There is an unmistakable dearth of fashion clubs at Columbia, and Maria Sun, CC ’18, knows it. She launched Columbia University Fashion Society this past March as a resource for students interested in getting involved and one day working in the industry.
“Fashion is not really regarded as a field for people to go into at Columbia,” Sun said.
Sitting on Low Steps, dressed in all black with yellow polka dot flats, the senior was a dark spot in the blazing midday sun.
“People are very creative [at Columbia] but they want to go into finance, consulting, tech, she said. “I do have some friends who went into fashion, but they really had to work through it themselves.”
Sun wishes she had had a resource like CUFS as a freshman when she first began to seriously consider fashion as a career, lamenting the fact that other colleges have a much more established fashion scene. The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, has the Penn Fashion Collective: a community which fosters budding designers and utilizes Penn’s different publications to support the industry. “And they are ... in what, Pennsylvania? And we are in New York!” Sun said.
CUFS is currently the only pre-professional fashion club at Columbia, but it is technically not recognized by the school. With a grimace, she recounted the struggle of finding university funding, which CUFS is currently still trying to obtain. Sun started the club at the end of last semester, and the group must wait yet another semester before it can apply to be officially recognized by the Activities Board at Columbia. However, she was able to snag a table during the annual activities fair, where over 100 people expressed interest in joining the club.
“That’s when you know there is a community of support,” Sun said.
CUFS’s executive board includes six board members and three committee heads who meet weekly. They are in charge of planning the group’s events, which range from pre-professional to simple fun; one popular event was an open panel on fashion and gender held last March, where members came to discuss how fashion is sexualized in the industry. Another was a Q&A with fashion designer Zino, as well as an informal invitation to his show during Fashion Week.
But for now, CUFS will lean towards the intersection of business and fashion, which are personal interests of Sun’s. As Columbia does not offer a fashion major, she chose to double major in economics and visual arts. Sun plans to go into finance until she can earn enough to start her own fashion company.
“[CUFS] may be headed in [the business and fashion] direction for now. But I would also say that I think that it is the easier way to connect with people here, at first,” Sun said. “If anything, I think that the business side of fashion could be something that people here would go into.” Despite this, she hopes to eventually form a larger community of designers and models within CUFS.
Sun’s ideas for future events are not fully formed, but she appeared enthusiastic about having a big event in the spring semester, such as an outdoor fashion show. She also hopes to someday work with HOOT Magazine, Columbia’s only undergraduate fashion publication.
Having started an ambitious project so late in her college career, one might question Sun’s decision to launch CUFS. Sun is in her senior year, and although she only founded CUFS a mere few months ago, she has already transitioned to an “advisory role” in the group. Her successor is Eugenia Hernandez, CC ’20, a sort of “incoming executive director,” who will take the reins once she leaves.
“I thought about it all my junior year, thinking we needed this—but then I thought no, not me,” Sun said. “But second semester last year, I thought, ‘We really need to start this, or else it is never going to happen.’”