Q&A: Vice president of UNITY Charity Fashion Show

Jennifer Hepp, Reporter


For the ninth year in a row, student models will take the stage and strut down a runway as they model for the Unity Charity Fashion Show this Sunday at the Hilton Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave. Proceeds from the event will go to NoStigmas, a Chicago-based mental health advocacy organization, for the third year.

Vice president of the organization Nikita Kulkarni, a Communication junior, has been involved with Unity since her freshman year. She sat down with The Daily to talk about this year’s show.  

The Daily: Why did you choose “Renewal” as this year’s theme?

Kulkarni: Last year it was “Life in the City.” The idea was that fashion trends are very cyclical. A lot of 90s things right now are experiencing a resurgence.

The Daily: Why did you continue having NoStigmas as the beneficiary for this event?

Kulkarni: Until my freshman year, they had been changing the beneficiary every year, and that year we settled on NoStigmas. We just felt that mental health was something that many Northwestern students struggle with and it’s something that is very relevant on campus, and we just liked them so much after working with them that year that we decided to keep them on board as our beneficiary. And now it’s kind of turned into … a much more mutually beneficial partnership. We actually talk to them and take their ideas and try and apply them into fashion-oriented events on campus but still keep our mission and their mission in line.

The Daily: Where do you get materials?

Kulkarni: The outfits come from various stores in Evanston, Old Orchard, downtown, Lincoln Park, all over Chicago. Some of them have sponsored the show before. Usually what we’ll do is we’ll have members of Unity go there and explain the whole process to them and they’ll lend us clothes for the weekend. We’ll have a fitting for the models so they can pick stuff that fits them comfortably and whatnot, and then after the show we’ll take them back to the stores.

The Daily: How many models will walk in the show?

Kulkarni: Twenty-four models. They were chosen through the model calls we had. There were two opportunities — one at end of Fall Quarter and one during Winter Quarter. The model call process is open to any student. You just come, fill out a form, do a walk for the model heads and they would get a gist of how comfortable you felt, what sort of personality you brought to the runway. Based on that, we chose our group for the year.

The Daily: How are you working to incorporate the goals and purpose behind NoStigmas into the show?

Kulkarni: Our fundraising head and I sat down with the founder (of NoStigmas) and discussed some of their branding. They’re releasing a series of videos right now in which members of their organization talk about what it means to live a lifestyle with no stigmas. Mental health doesn’t have to be this huge, stigmatized conversation; if everyone is just kind of open about it, it promotes better dialogue. So we’ve been trying to incorporate that into our promotional strategies as well. We’ve been doing “Meet the Models” on our Facebook page and each of them talks about what it means to live a lifestyle with no stigmas and it’s cool because you get to see all of the different perspectives that they each bring to the show.

The Daily: What does the fashion show mean to you?

Kulkarni: It means taking fashion, which is something that’s seen as something very shallow, and elevating it to something that actually contributes to society as a whole. And NoStigmas is a very important organization. A lot of students here deal with a very competitive culture and Northwestern definitely exerts a lot of pressure on its students. I think it would be fair to say quite a few students here have struggled with mental health issues and I think it’s a really great combination to have something like fashion help bring something that’s very stigmatized and very difficult to talk about, more into the limelight.

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