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Profiles: Identities 2015

As the red carpet rolled out in Northwest Labs mere hours before the 2015 Identities Fashion Show, The Crimson stopped backstage to hear from the students who helped in the making of the event. We profiled four of the many individuals who made this year’s Identities possible.

Susannah L. R. Maybank ’15, co-executive producer and creative director

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Susannah L. R. Maybank '15, co-executive producer and creative director of Identities, prepares backstage before the fashion show's evening run.

Maybank leads a busy double life as co-executive producer and creative director of Identities 2015. A designer herself and a past participant in both Identities and Harvard’s Eleganza Show, Maybank is certainly familiar with the fashion scene at Harvard. This year, as she stands at the helm of Identities, she aims to push the envelope, setting new precedents for the way that fashion is presented on campus.

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The theme of this year’s show as conceptualized by Maybank and her creative team is “aspirational fashion”: Maybank says that the event includes more younger designers than it has in the past. In keeping with this theme, Identities will, for the first time, feature a student designer in addition to a roster of professionals. “I think it’s about showing that students here can be involved in fashion,” she says. “We have really established designers and people who are just starting out, so…student designers get to see their work on the runway and then get to see [what] they could one day design with proper training and enough time in the industry.”

Isabella Tonchi, designer

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Sharely Fred Torres '15 models Isabella Tonchi's puzzle-inspired designs.

After breaking into the fashion industry by working for Milan-based label Elio Fiorucci and subsequently designing collections for world-renowned brands Miu Miu and Gianni Versace, Isabella Tonchi decided to create her own eponymous brand in 2002. Since founding the line, she has shown her work at major fashion events, such as the New York and Milan Fashion Weeks.

“I like people very much, actually. I look at people; I’m a big watcher,” Tonchi says of her sources of inspiration. This year, Identities worked closely with Tonchi to select which pieces from her collection would be featured. “I said, ‘I would like to choose...what I think is more representative of what I do,’ and they said… ‘[We] also would like to have some architectural pieces,’” Tonchi says. “So I tried to do a mix of myself and the request from Harvard.”

The collection, which featured graphic, black-and-white prints made to look like puzzle pieces, was distinctive and youthful. “I like my clothes on young people, so I said, ‘Yes!’ A university is the best place to show it, actually,” Tonchi says.

Lilian Zhu ’17, designer and model

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Model and designer Lilian Zhu '17 walks the runway.

For the past two years, Zhu has modeled for Identities; this year, she will take on an additional role as a student designer in the show. “It’s really great to be involved on another level and hopefully see my pieces out there tonight for the first time in a walking exhibition,” she says.

Her swimwear and clothing line, Made by Dalloway, debuted at Identities but was actually conceived several years ago. “I made [these pieces] as my graduate collection in high school,” Zhu says. “To date, they’ve been the biggest collection that I’ve made.”

The set features swimwear in funky flower prints, lacy tops, and gender-bending silhouettes. “My inspiration for this set is androgynous,” Zhu says. “It’s a 12-piece set which can be worn at one time but can also be split up.” In the design of her work, which allows for individuals to wear pieces in an endless variety of combinations, form fits function. “I think one of the most important things is identity—fashion as a vehicle for identity—and having these pieces be really mix-and-match and really versatile,” she says.

Max Mondelli ’18, model

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Max Mondelli '18 participates in Identities as a model.

A full four hours before the show, Mondelli is already sporting all-black Identities attire and a slicked, spiky hair-do, made possible by the creative vision of estheticians Nikky Atkinson and Elicia Hostetter-Soltesz and a significant amount of hair gel. “The executives take this seriously and treat us like we’re professional models,” he says. “All of the models have been here since noon, getting ready, mingling.” Indeed, similarly made-up Harvard students drift down the hallways of the Northwest Labs at every turn, and the vibe is excited and friendly.

But despite the 8-hour lead up to the performance, Mondelli doesn’t seem nervous. “It’s really chill,” he says of Identities. “[The executives] are very organized, so everything is under control.” According to Mondelli, the general experience of being a model is stress-free. The application consisted only of submitting a headshot and participating in a short audition, and even the time commitment was reasonable. “It’s really the board members who put in the most work. My job is just to represent them on the runway and try to look as sexy as possible,” he says.

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