Student fashion community reflects on responsibility to alter beauty standards

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Photo Credit: Alekka Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

UT has established a desire to change the world. Recent efforts by the creative community on campus are striving to do just that.

Ockhee Bego is a textiles and apparel assistant professor of instruction who directs UT’s annual fashion show. She said UT students not only have the opportunity but also the responsibility to change beauty standards. In the past, her students requested their models to be tall and thin, but in recent years they have asked for models of all sizes because they understand the reality of beauty.        

“We want every size, every color, and we are just looking at the human,” Bego said. “That is our greatest achievement.”

Bego said she tries to educate her students about different parts of the world and various communities to help them have an open mind and respect for each other. Five years ago, she said she watched a student break gender norms.

“One of my students produced clothing that is (for) either gender,” Bego said. “A lot of students now in the classroom don’t think about gender, whether it is a women’s garment or a men’s garment. They actually make garments that either men or women can wear.”

Bego said she always reminds her students that, as designers, they have the power to create change, and they should take advantage of that.

“Whoever is creating new ideals has power to say, ‘Let’s not talk about that, let’s talk about (how) everybody is equal and let’s give everyone an opportunity,’” Bego said.

Maya Fawaz, an international relations and global studies freshman, said she is trying to get her foot in the door of fashion by starting a fashion publication with her friends. The publication, called Ember, seeks to bring together a diverse group of creative students who can capture a more accurate representation of people.

“We’re trying to bring a much more real approach to UT and the student body,” Fawaz said. “We have a lot of ethnic diversity in our body and we have, in general, a lot of diversity in our models.”

Fawaz said Ember is currently doing photo shoots for their Instagram, and is working to get their website up and running.

Ariana Diaz, a photographer for Spark Magazine, said she thinks because Spark is focused on appearing professional and successfulg, they are scared to stray from the traditional “model look.” She said they should not be scared to oppose conventional beauty standards because they have the power to tell a bigger story if they are more diverse.

Diaz, an international relations freshman, said she believes any publication benefits from having a diverse team because they can expand the story they are trying to tell, and when they see diversity as a barrier, they are just limiting themselves.

“We’re wanting to be a school of world changers, but you need diverse sets of people to change the world,” Diaz said. “(We need ) different backgrounds, different socioeconomic classes so we can create change for everyone.”