A line of black snaked its way across the second level of Armstrong. Black leggings, black leather jackets, black shirts — almost all form-fitting. High heels and boots. Hair and makeup done.
Guys and girls made their way to the table to sign in. The model hopefuls received a number to clip to their black attire before moving into the hallway to wait.
It was the second day of model casting for Miami’s Fashion and Design Club, and the numbers were quickly climbing past 100. President of MU Fashion and Design, Steele Fitzwater, said it was clear to see that there were more participants than last year and, potentially, in the history of the club.
“It definitely makes it hard, especially when you have a lot of people who are really good,” Steele said. “But in the same breath it’s also very exciting to see that there are so many people interested in us and interested in the show.”
The club conducts its model casting in preparation for its annual fashion show, which takes place in the spring and is one of the only fashion shows in the country completely student-run and student-created.
Participants are measured and have photos taken for executive members to review later. Then they must walk the runway in front of a panel of exec members who will choose the best candidates. These selections are then passed on to the designers to make the final pick of who will model their clothing in the show.
The process takes over five months in order to make the show the polished production it’s been since 2006. And model casting is the easy part. The hard part comes in the deliberation among exec members and designers, as there are only about 60 spots to fill for the show. Those who aren’t chosen to model have the opportunity to still be involved — either in organizing the show or unrelated photoshoots and modelling opportunities.
Pink and highlighter-yellow measuring tapes were run across arms, down legs and around necks. The click and flash of a camera accompanied the murmurs of “stretch your arms out” and “can you move your hair?” The runway walks happened behind closed doors.
“Welcome to model castings,” Erin Beaver, modeling director, said to the first group — something she would repeat throughout the night. “We’re going to have you guys walk twice for us today. I’m going to do a demonstration.”
Erin climbed the few steps onto the runway and instructed the models to state their number loudly so it could be heard over the music that would be playing. She walked to the end of the platform and paused to pose, narrating that they should too in turn.
“Once you guys are done, step aside until everyone is finished,” Erin said. “Please be respectful of your peers — so no side conversations when others are walking.”
Erin hit record on the video camera and Steele pressed play on his phone, causing music to blast out of the loudspeakers.
One member of the group, Jackie Schutjer, took off her heels to stretch her feet and give her ankles a rest while waiting her turn. During someone’s walk, there was too long of a silence between songs and Steele had to give his phone an angry look until the next song began.
Between groups, Jackie asked Steele about her walk, nervous it was too wobbly.
“Nerves are fine,” Steele reassured her. “Nerves keep you on your toes.”
Junior Alex Kowal was definitely nervous. He had watched videos of professionals and practiced walking in his living room to prepare. But he wasn’t letting the nerves affect his attitude — he chose excitement instead.
“I’m just going to do my thing, strut my stuff and hope for the best,” Alex said.
This was Alex’s first year trying out because his interior design major didn’t allow him enough free time to be a part of the fashion show until now.
But diversity is something the Fashion and Design club prides themselves on.
“We do have an organization that celebrates that academic diversity, as well as racial diversity, gender diversity,” Steele said. “I think that’s something that makes our show really special because we’re not looking for that stereotypical, quote on quote, model look. We’re looking primarily for people who are confident in themselves and who by being confident in themselves, will look great in whatever they wear.”