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Threads Fashion Show 2017

Tied together with Threads

20th anniversary fashion show draws student talent from around CMU

Contact: ​Jeff Johnston

​It's been 20 years since two Central Michigan University students sold fashion merchandising and design faculty member Maureen MacGillivray on the idea of doing the fashion show that has become Threads.

Now, the dozens of students involved in Threads each year represent many fields of study: fashion merchandising, food services, interior design, integrative public relations, event planning, graphic arts, photography, marketing, journalism, public affairs, broadcast and cinematic arts, professional sales, and more.

And for the big anniversary, "we're going all out," says the event's faculty advisor, Ian R. Mull.

"It's a big one"

Planned and presented by students supervised by Mull, this year's Threads show is at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 7, inside a Finch Fieldhouse transformed for the event.

"It's a big one for us," Mull said.

More than 100 student models will present the fashion collections of 22 student designers while eight student technicians from University Events run lights and sound to execute the vision of the 40 students who conceived the show and planned it to the last detail in FMD 357: Fashion Show Production — aka Threads class, which Mull teaches.


Threads advisor and faculty member Ian R. Mull, left, works with Ethan Hogan and other students on the public relations committee in his Fashion Show Production course.

Students in the class handle every aspect of putting on a large-scale event, from generating ideas through fundraising, booking venues and services, lining up talent, and presenting the show. Afterward, they'll produce videos and other materials to guide next year's class. Threads is not the only event they work on, but it is by far the largest.

And then there are the nearly 50 students in two other courses: Art and Design of Event Planning, taught by interior design faculty member Susan Bowlby, and Foodservice Catering for Events, taught by human environmental studies faculty member Jeffrey Fisher. These students plan food and décor for the pre-show VIP reception — complete with models, entertainment, an art exhibit and goodie bags — happening this year in the Grawn Hall Atrium.

"Threads gives students a chance to apply the skills they have learned in the classroom while at the same time gaining real-world experience," Fisher said. Bowlby agreed.

"They are able to implement what they plan," she said. "The entire process is student-run. I let them do the work and work through any glitches along the way" — glitches like when a company mistakenly sent Threads merchandise to Florida instead of Michigan last week, with 10 days to go before the event.

"We're going to put on our firm 'angry customer' voice in response," said Emily Maltman, a junior from Grand Rapids studying fashion merchandising and design and marketing. She's director of logistics and budgeting — one of six committees that gather around team tables in Mull's active-learning classroom in Pearce Hall.

The others are venue, public relations (including sponsorships and advertising), graphics, models and designers, and submissions (which works with designers, judges and hospitality before the event).

"Be a good leader"

Bringing it all together are three student producers.

"You have to have a voice and be a good leader," said Alexis Kelly, a senior from Fenton, Michigan, majoring in fashion merchandising and design with a journalism minor. She's learning the importance of sweating the details — and about the analytics and strategy behind social media.

Co-producers Leah Robinson and Alyssa Kohler can list their growing skill sets, too: communication, collaboration, time management, leadership, budgeting, networking (including asking people for money) and self-confidence.


Plus there's the whole process of planning a major event from ideas to execution. "We're sticking to the vision that we started with," said Kohler, a junior from Flushing, Michigan, majoring in fashion merchandising and design with a public affairs minor.

What does that leadership and confidence look like in practice? When Mull asks for volunteers to help with setup, Kohler raises a hand and calls out to one of the committee tables: "The whole venue team: Put your hands up!"

If not for the coordinated efforts and accountability of students in so many areas, Threads would never succeed.

"Everybody thinks this is an easy show. It's not," Mull said. "You don't see the countless hours involved."

"Students are amazing," MacGillivray said. "When you really give them the opportunity to be creative, they go above and beyond your expectations."

Here's a look at specific skills students associate with their work on Threads:


"In this open classroom, we make a lot of connections with other students." — Katrina McCullough, a senior from Shepherd, Michigan, majoring in fashion merchandising and design with a professional sales minor.

Community relations

"It feels like a supportive atmosphere." — Alivia Ferguson, a junior from Bay City, Michigan, majoring in advertising with a visual merchandising minor. She said networking and making connections in Mount Pleasant during fundraising has been a positive experience.

Creating leadership opportunities
"I always was intrigued by Threads and wanted to be involved, but I never knew where my place was." — Kayde Hambaum, senior from Richmond, Michigan, majoring in broadcast and cinematic arts. She reached out to the producers to carve out her role as Threads videographer.

"In PR, I'd never helped fundraise before. I feel like that's a big experience." — Ethan Hogan, a junior from Fayetteville, North Carolina, majoring in integrative public relations with a public affairs minor.

Graphic design
"We pretty much make what it's going to look like. I'm learning all these skills that I'm sure are going to help me later on." — Alison Kowalksi, a senior from Lake Orion, Michigan, majoring in fashion merchandising and design. She uses computer design tools in her work on the venue committee.

Hands-on experience
"You get a sense of the real world in these positions." — Emma Vandenberghe, a senior from Romeo, Michigan, majoring in fashion merchandising and design with a marketing minor.

"Being a part of this committee, you really learn how to be a professional representative of an organization." — Rachael Thomas, a junior from Pontiac, Michigan, majoring in fashion merchandising and design with a journalism minor. She's on the logistics committee.

Pushing boundaries
"Most of the voice and talent work I've done has been through a studio or headset via podcasts, radio shows and news pieces, so this will be an exciting new opportunity for me. I'm prepping myself by learning how to calm my nerves in a live setting and rehearsing for the show." — Grant Polmanteer, a sophomore from Davison, Michigan, majoring in broadcast and cinematic arts and planning to minor in multimedia design. He's the Threads emcee.

Supervising and delegating
"We make sure things are running smoothly." — Threads co-producer Leah Robinson, a junior from Farmington Hills, Michigan, majoring in broadcast and cinematic arts with a management minor.

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