Earlier this month, on April 7th and 8th, the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Office of Culture and Identity hosted the school’s 29th annual Benefit Fashion Show. Established in 1994, the beloved event brings together local alumni and current students in partnership with the Black Student Union to raise money for the school’s Dr. Frankie Martin Diversity and Inclusion Grant—named for the event’s founder and MICA’s first Diversity Officer—which provides scholarships to students who create identity-based work.
Entitled Flourish, this year’s presentation showcased the work of fifteen students representing eleven lines made by individual designers and two collaborations. Modeled by other current students and a few members of the community, the show was a mix of streetwear fashion, conceptual art, and everything in between—broadly exploring what this generation wants to nurture in the wake of the pandemic. In her opening remarks before Friday’s show, Dr. Martin, who is retired, gleefully announced that the show has “always been about the students,” passing all credit to the population that conceives of, produces, and oversees every aspect of the multidisciplinary production to benefit their peers.
Attendees of previous years’ shows would recognize the stage elements that stay consistent from year to year: top 40 hits alongside niche music providing the auditory backdrop for a truly art school blend of performance art, serious catwalking, and prerecorded designer statements shot Art21 style. Before the show began, a projection against the back wall of Falvey Hall read, “This show contains flashing/strobe lights, nudity, and strong language. Viewer Discretion is advised,” a warning and a promise of the entertainment to come.