In a small conference room near IC Square on Tuesday, the HiFashion Studios staff met for the first time this semester. Between family-like teasing and camaraderie, the team discussed its game plan for the upcoming semester, with senior Pedro Maldonado purposefully directing the process — photo shoots, fashion editorials and the completely student-produced fashion show, which is one of the organization’s most anticipated events every semester.
This spring will be the last time Maldonado will oversee Ithaca College’s runway. Maldonado has helmed HiFashion Studios, a student organization and fashion production company, since his sophomore year.
Maldonado and three other students created HiFashion Studios after their involvement with a now-dissolved student organization called Maestro Productions. Maestro Productions focused on just one runway show a year, as opposed to HiFashion Studios’ multiple semester productions that include the runway show, social events and fashion photography shoots.
“What we wanted to do was expand that and have a magazine and add other components to the show to make it bigger than what it was,” Maldonado said. “From that first organization, we broke off and we created HiFashion Studios.”
Soon they expanded to include others, clocking in at a total of eight executive board members salvaged from the remains of Maestro Productions, officially forming HiFashion Studios in the fall semester of 2010 and producing their first runway show in the spring semester of 2011.
Since then, the organization has expanded its horizons with departments spanning beauty, wardrobe, advertising, runway, event planning and visual. The team has grown as well; at their last casting call for models, 200 auditioned. Though they only chose 40 models, the organization itself boasts nearly 50 staff members.
In addition to putting on a runway show and a magazine each semester, the organization also commissions photo shoots and advertising campaigns, enabling student photographers to build portfolios, as well as boosting the experience for student models and stylists.
One of HiFashion Studios’ most successful campaigns to date has been for Petrune, the popular vintage boutique on The Commons. HiFashion Studios has shot the boutique’s advertisements for the past two years, which has brought its work off of the college’s campus, giving some real-world credibility to its craft.
The organization has also garnered some industry clout, with many executive board members receiving internships or work experience from fashion companies such as Vogue China, Macy’s and Red Hot PR. Working with HiFashion Studios helped garner these professional experiences. For senior Anissa Richmond, HiFashion Studios’ editor in chief who worked with Red Hot PR in London, her work with HiFashion Studios has given her distinction from the myriad of fashion hopefuls vying for a coveted internship.
“Being a member of HFS has really differentiated me in the professional world,” Richmond said. “HFS has offered me the opportunity to have valuable experience in fashion ... I've been able to earn internships in both the fashion and entertainment industries, and I know that my first-hand experience promoting fashion shows and creating the magazine has aided me.”
Maldonado is the only one of the original four founders still involved with the organization, though Richmond, one of the original executive board members, still runs the magazine as editor in chief.
“I mean, I feel like we really wanted to make a production company, something that was so different on campus, and I think the fear now is whether or not it will continue after we leave,” Maldonado said. “It’s something that [Richmond] and I talk about a lot. She still doesn’t know who would take over as editor in chief, and I’m still in the process of finding someone to take over for me [as president].”
Maldonado isn’t the only one who has slight qualms about the future of the organization. Sophomore Amy Lindenfelzer, the organization’s creative executive, said Maldonado’s absence — both his creativity and leadership — will be felt keenly.
“When Pedro leaves, it will definitely be different and hard because he has been the organization,” Lindenfelzer said. “He was one of the founders of HFS, and he is the heart and soul behind the project. However, having said that, we have created such a strong organization with hard working leaders that I believe wholeheartedly that we will make Pedro proud for years to come.”
But for now, HiFashion Studios and Maldonado are focusing on this semester — conceptualizing the upcoming runway show this spring, advertising campaigns and fashion editorials. When asked about the themes for the upcoming fashion show, Maldonado revealed little, instead deferring to his hopes for the success of the future show.
“I would like to see it bigger than it already is … where everyone wants to go to the show and is talking about it,” Maldonado said. “I want people to be excited about it, for our content to be stronger, for us to stick to our artistic vision, and I see that as it is now, and I hope that it will continue to the future. I’m proud of what we’ve done and have been able to achieve. It’s creativity, and it’s all from students at IC.”