Fashion and philanthropy will unite to brighten holiday spirits this Friday (Dec. 6) at a University of Mississippi student-organized fashion show. Proceeds from the “Fashion Expo: Schoolin’ Life” event will be donated to the local chapter of Toys for Tots, a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve program that benefits underprivileged children at Christmas.
The event is set for 6:30-9 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom. Eight student organizations are collaborating to host the event: Men of Excellence, the Black Student Union, National Pan-Hellenic Council, UM E.S.T.E.E.M., the UM Gospel Choir, IMAGE, MAPS and the university chapter of NAACP.
Joshua Mannery, a junior and director of Associated Student Body campus outreach, served as a principal organizer of the event, along with Makayla Scott, a junior and director of the Gospel Choir. Scott recruited 36 student models, trained them and secured apparel from seven boutiques to be showcased on the runway.
Mannery and Scott were inspired by a desire to help local families and also felt motivated to bring together a large group of student organizations.
“This is an inclusive effort from some of the larger minority organizations we have on campus,” Mannery said. “We’re trying to push a theme of interconnectedness as a community.”
“I am very excited,” Scott said. “To make this happen, along with Josh and our team, brings me great joy. We’re all here doing something we love, so why not continue to spread some of that love by giving back to the community? That’s why Toys for Tots came to mind.”
Four student entrepreneurs also will make contributions to the event and donate their time to style hair and makeup. Lakia Taylor, a senior and a fashion designer who is providing apparel for the runway show, has hoped to be a business owner since childhood.
“Following my dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur is my passion, but taking advantage of my passion and finding ways to give back to my community is my purpose,” Taylor said. “I grew up in a family who have always assisted others, and I find joy and excitement in helping those in need.”
The runway show will be emceed by Ole Miss Homecoming King Carl Tart and JoJo Brown, vice-president of the Gospel Choir. Additionally, vendor booths will display clothes outside the ballroom.
E.J. Edney, director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, provided guidance to Mannery and other student leaders during the planning process. He helped them locate space for rehearsals and offered other logistical assistance.
“The credit goes to our students,” Edney said. “We can help them consider what challenges they may experience and see connections and opportunities so that they are better able to distribute costs and responsibilities. They’re inspiring. They’re why we do what we do.”
Marine Toys for Tots is a national nonprofit organization that collects toys for unprivileged children ages 0-16. The local chapter covers five counties, including Lafayette, Panola, Pontotoc, Union and Yalobusha.
Reginald McClain, GS-7 supply tech for the NROTC Mid-South region, is the volunteer coordinator for the local chapter.
“Our motto for this year is ‘No Child is to wake up without having a toy to celebrate Christmas,'” McClain said. “We served over 1,100 children last year and hope to reach 1,500 this year.”
A $2 admission fee at the door will be donated to Toys for Tots. It is requested that toy donations not be brought to the event; instead, community members interested in donating toys may drop off them off at various locations, including the Mississippi Federal Credit Union in the Ole Miss Student Union; Five Below; Belk Department Store; Gateway Tire; Oxford-University Transit, 409 McElroy Drive; FNB Bank locations; Treehouse Toys; Cannon Motors; and Belk Ford.
By Emily Howorth