ayana Ife (left) and Rick Cottle (center) hosting the show along with Joseph Poe (right), a True Blue TV Producer.

Fashion shows never run smoothly,” said Ife. “That would be a miracle show— and it might even be a little bit boring if it was running so smoothly. Any humps that we’ve come across, we’ve been able to work together as a team to manage.” 

Ife wanted students to gain two things from this show: in-field experience and knowledge on how to collaborate with others. 

“There’s a major adrenaline rush that’s associated with this sort of work…It’s that thinking in the moment, thinking on our feet that’s so important in our field,” said Ife. “Everything we do now, we can learn from in the future. I wanted them to have that real-life experience of working in the field, which they are getting and have gotten.”

A clothing rack from backstage.

Ife also elaborates on why she wants her students to understand collaboration: “I want them to understand that you’ll never work alone in any field. You always will have to work with someone…it’s important to keep an open mind and look at the bigger picture.” 

The fashion designer by trade also loves “creation.” 

“I love the adrenaline rush. It freaks me out and then afterwards I’m like, ‘Oh, it went so well!’ And it’s in those moments that you think about new innovations. It’s in those moments, when something crazy happens.” 

Designers were allowed that experience during the fashion show, which was Ife’s favorite part.  

“Watching them figure it out was awesome. It was like, okay they’re learning something, they’re creating their own way here,” said Ife. “We have guidelines to help them, but they’re getting in here and putting their own spin on things. And that’s always such a beautiful thing to see.” 

The event will be streamed as a virtual runway show on April 22. It will also be televised on True Blue TV on April 24.

To purchase tickets for tomorrow’s virtual event, click here.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Ashley Barrientos, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Life

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