Skip to main content
Student Success

Fashion Exposé Celebrates 26 Years of Community and Creativity

Model walks onto the runway wearing a blue corset and matching pants from the "When it Rains" collection.

For student designers, having a collection on the runway honors countless hours spent learning techniques, filling sketchbooks and working with sewing machines. With 2024 marking 125 years of textile education at NC State University, the African American Textile Society (AATS) Fashion Exposé celebrates its 26-year legacy as the first and longest-running fashion show on campus. 

This year, the exposé kicked off Pan-Afrikan week, an annual series of events celebrating Black culture around campus. Through the show, 11 student designers from NC State and North Carolina Central University presented collections of at least four pieces in competition for scholarships.

Black and Belonging, a community initiative for middle and high school students to create positive change, and Clara Bea Essentials, an all-natural hair, skin and beauty brand served as this year’s show sponsors. The judges panel consisted of LaCharo Owens, founder of Clara Bea Essentials; Jessica Singleton, owner of ​​Laché Supply & Company and Wilson College teaching assistant professor; and Joshua Wall, adjunct professor of footwear design at NC State’s College of Design. Collections were split into two categories: novice and intermediate and beyond, and were judged on overall creativity, cohesion and craftsmanship. 

Going behind the scenes

As the organization’s largest event of the year, planning begins during the fall semester when student leaders coordinate logistics, contact judges and advertise designer calls. Ariyana Marshall, a junior studying fashion and textile management with a brand management and marketing concentration, served as this year’s AATS Fashion Exposé chair.

“I look forward to seeing the show every year. I love seeing what designers come up with, being backstage and seeing everything that goes on behind the scenes,” Marshall says. 

Jordan Everett, a junior textile technology student in her second year as president of AATS, explained the impact of keeping the show open to surrounding universities and fostering partnerships to educate others about the impact of textiles.

“It means a lot, having opportunities within the community,” Everett states. “This year I was able to partner with a middle school in Durham, showcasing to students what textiles are.”

Meet the winners

 With the freedom to explore any theme they choose, designers at this year’s exposé showcased imaginative collections drawing from nature, classical art, fictional characters and more. 

First place winner in the novice category was Julia Handley, a sophomore studying fashion and textile design (FTD) with a concentration in fashion design. Her collection “When It Rains” used a variety of blues and flowy silhouettes inspired by the rejuvenating power of rainstorms. 

Handley created her first runway collection for the exposé, incorporating hand-sewn pleats and beading to mimic the movement and shape of rain. 

“AATS does an amazing job of giving students the time and the place to show their work. I’m really thankful for them and it’s very impressive,” Handley says.

Three models wearing blue, flowy designs from the "When it Rains" collection walk onto the runway together.
“I’ve always loved the rain. It’s calming, romantic and beautiful,” Handley says. | Photo Courtesy: Julia Elise
A model walks down the runway in a blue skirt and top.
Model wears Handley’s final design from “When it Rains” her first-ever runway collection. | Photo Courtesy: Julia Elise
Designer Julia Handley walks the runway in a black dress behind a model.
Winning designer Julia Handley walks the runway with models after sharing her collection. | Photo Courtesy: Julia Elise

Lainey Volz, also a sophomore studying FTD with a concentration in fashion design, won first place in the intermediate and beyond category. Her collection “Once Upon a Dream” combined classical fairy tales with contemporary trends. 

Volz combined skills learned in class and experimented with creative mediums, including hand-painting and beading details directly onto fabrics. Volz felt that preparing for the show strengthened her time management ability, event planning skills and excitement for her future career. 

“When I was working on my collection, I would constantly have affirmations that, yes, this is what I want to do with my future,” Volz explains. “I think my favorite part was how incredibly fulfilling it was.”

Six models in Volz's princess inspired collection stand hand in hand in a garden.
“Growing up I was a huge fan of fairytales. Talking animals, beautiful dresses, and following your dreams could not have been more up my alley,” Volz explains in her collection write-up. | Photo Courtesy: Brielle Barozzini
A close up shot on a blue pleated sash with hand sewn pearls.
Volz added various hand-sewn details to her designs, including pearl beads. | Photo Courtesy: Brielle Barozzini
Close up of a ribbon tie corset back surrounded by glass mirror tiles and floral fabric.
This Cinderella-inspired look features glass mirror tiles and embroidered floral fabric. | Photo Courtesy: Brielle Barozzini
Models with linked arms and backs turned stroll in a garden highlighting the corset back of each of the designs.
Volz used a combination of flat patterning and draping to bring each of her designs to life. | Photo Courtesy: Brielle Barozzini

Keeping traditions alive

Looking forward, AATS strives to uphold its core values and current traditions while incorporating new ideas to expand outreach and continue building connections.

“I always want to have something different and be open to other perspectives. Anybody can enjoy the show, I want people to come back next year and continue to be a part of the organization,” Everett says. “The show definitely needs a lot of people. It’s not just the executive board, it’s the general body, volunteers, the audience and the backstage crew, they make a huge impact.”