A Fashion Show for Everyone

How student dreams and work were brought to life in IN TANDEM: The Unconventional Fashion Experience

Tyerra Osborne '27 (left) and Kat Varner '26 performed as dancers in IN TANDEM: The Unconventional Fashion Experience, a student-created event that took shape thanks to the Lyons Arts Lab. Osborne also modeled for GOOD BALNCE.
By Abigail Curtis Photography courtesy of Jamar Bumpass '25
May 28, 2024

What happens when four students with big fashion dreams join forces and are given the time, support, guidance, freedom, and academic structure to see where those ambitions, coupled with creative curiosity, take them?   

In a word: magic. 

At least to those who were there, that was the feeling from IN TANDEM: The Unconventional Fashion Experience, an event that packed roughly 170 audience members and 45 collaborators into Studio 2 of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts on a Saturday evening just before exams. But for Lee Trombly ’26, Jana Berry ’25, Jack Richard ’25, and AJ Mino ’25, it also was hard work. 

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Richard, a psychology major, said. “But we all knew that if this came together, it was going to be something that no one’s ever seen before.” 

The four student leaders brought together more than 40 student models, musicians, dancers, artists, and more. As one of the first major projects supported by the Lyons Arts Lab, a new arts incubator, IN TANDEM was unforgettable. 

Jana Berry ’25, right, part of the IN TANDEM collective, is pictured wearing her brand SILK HEART.

In addition to fashion, there was contemporary dance, animation, documentary film, screen-printing, live performances of classical, hip-hop, and singer-songwriter music, a D.J., mural painting, and a red carpet where student photographers and videographers captured the electric energy of participants and attendees alike. The event was immersive by design, which likely was a novel experience for many in the audience. 

“As soon as the first model walked out and that first section was done, I was like, ‘This is good,’ because the crowd engagement was good,” said Berry, a studio art major and cinema studies minor. “Everybody was engaged, excited, and happy.” 

From the heart

Berry, Richard, and Mino, a religious studies major and a women’s, gender, and sexuality studies minor, had already begun to develop individual visions for streetwear-oriented fashion brands, which grew out of their life experiences. 

AJ Mino ’25, a religious studies major and a women’s, gender, and sexuality studies minor, is wearing his own brand, FIRST GENERATION KIDS.

Berry’s is called SILK HEART, which she created in memory of her uncle who was killed by a drunk driver. “It’s not just a clothing brand. I’m trying to make it a social enterprise,” she said. “I also want to expand it to business attire and casual business attire and things like that. I feel like it’s limitless.” 

Mino’s brand is called FIRST GENERATION KIDS and uses fashion to put a spin on some of his lived experiences. Those include seeing his dad, a Paraguayan immigrant who works in residential construction, come home with paint marks and rips all over his clothes. “I’m using that in a more fashionable way, using it as a reminder for kids who might live that lifestyle, too,” he said. 

Richard’s brand, GOOD BALNCE, is an experience-driven clothing boutique committed to inclusivity and sustainability. He wants to use fashion as a vehicle to promote open-mindedness, versatility, and individuality. Richard, Trombly, and Travis Bendler ’26 recently won the audience choice award and a $2,500 prize from the Halloran Lab for Entrepreneurship when they pitched the brand and business idea during the Colby Liberal Arts Symposium 2024. 

Nuri Robinson ’25 models FIRST GENERATION KIDS.

Berry, Richard, and Mino joined forces with Trombly, an American studies and art history double major with strong organizational skills who was instrumental in project administration and production management. They each brought different strengths to IN TANDEM—and, with the support of the Lyons Arts Lab, were able to turn their ideas into reality. 

“I think it was the fact that we all found each other that made it happen,” Trombly said. “I don’t think if even one of us was missing, it would have worked.” 

Planting seeds

In addition to the Lyons Arts Lab, the group also connected with the Halloran Lab for Entrepreneurship, which inspired them to dream big. “Halloran was encouraging us to actually build a business structure rather than just a brand,” Richard, a psychology major, said. 

Toward that goal, they began talking to Annie Kloppenberg, chair and associate professor of performance, theater, and dance and the inaugural director of the Lyons Arts Lab. The lab provides resources, including funding and mentorship, to enable students to explore, refine, and execute original creative projects with a goal of presenting them at Colby and beyond. 

Kloppenberg wanted the students to push themselves and see exactly what could come from their love of fashion and shared vision for a fashion show. 

A model named Temple wears GOOD BALNCE at the IN TANDEM event.
Lee Trombly ’26, part of the IN TANDEM collective, during the event.

“I think that’s a critical part of the story, that we didn’t just say, ‘OK, let’s do your idea,’” the professor said. “It was, ‘Let’s think about this idea. Let’s give you a whole lot more information and experiences that can impact it and allow you to think even more creatively and openly about what the possibilities are.’” 

Through being challenged to do more and being supported by professional mentors, the students were able to expand their vision. 

A party for everybody

During the spring semester, the students completed an independent study under the supervision of Kloppenberg with the ultimate goal of putting on the fashion show. One highlight of the semester was a curated trip to New York City, which helped the students build a “scaffolding of experiences and exposure,” Kloppenberg said. They met mentors, took an introductory house dance class, visited the Cooper Hewitt design museum, and attended performances of Sleep No More and Hypnotique, two powerful, immersive theater experiences that directly impacted the developing vision for their event. 

Jack Richard ’26, wearing his brand, GOOD BALNCE, poses with immersive theater choreographer Kelly Bartnik, left, and Annie Kloppenberg, chair and associate professor of performance, theater, and dance and the inaugural director of the Lyons Arts Lab. Kloppenberg also served as faculty advisor to the IN TANDEM collective, and Bartnik is a mentor who helped with the show.

“It was such a good opportunity to go and see these performances and see people freely do what they love and then implement that feeling and intent,” Mino said. 

As they planned the show, they incorporated elements like a red carpet and a backdrop they created from donated blue jeans, which was painted during the performance. They chose to have the audience stand instead of sit, which would offer fewer chances for attendees to zone out on their phones. 

“When you’re standing up, you have no choice but to be engaged and focus on what’s happening in front of you,” Berry said. 

For months, IN TANDEM worked on the project, pouring in time, effort, and creative energy while keeping up with the rigorous independent study curriculum. They learned how to screenprint, sew, and use an airbrush. Berry made a documentary about putting the show together, and they raced to finish everything in time. 

They succeeded. During the event, student models, musicians, artists, designers, many of whom came from different corners of campus and who may not have known each other prior to collaborating on the show, brought their talents together to build something unforgettable. 

“We wanted to throw a party for everybody,” Trombly said. “And we wanted the audience to go in with no expectations and leave completely blown away, and I think we accomplished that.” 

A lot of that success can be attributed to the Lyons Arts Lab, whose holistic model and attention to the creative process through programming and experiences sets it apart. 

“The thing that is distinctive about the lab is not just that it created a kind of support that made this possible,” Kloppenberg said. “But it allowed them to deepen and transform their ideas.”