Every year, Service in Style, a student organization founded 15 years ago by Lauren Bush ’06, brings together students, corporations, and retailers every spring to raise awareness of autism on campus through a professional, large-scale fashion show. Each April during Autism Awareness Month, this show, otherwise known as Fashion Speaks, is produced and modeled entirely by University students. As the largest student-run charity event on campus, Service in Style donates 100% of its proceeds to the Eden Autism in Princeton, N.J. The Daily Princetonian interviewed this year’s Fashion Speaks co-chairs Olivia Allen ‘18 and Laura Herman ’18, as well as student model Alexander Kirschenbauer ’20 to find out more about the production.
The Daily Princetonian: Congratulations on a great show! In your own words, what is Fashion Speaks? What does it mean to you?
Olivia Allen: I’m sure you’ve heard the spiel already, but Fashion Speaks is the largest student-run charity organization on campus. It’s the largest student-run charity event that happens all year. Fashions Speaks just means so much to me personally. I was a service co-chair last year, and I worked on the service committee my freshman year. Now that I’m a junior, I’ve worked really closely with the Eden Autism. I’ve visited and I’ve gotten to see where the money actually goes, so it’s been a really meaningful and important experience to me and my most meaningful experience at Princeton by far.
Laura Herman: I’m also very interested in helping with the Eden Autism, particularly from a more academic background. I study psychology and neuroscience here, and I’ve actually been dreaming about being a part of Fashion Speaks since before I got to Princeton. As an eager prefrosh, I was stalking the Facebook page and I was obsessed with joining Service in Style. I went to the activities fair when I was a prefrosh and I asked them why there was no Service in Style booth. People responded that they just hadn't signed up. Later in the fall, Service in Style wasn’t really happening because it’s a spring-term organization. I just kept bothering people until they let me be on the committee, and ever since then I’ve really enjoyed being involved. It’s kind of a dream to be up on stage tonight as a co-chair.
DP: What’s been the best memory you both have had so far?
OA: Definitely — this is a recurring thing — but we have a dance workshop every year as part of Eden’s after-school program. Once a year, a couple weeks before the show, they bring some students and diSiac teaches us all a dance routine. It’s just generally been amazing because just getting to interact with the Eden students face-to-face makes me feel so much more connected.
LH: It really puts a face to the name of those you’re raising all this money for. I got to hold hands and dance with one of the boys and that was really, really fun.
DP: What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
LH: I think a big challenge for any student organization is fundraising, especially on a college campus when everyone is struggling to make ends meet. People don’t really want to fork over an extra twenty dollars or hundred dollars. Though they do want to help, a lot of people find it hard to give more than the ticket sales, so we’ve worked on doing a lot of different innovative fundraising strategies this year. We had a raffle and people feel like they’re actually getting something out of it, and that’s been really, really exciting this year. There have been a few other tactics to actually sell things so people are getting something out of their fundraising and we’re getting something out of their donation as well.
DP: What hopes do you have for the show in the future?
OA: Always bigger and better. Honestly, I mean, the main goal is raising as much money for Eden as possible and being as connected to our cause as possible. This year we set a really ambitious goal of $25,000 which we haven’t hit, but we’re almost there. I think next year the co-chairs that we choose will feel just the same.
LH: Eden is the most important thing of all in Service in Style and Fashion Speaks. I’m sure next year’s co-chairs will exceed our expectations.
DP: How did you get involved in the show tonight?
Alexander Kirschenbauer: Fashion Speaks is a large community on campus, and I was approached by multiple people who said it was a great cause. I’m always interested in helping out, and if doing a runway is a fun way of doing that, then I’m all for it.
DP: What’s been your best memory so far?
AK: Just the people, the people that are here. Everyone is so invested in actually helping out the organization, which you don’t see a lot. A lot of people may do community service for a résumé booster or something like that, but everyone here is interested in having fun and really helping out which is inspiring to see.
DP: What challenges have you faced?
AK: The organization of the whole program was massive, but you know once we got to work together — and for a very clear goal — it made it easy to do so.
DP: Do you have any hopes for the show?
AK: Oh yeah! It’s been getting bigger and bigger every year — I think this is the fifteenth year if I’m not mistaken —- and we’re bigger than last year already. I just hope we can keep going, keep building, and keep gathering all the support we can get and help the Eden Autism because that’s always the main goal.