ODU Fashion Merchandising Students and Governor School of Arts Hosts First “U-NITE” Fashion Event

Photo courtesy of Elena Harris.

Originally published November 15, 2021.


On the evening of Nov. 12th, ODU’s Fashion Merchandising department and the Governor’s School of Arts Textile department collaborated together to host the first “U-Nite” exhibition at the Barry Arts Museum.


The event was attended by mostly students from ODU, Norfolk State, as well as the Governor’s School of Arts. While waiting for the fashion show to begin, patrons were able to mingle around the art exhibitions, talk with one another, and people 21 and up were able to carry alcoholic beverages for free.


The purpose of the U-Nite exhibition was to have direct outreach to students who attend ODU by collaborating with locals or other departments on-campus, explains Suzanne Peterson, the museum’s community outreach coordinator.


“This is the first of many.” Peterson explains. “It will be something in response to an exhibition that’s going on and also a direct correlation to the campus.”


The first U-Nite event was in response to the Karen LaMonte: Théâtre de la Mode exhibition. Designers that participated from ODU and the Governor School of Arts were to design pieces that resonated with the exhibition.


Similar to any other fashion show, backstage was crowded with models and clothes hanging on racks and being sewn at the last minute. Models and photographers were scattered around the tight-space rooms, struggling to get dressed. Some models were freelancers who were asked to wear the designer’s piece, but there were also some models who were the designers themselves and wore their piece on the runway.

Photo Courtesy of Elena Harris

One designer and model, Bella Bobenski, a freshman at the Governor’s School of Arts says she was nervous, but she wanted to experience what it was like walking on a runway and sharing her design.

Photo Courtesy of Elena Harris

“It’s like my first time doing anything like this.” She says. “We were inspired by the artist [Karen LaMonte] and so, I kind of just made a skirt and I painted it and added a few touches to make it kind of myself and like a little more crazy.”


Another student who designed and was modeling in her own piece from the Governor’s School of Arts, Abigail Elliott, a sophomore, says she was also excited and nervous about the show. Her piece took a month for her to finish for this event and is hoping to be a fashion designer in the future,


She says, “I think–because I originally wanted to be a comic creator–but when I looked into the characters’ clothing, it just really made me get more into that.”


With talented designs, comes with a talented runway walk.

The secret to a good runway walk?


Confidence, Shauna C. Hill, a recent graduate at ODU and freelance model, says to us. During the past few days, the models had time to practice their walks.


Hill says, “I feel regardless of how many times I do it, I’ll always be nervous about it. I’ll say the best tip is that my mom would say, ‘you know, just go out there and do it. You can’t have any expectations in your head. Anybody can see what you think, so just go out there and be confident in what you do.”


The runway show started promptly after 6 p.m., one by one models descended down the spiral stairs wearing the pieces. Peterson would announce the models’ names and what they’re wearing, as the crowds on each side would clap as each model walked and posed.


The runway show lasted about 20 minutes, as all the models walked down the stairs lined up to close the event.


With students coming back on-campus during the pandemic, Peterson says that the museum is ready to start gathering again. Despite the masks and the social distancing, she emphasizes that art was made to be experienced as a group.


“I think that art was certainly made to be experienced together and to have conversations over and react to it and inspire new art, which is what’s happening here.” Peterson says. “Then, now we can start a conversation about this artwork, inspired by further artwork, just kind of continuing that lineage of art appreciation or artists in general.”


The museum plans to host U-Nite events every second Friday of each month, usually during the evenings or after opening hours.


In regards to if any more ‘U-Nite’ fashion-themed events will be coming in the future, Peterson explains that the Barry Arts Museum does love fashion as they do have a doll collection in an exhibit that portrays fashion history.


However, she also emphasizes on the U-Nite events and its variety, “Will they all be fashion? No, because our exhibition will continue to change and so, our U-Nites will continue to be inspired by the exhibition.”