(L-R) Zaynab Salih, Yovanni Valdez and India Bown welcome the crowd back from intermission and introduce Wavy Baby, the sixth designer on the runway tonight. Photo: John Barkiple

Q&A Interview: By U For You Fashion Show 


SLUG recently sat down with the leaders and organizers of the Fashion in Business program at the University of Utah Union Building to discuss their second annual student-run fashion show, By U For You. Chief Executive Officer India Bown, Chief Operations Officer Yovanni Valdez and Marketing Director Zaynab Salih answered all of our burning questions about the event. Learn more by checking out the Fashion in Business Instagram at @fibuofu or the University of Utah Union’s account @unionuofu.

SLUG: What was your favorite part of the fashion show? What element(s) were you most excited about or proud of?

India: Being able to say that the fashion show was all student-led is something that I’m most proud of. From our last By U For You fashion show, we doubled student participation. We are so proud to have had such a successful turnout with over 850 people.

Yovanni: Overall, my favorite part of the fashion show was the sense of unity and achievement that permeated the event. Bringing together a diverse array of talents and personalities to create something truly spectacular was an experience I will always cherish.

SLUG: How have the goals and design of this annual event developed since its inception? Is anything different this year? 

Yovanni: With each passing year, our goals for the fashion show have expanded to reflect our commitment to pushing boundaries and setting new standards of excellence. We aim to create an immersive experience that celebrates diversity, fosters collaboration and leaves a lasting impression on all who attend.

Zaynab: As the former Art Director of Fashion in Business (FIB), this event started as an idea we had to amplify creativity at the university. [We went] from an event  simply amplifying students to an event that brings the community together and celebrates creativity like never before [and it] was a smashing success. This year, we focused on what makes our creative community unique and deserving of a stage. 

SLUG: How does sustainability fit into this event? Why is this focus important to fashion?

India: One of FIB’s main missions is to create sustainable fashion in order to [promote] healthy and conscious fashion habits. Our passion for fashion heavily involves the sustainability of clothing production and practice, which is why we wanted to have that at the forefront of the event. 

Zaynab: Many of the designers pride themselves in running sustainable brands—from using deadstock fabric and creating one-off quality garments to fighting against fast fashion and celebrating small designers. 

SLUG: What kind of contributors and professionals does this event bring together? What kind of collaboration happens between them?

India: The By U For You Fashion Show is an inclusive event that welcomes any and all creatives to network and connect. Since there are so many aspects to the show, there are opportunities for a wide variety of people who are into design, social media, fashion, business and event planning.

Zaynab: Aside from the amazing student creatives, the administrative side has been extremely important. From the Union employees who assisted us with tech to caterers, advisors, University of Utah administration and other organizations who supported us, this was truly a collaborative effort with unseen heroes who put their all into achieving our vision. 

SLUG: What niche does FIB fill on campus? Who do you find is most interested in your work?

India: Fashion applies to everyone. We all wear clothes on a daily basis, which means that our audience can be anywhere on campus. We usually get interest from business majors because FIB is sponsored by the [David Eccles School of Business] and/or people with creative or sustainability studies interests. 

SLUG: You mentioned that FIB has seen a lot of growth since 2020. What has contributed to that?

India: A lot of the growth can be attributed to the dedication of the FIB Executive Board. I was in FIB as a Communications and Events Director before my role as Chief Executive Officer, which has definitely given me perspective. Yovanni and I [see] FIB as not just an organization, but a platform to promote fashion across campus and beyond. We [treat] our roles as jobs which allowed us to prioritize the fashion show to the extent that we needed to. 

Yovanni: One of the most significant initiatives during my tenure was the ideation and execution of our first annual fashion show. This event served as a catalyst for growth, attracting widespread attention and engagement from students, faculty and industry professionals alike. Through meticulous planning, collaboration and innovation, we were able to create an unforgettable experience that showcased the talents of our members and the vibrancy of the fashion community at our university.

SLUG: What’s next for FIB? How can students or other collaborators get involved?

India: When I got into my role, I was motivated to create a program for students interested in fashion at the University of Utah. I believe the fashion scene in Salt Lake City is only going to continue to grow. Unfortunately, because Yovanni and I will graduate, we don’t know what is next for FIB. We are about to start the search and interview process for the new Executive Board for the Fall semester, which is really exciting. We hope that those who are currently on our Executive Board will continue our legacy after we graduate and go on to create fashion shows on a greater scale.

Yovanni: We believe that with the right leadership and continued support from our members and collaborators, FIB will not only endure but flourish. Together, we can ensure that the organization continues to serve as a vibrant and inclusive hub for students passionate about fashion and business for years to come.

SLUG: What skills have this event and organization helped you develop?

India: I strengthened my leadership skills this year as the Chief Executive Officer, and through the execution and planning of the fashion show. I’m naturally more of an introvert in bigger social settings, so it took a lot more self confidence and leadership ability to manage over 80 people in the process of producing the show.

Zaynab: As a woman of color, I understand that the impact of women of color is often unseen in the creative industry. Through my hard work of amplifying all students, I have learned that giving credit where credit is due is important; highlighting these creatives and their own specific stories is what drives creativity. My passion will always be in giving people the flowers they deserve. The skills I learned are all credited to the amazing individuals I got to collaborate with, from those who focus on slow sustainable fashion to those who focus on size inclusivity to those who pay respect to their cultural roots.

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