In partnership with True Coffee, University of Iowa graduate Jarrod Valencia-Chang is planning a fashion show featuring thrift and local pieces in early March. With the theme “Come as you are,” the show promotes second-hand clothing and authentic self-expression.
Style can say a lot about a person. University of Iowa senior Jarrod Valencia-Cheng, who is planning a fashion show at Tru Coffee, needs style to say it all.
Valencia-Cheng partnered with True Coffee in Iowa City between October and November 2022 to create a product that emphasizes being one’s most authentic self.
Valencia-Cheng, majoring in English and creative writing and minoring in dance and cinema, will graduate in the spring.
For the past four months, he has worked as a photographer and clothing designer at Wright House of Fashion, a non-profit organization in Iowa City that focuses on supporting fashion and design in underserved communities. According to Valencia-Cheng, their experience with Wright House is important in planning the fashion show.
Haley Kesterson, owner of Tru Coffee, came up with the idea for the fashion show. As a regular at Tru Coffee, Valencia-Cheng knows Kesterson and the rest of the staff well. So when Kesterson expressed interest in a fashion show, Valencia-Cheng offered to attend.
Valencia-Cheng held an open call for fashion models at Tru Coffee on February 17. They cleared the floor and lined the aisle with chairs representing the airport, and Valencia-Cheng sat at the end of the runway with other panelists.
Each of the audition contestants walked the runway, striking a pose at each end and answering questions from the panelists. This part of the trial allowed the judges to better understand how fashion has affected the lives of potential models.
Some contestants heard about the open call through Valencia-Cheng’s Instagram and posted a photo of a handmade open call poster. The poster also introduced the theme of the fashion show, “Come as you are.”
And competitors did. Dress up in unique and revealing outfits and show them off on the runway in their favorite parts of Tru Coffee.
Gabby Estlund, a recent UI graduate and full-time employee at Big Grove, decided to audition after seeing Valencia-Cheng’s Instagram because she had experience photographing models but had never modeled herself.
Estlund walked the balcony in strappy tan boots and a sunset-hued dress. When choosing her clothes and accessories, she sticks to what she normally wears – just like the theme of a fashion show.
Estlund worked with many creative mediums while studying art and journalism as a college student.
“I think fashion is very unique. [medium] It’s basically wearable art,” said Estlund. “Of course, this was premeditated. But that’s what I think. Especially since I’ve grown more confident as I’ve gotten older and can afford to wear more unique things.
Related: UI alum Andrew Wright opened Wright House of Fashion in Iowa City
Estlund was familiar with the Tru Coffee area because she often studied there at UIA. Other contestants, like Innes Hixmaz, were newcomers to the institution.
Tru Coffee opened in June 2021. It is named after Kesterson’s mother, who died of pancreatic cancer in May 2021. Not only does it sell coffee, but it also sells wine.
“What’s unique about Tru Coffee’s clothes is that they’re messy, and Haley went out and picked this thing up,” Valencia-Cheng says. “I think there’s a unique connection between the clothes she chooses and the way she interacts with the community.”
The models wear this outfit as well as pieces borrowed from other Iowa City shops to encourage thrift and support of local businesses.
Valencia-Cheng hopes the event will introduce more people to Tru Coffee and encourage community involvement.
“I built the show around how to get people who wouldn’t normally come to the tab to come here, which is where the theme came from — ‘Come as you are.’ It’s to the point,” Valencia-Cheng said.
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