BEHIND THE SCREENS: The Making of Threads 2020: React Virtual Fashion Event

On Friday, May 1 at 7 p.m. CST  

Design and Fashion Event Practicum (DS 270) and Management (DS 570) will present a dynamic virtual rendition of: Threads 2020: React.   

Back in January, as we headed into our first class of Design and Fashion Event Practicum, we quickly became aware that we would be responsible for envisioning and fully executing a significant production: The Threads Fashion Show. We all wanted to make this year’s show the best ever.  

We were guided by the thematic framework, which was developed in the fall Creative Direction class: React: how we, as designers and students, respond to all that is happening around us.

Our Practicum class broke down into teams according to our interests in graphic design, set design, communication, marketing, community engagement or PR. Students from the Management class were leaders for each of our practicum teams. Having experience in previous productions, the management encouraged us to explore our interests while we worked together on all details for the implementation of a runway show.

By spring break, we had all the details in place. We had over 100 models who auditioned for the show. A professional jury had chosen 75 exceptional garment designs out of the 150 entries that had been submitted. We had the set designed, venue rented, lighting rental ordered, tickets sold, viewbook designed, community service fair planned, and live musicians ready to perform. We were prepared to push “go.”

GRAPHIC BEFORE MARCH 24th

And then the Coronavirus hit the U.S., and social distancing started. There would be no runway show. But our thematic concept, which had guided all of our creative directions up until this point, was strong and uncannily fit the new situation perfectly.  

GRAPHIC AFTER MARCH 24th

Conceptually the show did not have to change, but pretty much everything else had to be reenvisioned from scratch. Without access to the studios, many designers were not able to finish their work. Without a venue, there would be no audience, no catwalk, or lights. With social distancing, there could be no photoshoots with professional photographers, videographers, or models. Without a photoshoot, we have no viewbook to showcase senior work. As practicum students, we were to be the “hands” that would build the stage and dress the models. But there would not be a stage, and there were no models.

In an intense real-world problem-solving experience, we set out to create something powerful and meaningful, given little time, a lot of distance, and less than optimal conditions. We reached out to our designers, who used the cameras on their phones to stage their own videos and photoshoots while sheltered in place. Viewbook stories (like this one) had to be re-written with new endings and expanded for an on-line context.  

Many of us in the practicum also developed Instagram challenges, mask-making tutorials, community service, and topical articles to create an interactive and on-going dialogue with the community. Our new website threads.sohe.wisc.edu will become an information hub and archive for all of the new virtual events. 

The kick-off for Threads 2020: React is on Friday, May 1, at 7 p.m. CST. A video-DJ will mix video clips and images from the students. The performance will include storytelling and live music. The video of the May 1 event, along with links to all of the threads articles, designer profiles, social media challenges, and community service events will be available after their release dates on the new Threads website (threads.sohe.wisc.edu).  

This class has truly been a unique real-world experience. Projects are hands-on, and strict deadlines are real. But this opportunity also brought our passions into the limelight and allowed us, as undergraduates, to see our creative visions come to life. Though Design and Fashion Event, Practicum takes a tremendous amount of organization, participation, and collaboration. I’m confident that everyone who has taken this class can agree that the product of our hard work and dedication makes it all worth it in the end.