Text: Naomi Shimada
Photography: Christina Jin
Cecilia Kiker is a design coordinator for this year’s SPIRIT Fashion Show. Half Jewish, Kiker has been a part of the fashion show since she was a freshman.
Affectionately, the southern half of my family just calls ourselves "southern mutts." On my Jewish half, my Great Grandparents came from Russia and Poland to the US through Ellis Island. They had to change their last names as a part of the assimilation process, so I don't know much more about my roots. But mother made sure that my middle name (Tepper) was her last name, and I carry it with me as a reminder of them.
Kiker sees SFS as an institution and a beacon for diversity.
The show has been championing body diversity for years, when it was a revolutionary act to do so. As a part of a Black Awareness organization, the show highlights racial and cultural diversity among both its models and its designers, uplifting the designs of minority artists in a way that isn't accomplished in other shows. More than anything, the show creates unity across boundaries through art.
Kiker didn’t have any experience when she joined SFS as a freshman. She saw a poster in her dorm and decided to try out.
I saw a poster advertising model tryouts in my freshman dorm. Despite having no experience, and heels I hadn't yet broken in, I showed up to tryouts, and the model coordinators must have seen some potential in me. Once I joined the show, I was learning what SPIRIT was about at the same time that I was learning how to work a runway. It was overwhelming and amazing. If I hadn't seen that poster, I don't know if I would have found the SPIRIT community or SFS, and that would be such a shame because they have been one of the best parts of my time at CMU.
Now, Kiker is a design coordinator in addition to being a model. It’s tiring, she says, but rewarding.
Being a design coordinator is like having 17 toddlers you need to take care of all at once. They all need attention from you, and you also need to take them to events that they don't want to be at.
The most difficult thing for her, however, is communication.
We're working with seventeen designers this year, many of whom are professional, and may not be located in Pittsburgh. Giving them the attention they need, while also getting the information that the modeling and tech teams need for the show, is a struggle at times. But once you get accustomed to getting panicked phone calls at odd hours of the night, and you start to build real relationships with the designers, it gets much easier.
Despite the work being exhausting, it’s also incredibly rewarding. Knowing that she’s made some art possible fills her with pride, Kiker says.
The most rewarding part of working with designers is assisting and witnessing the progression from concept to finished product. I'm someone who has very minimal sewing experience, so the design process is very foreign to me. Watching these individuals dream up sketches and cohesive visions from our show theme, and then create custom garments from bolts of fabric, is fascinating. It's incredibly rewarding any time I hear "thank you" from a designer, even if it's for something small. Generally, I'm proud that we have the opportunity to give these designers a platform to showcase their art, culture, and perspective.
This is Kiker’s final fashion show with SPIRIT. Though the work has been stressful, she’s found it also exhiliarating.
Working on the show this year has been exhilarating and stressful. Being both a model and a design coordinator has stretched to me to my limits some weeks, but I also love being able to see the show progress from both perspectives. Like every year, I've formed some close bonds with the models, and met people that I never would have interacted with otherwise. The board has become like a family, perhaps a side effect of spending most of our waking hours together, and going out together on the nights that we have free. This is my fourth and final year being a part of SFS, and I'm so proud of how much the show has grown in that time. Knowing that I helped with that is like the cherry on top.
SFS31 will surprise you, Kiker says.
The show will surprise you. You will see relationships between art, people, and culture that you never knew existed. The show is an intercollegiate effort that works with designers in the Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon communities to champion diversity through one of the most familiar artistic mediums: fashion. Plus, everyone loves an excuse to dress up.