By: Eric Ren
Photos by: Sam K Lee, GPB, and Kevin Martinez
I’m sure that almost everyone has heard of Georgetown’s first ever fashion show, Diamante, seen the pictures of the models, and read the reviews from different student publications. This article is different: as Diamante’s Assistant Director and Stage Manager, I will be taking you on a behind-the-scenes look at the show’s planning, rehearsal, promotion, and production phases. Though I’ve been writing for Thirty Seventh for a little over a semester now, I’ve actually only been interested in fashion for about two years. But in those two years, I had the chance to meet some incredible people and witness some inspiring events, and my role in Diamante has left me with new friends and unforgettable memories.
Before we begin this personal journey, I’d like to give a final thank you to all of GPB, the models, the designers, the staff, and everyone in the audience. I’m really happy that the Georgetown community not only gave us the opportunity to bring such a unique experience to the Hilltop, but also gave us such a warm and enthusiastic welcome in Gaston Hall. Finally, I’d like to give a special thank you to Kevin Martinez (COL ’20) for allowing me to play a small role in the production of this fashion show. Without further delay, let’s dive into the almost three-month-long creative process that beget Diamante.
Kevin, the director of Diamante, was responsible for almost all of the the planning stage. I had chance to catch up with him after the show to ask him a couple of questions.
Eric Ren: So tell me, what was the inspiration behind Diamante? When did you make the first concrete steps in planning the show?
Kevin Martinez: Diamante, I think, was inspired by life. It sounds cliche, but it is true. I think being gay, dominican, black, and male, I had to navigate through many “labels” & “identities.” During the process, I realized how detrimental labels were to myself, and I realized that I was not the only one struggling in life. I wanted Diamante to share the experience of being a “label.” I also felt like a fashion show was perfect to pair with this narrative because clothing represents culture, an expression of freedom which we all long to do: to exercise our right of freedom to choose, to love, and to be free. In essence, I believe the inspiration behind Diamante was me realizing what clothing and fashion actually symbolize and my urge to express the experience of oppressed people, of people that are trapped in a box of labels.
[Regarding the first steps in planning the show] In the spring (2017), I spoke with incoming student body president Kamar Mack about how I wanted to create a fashion show, and he basically put me on a road that would allow this vision to see the day of light. He introduced me to GPB, and this is where the idea that GPB should help host came to life.
ER: How did you end up choosing to work with GPB? What was the process like approaching them with the idea and getting approval?
KM: In September/August, I was juggling with if I actually wanted Diamante to be under the GPB organization. I think the GPB brand is very unique. Personally, I do not believe they encompass enough of the student body and the experiences of individuals that make up Georgetown University. This led me to want to bring Diamante to GPB; I wanted GPB to become more dynamic, and I thought Diamante would do that. What’s interesting is that within GPB everyone has to vote on events, but Diamante was never voted on until like 3 weeks before because it had gained so much traction within the university that it had to happen because so many people had gotten involved. Nevertheless, it was voted on by the general assembly and got passed a couple weeks before the show was set to take place. I think it was a bittersweet moment working with GPB because I met so many great people that I had the pleasure of working with, but there were so many protocols and policies that I had to learn on the spot and there was a lot I had to endure personally for the show to happen.
ER: How did you select the featured designers in the show? How did you reach out to them and what was their initial response?
KM: So during the spring, summer, and early fall, I spent a lot of my free time going to many fashion shows, and allowing myself to enjoy the experience of observing a fashion show. I also spent hours and weeks researching designers in the DMV on Instagram. I compiled a list of my favorite designers which I felt like appreciated diversity, and I emailed or DM’d them. I explained my vision and asked if they would be a part of the first university-wide fashion show. It was a blessing to know people trusted me, but also I believe the “Georgetown U” name/brand helped out a lot.
ER: The Diamante stage was incredible. What was the initial funding process like? How receptive were other clubs to creating co-sponsorships?
KM: Initially, I had a budget of $1,500 for Diamante. The Gaston Hall fee alone was projected to be $1,000. I think the fundraising goal was achieved due to ambition and hope that it would come together. I ended up raising an additional $8,000 or so through partnerships and co-sponsorships. I believe the student organizations were very receptive to the show and its goal because the issues that come with being diverse is something that I believe all students on Georgetown campus are aware of. The co-sponsorships gave the possibility for clubs from different sectors of the university to come together to enjoy a show which represented them and celebrated diversity, but also told the other side to being diverse: the problems, the oppression, and divides. The divides are socially constructed, and co-sponsoring Diamante was a step into the future of unifying and tearing these constructs down–together.
After the two casting call days in January, we finalized our roster of 42 models from Georgetown and the DMV area representing a diverse spectrum of backgrounds, ethnicities, race, and body types. In the five weeks leading up to the show, we held seven rehearsals teaching the models how to pose, walk, pivot, and turn. These rehearsals also doubled as opportunities for the designers to select models for their shows. Though Kevin and I have both had experience working in a fashion show (him in Howard’s Springfest fashion show and me in the Shanghai College Fashion Week), we were lucky enough to work with several experienced models willing to give tips to the newcomers.
Despite the help, we certainly had our hands full. Kevin was constantly running between model rehearsals and dance rehearsals, while also holding individual lessons for models every Monday. Meanwhile, I dedicated myself to memorizing the models and the designers, as well as providing logistical support. For every rehearsal, I found myself arriving 30 minutes before the models to set up music, tape up a mock runway, and prepare the numbered tags to help designers identify the models. Kevin and I would also stay an extra 30 minutes after rehearsal to clean up the area and discuss what went well and what needed to be improved. Given this, the rehearsals for Diamante took up almost 30 hours of our time, each. Nonetheless, looking back I think this commitment paid off: on the day of the show, Kevin and I were both confident in the models’ ability to walk, exude confidence, and improvise on the spot.
Now that the models were ready, Kevin and I had to make sure their hard work paid off too. We had to figure out how to sell out Gaston Hall. The question was, how do we promote an event that has no history at Georgetown? After we exhausted the traditional marketing methods such as flyering, tabling, and inviting clubs or academic departments, we decided the best way to promote this event was by using strategies only applicable to a fashion show. We personalized our marketing strategy by not only having all 42 models create social media posts, but also by creating a “Meet the Model” theme for the daily posts on the facebook event page.
We were lucky to organize Diamante under the Late Night Committee within GPB, and are thankful for their help flyering and tabling. Personally, I remember going to Red Square after midnight to put up walls of flyers, tabling at Leo’s, HFSC, Sellinger, or Red Square, and leveraging every connection I had in the student organization space to promote Diamante. I’m also really grateful for the marketing push from GPB in the final days leading up to the event. They helped us completely cover an entire wall in Red Square with flyers while also promoting the event throughout campus using a fleet of golf carts.
The day of the show, February 23, 2018, was one of the busiest and most stressful days of my life. Fortunately, we were well-prepared for all of the challenges that hit us. In the week before Diamante, I think Kevin skipped 90% of his classes to finalize the audiovisual elements of the show, and I personally spent almost five hours a night working on the organizational documents for the staff working backstage. We spent the morning-of building the stage for Diamante, and let me tell you, it was a sight to behold. We put about $6,000 worth of equipment through the Healy elevator, all encapsulated by countless black boxes. Watching the stage slowly come together really drove home the idea that we were doing something special.
The result of our efforts the week before was that in the afternoon we could put our undivided attention to getting the models and designers organized and ready. Having four designers pick models day-of and getting all eight designers fitted was the most difficult phase in the event. The designers who didn’t come to rehearsal complained when we preselected their models for them, and only having one changing room didn’t help either. After hours of running back and forth, pulling models from on stage rehearsal to the green room and vice versa, we somehow managed to finalize the model orders and outfits just minutes before the opening of the show.
Considering that it was the first event of its kind, I’m extremely happy with how smoothly the show went, even with the slight delays and technical issues. I definitely yelled at the models more than I should have, and certainly could have communicated better with the GPB board. Kevin also dealt with his fair share of trouble and complication from the designers and production company. I think I speak for us both when I say we surely breathed a sigh of relief when the curtain fell on the last collection. Looking back, I now realize some things we could have done to get the models ready quicker and to reduce the level of confusion backstage. For all the readers of Thirty Seventh, you should absolutely look forward to next year’s bigger and better GPB Fashion Show!
ERIC REN is a sophomore in the MSB, majoring in Finance and OPIM. From Detroit, his hobbies include break dancing late into the night, browsing Reddit whenever his phone is out, watching Formula Drift in class, and buying clothes he can’t afford.