Ole Miss Fashion Club Inspires Opportunity on Campus
Originally created in 2015, the University of Mississippi Fashion Society (UMFS) is truly a one-of-a-kind club at Ole Miss. There is no other organization available to students like UMFS, and its mission and goals are far reaching.
Today, Glam R Me fashion and lifestyle blogger and Ole Miss senior Danielle Randall serves as the new UMFS president and strives to uphold the same values established two years ago by founding officer Britanee Wallace.
Wallace, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Gulfport, Mississippi, started UMFS with help from a few of her friends as a direct response to the lack of fashion-related opportunities available on the Ole Miss campus. They came together and drafted an original constitution, found an advisor, and successfully registered the organization with the UM Dean of Students office nearly three summers ago.
Since then, Randall has taken over all executive duties and works effortlessly alongside her team to recruit members and spread awareness about what UMFS offers toward promoting diversity and expanding opportunity on campus.
“The goal of the University of Mississippi Fashion Society is to promote diversity through understanding the positive influence, training and self-confidence fashion instills in every individual,” Randall says. “It is our belief that fashion is not something that exists in garments alone. Fashion surrounds us; it is in the sky, on the streets. Fashion is a collection of our ideas, the way we live our lives, and the events that happen around us.”
Aside from being a beloved fun and interactive extracurricular activity, UMFS is very much an informational and education organization. UMFS allows students to use and develop skills by holding an executive board position, joining a supportive committee or being a designer or model for various events and fundraisers.
Through UMFS, students learn the basics and essentials of the fashion industry in the following sectors: communications/public relations, wardrobe/vendor relations, stage management, marketing and promotion, hair and makeup styling, budget and fundraising, and talent management.
“Our other primary goal has been to give students the opportunity to explore their passion and interest of fashion here,” Randall says. Moving forward, the next goal for UMFS is officially integrating fashion as an available course option at Ole Miss for current and future students.
Programs in fashion merchandising, marketing and design are becoming more widely offered at colleges and universities across the country. Today, many of the best and more popular fashion programs are found at institutions right here in the South and many in the SEC, such as the University of Georgia, LSU and Auburn University to name a few.
Ole Miss strives to keep up and compete with other large schools in a variety of ways, whether it is academically, athletically or socially; however, one area in which Ole Miss is lacking lies in this absence of any fashion program or major available to students.
Currently, Ole Miss does not offer any type of fashion related courses, specialization or option as a major or minor. It is possible to petition for a new undergraduate program, but there is a lengthy process that must be completed and approved by a variety of individuals and groups, starting with the school or college’s curriculum and policy committee.
If the planning is approved, only then can the school or college move forward with getting approval from appropriate university-wide committees, including the Council of Academic Administrators and entire UM Undergraduate Council.
Assistant Provost and Assistant Professor of Leadership and Counselor Education Dr. Charlotte Pegues oversees this unique process. “Adding a new degree program takes a considerable amount of planning and resources,” Pegues says. “It is a very complex process. What students may not know is that the faculty must initiate this process.”
Therefore, in order for a new undergraduate program to have a chance of becoming a reality, students must take the initiative to express concern and desire for a program. Although a new fashion program has not been petitioned for yet, UMFS is doing everything it can to show faculty that there is both a want and need for it in the near future.
“I think [Ole Miss] should explore it as a business or communications specialization first and further the program to a minor and major if the interest keeps increasing,“ Randall says. “I feel many students would love to study fashion. I personally would have loved some sort of fashion undergraduate program as an option. I probably would have minored in it!”
There has been a lot of speculation as to why Ole Miss has yet to offer this increasingly popular major when the university is so often celebrated for its fashionable tailgates, immaculate landscapes and best-dressed students and Oxonians who even follow a strict game day dress code created by the university itself.
Junior Ole Miss student and recent UMFS spring fashion show attendee Annie Vandegriff believes it is because Mississippi is often wrongfully overlooked as a fashionable place. “We have the most elaborate tailgate season in the country where some Grove tents are more fashionably decorated than rooms in peoples’ homes,” Vandegriff says.
“It seems as though we have a new magazine or media outlet recognizing and celebrating Ole Miss for how well-dressed are students and fans are. Fashion is definitely prevalent here, so I’m surprised the university doesn’t offer it as part of a class or major at all.”
What Vandegriff is talking about is the ever-growing list of published stories and features highlighting fashion in Oxford and Ole Miss. In a 2014 piece published by The Daily Mississippian, student reporter Kenya Ashby writes how “at Ole Miss, style does not go unnoticed” in her do’s and don’ts of fashion article.
The 2015 yearbook edition of The Ole Miss featured an entire spread of “Fashion Apps Ole Miss Students Need Now” both on its online and print editions to accommodate the growing interest of fashion among students on campus. In another article published last fall by HottyToddy.com, Ole Miss fans are described as “always [having] a flair for straight forward fashion, never being afraid to over-dress or try new trends” in an extensive piece about a new fashion statement appearing in the Grove.
Randall similarly believes Ole Miss’ lack of fashion education stems from Mississippi being neglected as a region that boasts in contemporary fashion. “Since Mississippi isn’t known for being a fashion hub like New York or Los Angeles, there is a lack of available opportunity for students to grow and develop their skills within the fashion industry,” Randall says.
In cities like these, Randall has many friends and who have internships or work part-time with major fashion and lifestyle brands as a means to develop their skills and further their careers in fashion after college.
“In Mississippi, those opportunities just don’t exist for us,” Randall says. “If we want those experiences we have move away during our summer break or we have to take a semester off. There is no way for us to study at Ole Miss and get those types of experiences simultaneously.”
Despite the consistently growing display from students that fashion is a huge part of Ole Miss, university administrators and undergraduate councils have yet to jump on board with offering it as an official educational path. However, there is still hope that Ole Miss will someday soon offer fashion as part of its available courses and even as a possible major in the future.
Students like Wallace and Randall and groups like the University of Mississippi Fashion Society are pioneers in this effort as they lay the groundwork for ultimately reaching this goal. With continued hard work, determination and success within UMFS, Ole Miss students should be optimistic about a new program coming to campus soon.