Red Hot Runway at Columbia

By Amanda Murphy

With Students from different disciplines around the college joining together for one cause—promoting AIDS awareness—Columbia helped kick off the first Red Dress Party in Chicago by organizing and hosting a fashion show to preview the national event, scheduled to take place later this month.

The annual national show raises money and heightens the understanding of HIV/AIDS in the world. The Columbia event was held on March 29 at the 619 S. Wabash Ave. Building in preparation for the main event on April 16 at 525 W. Monroe St.

The show was organized by Columbia’s arts, entertainment and media management students of the Public Relations Student Society of America.

Kate Jacobsen, senior and special events coordinator for PRSSA, said Red Dress generated a great deal of press for the main event in April.

“I had always wanted to do a fashion show, and I found a way to incorporate public relations, fashion and benefitting a charity,” Jacobsen said. “It was incredibly gratifying to know what we were doing was going to [promote] a really great cause.”

There were 14 participating student designers chosen through an audition. The final decisions for whose work would be featured were made by Jacobsen and the president of the PRSAA, Lauren Hadeed, senior marketing communications major.

The four guest judges at the fashion show voted on the winners.

The first, second and third place winners were Amy Hilber, Chloe Flora and Russell Yost, all junior fashion design majors.

The dress judges for the event included Candace Jordan, a former Playboy model, and Kevin Aeh, editor at Time Out Chicago magazine. Jacobsen said she was proud of how many Columbia students and faculty came to the show.

The winning students will have their dresses displayed in a window from April 1–18 at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. shops.

The designers also won various gift cards, and the first-place winner received an iPod Nano courtesy of Columbia’s Computer Store.

Omotola Akinbiyi, freshman fashion design major, said she was honored to be chosen for the event because the subject truly matters to her. Akinbiyi, who is Nigerian, found out through research that Nigeria has one of the highest concentrations of HIV infections in the world. She said her dress was inspired by red blood cells.

“I learned African-American women [have] the highest number of infected people in the U.S.,” Akinbiyi said. “It was very important to me to be part of an event that was trying to inform people of [the impact of HIV].”

The other contributing designers included Jiayin Zheng, sophomore fashion design major; Sadie Smith, senior interdisciplinary major in fashion design and arts, entertainment and media management programs; Kristin Gillespie, junior fashion retail and arts, entertainment and media management major; and senior fashion design majors Kelly Coll, Katya Flores, Ruth Reyes, Johnny Hicks, Jacqueline Amezcua, Julia Tiedt and Dana DuPree.

Yost took the Biology of AIDS: Life of a Virus class at Columbia and said he was greatly moved from what he learned about the disease’s effects.

He said this is a very close-to-the-heart subject for him, and he would have regretted not being part of it.

“It’s educational, and you’re reaching out to people,” Yost said. “I didn’t care if it was going to suck up my entire spring break [because] it was something I had to be a part of.”

Jacobsen emphasized it was a collective effort between Columbia and the Chicago organizations bringing everything together.

PRSSA wanted to ensure a high level of professionalism when they organized the event, Jacobsen said.

Because they were working with a lot of people outside the Columbia community, the PRSSA wanted to represent the college as an institution producing intelligent and capable aspiring professionals, she said.

“I am so proud of how the event turned out, and I can’t emphasize enough how gratifying the entire experience was,” Jacobsen said.

The Red Hot Runway event was primarily organized by Columbia students, according to Jacobsen.

A variety of Columbia departments in the college contributed. Jacobsen said the big contributor was the Fashion Department, which donated its time and talent.

Other Columbia contributions came from the Music Department, by playing music during the reception, and the Marketing Communications Department, which supplied food and drinks.

“So many people were willing to jump on board and help out, and it was incredible,” Jacobsen said. “We could not have done it without those people.”