This week, we are joined by guest blogger Louis J. Levin. Louis is a fourth-year student in the College raised in London but now based out of New York. He’s doing a major in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities with a minor in French (he spent a quarter directly enrolled in l'Université de Paris last year). Louis has been a part of MODA since he came to UChicago. After graduation, he’s headed to the UN in June to help facilitate the COP26 Climate Change talks in Glasgow. He feels certain, however, that he won’t be able to stay away from fashion for long.
UChicago is famed for its intellect—for its brilliant minds and world-class theories. But what about art, what about design, what about fashion? To be honest, I was rather trepidatious about coming to the University of Chicago; I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to find a creative space to call home.
Ever since I was little, I’ve known that fashion would feature somewhere in my future. My obsession with dressing up in boas, tiaras and stilettos made it pretty clear where I was headed (in many respects). During my four years at university, I wanted to lean into that. I hoped to explore the inner workings of the industry, to convene with like-minded fashion aficionados, to build up my own creative ability. Admittedly, UChicago does have a surprisingly strong artistic side – DOVA is quite simply amazing, and the Smart Museum is pretty insane. But as to how I was going to find a fashion-oriented outlet at school I had zero clue.
In my frantic research before arrival, however, I happened upon something: MODA. The generic name told me all I needed to know – fashion! I quickly did some investigation. MODA is an RSO (what we call our clubs at UChicago) made up of four branches. The first, and oldest, is The Magazine, published quarterly. The Blog is a fashion news and op-ed site updated daily. The Board runs the MODA Fashion Show – an event featuring student designers and models, presented to an audience of over 1,000 in downtown Chicago every year. And the Designer Boot Camp is a program for students passionate about fashion but lacking the necessary skills to design. In short, I had struck gold.
As soon as I got to campus, I applied for everything – all four branches. I didn’t have much success, but somehow I managed to get a foot in the door with the Blog. From there, I became Fashion Editor for the Blog, then Assistant Writing Editor for the Magazine, then full-blown Writing Editor, and now Editor-in-Chief of the Mag. Along the way, I designed for the annual fashion show twice – learning to sew in the Boot Camp at first – and I now sit on the MODA Board.
All that’s to say that this organisation has become a principal part of my life here on campus. It’s been the prism through which I’ve experienced UChicago. MODA has introduced me to new people, new places, and new parts of myself. I’ve learnt to sew, to style, and to talk and think about fashion in weird and wonderful ways. I have also been pushed to reflect on some of the systemic issues that plague the industry: waste, exclusivity, discrimination. I feel energised to tackle these problems as I head out into the wider world and equipped with the skills I need to do just that. MODA has fundamentally changed my time at university for the better, and for that I am immensely grateful.