Runway Magazine or Vogue instinctually come to mind when thinking about fashion. A passion for fashion may mean envisioning yourself living “The Devil Wears Prada” narrative and attending Paris Fashion Week — an ultimate “Emily in Paris” dream come true.
University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomores Melina Zarboulas and Marlo Pulliam wanted to challenge this stigma by providing a way for hardworking students with different academic backgrounds to explore the intersections between their interests and fashion.
They created The Vault: Business Behind Fashion, offering the opportunity for students to explore the complexities and intersections of marketing, communication and design within the fashion industry.
“I always thought [the fashion industry] was just about the clothes and design,” Zarboulas said, The Vault’s co-founder and president. “We want to show students that there’s so much that goes into this industry beyond just the clothes and design. That can be a really great awakening.”
As a student organization, one of The Vault’s main pillars is community, according to its founders. While UW-Madison has many student organizations on campus, the founders said they hope that The Vault offers something different to the UW-Madison community.
In addition to providing insights into the behind the scenes of the fashion industry, the founders want to establish a safe space for exploring various interests, ultimately creating a hub for creative expression through the lens of fashion, they shared.
Additionally, Pulliam shared hopes to narrow the common divide between leadership and membership in student organizations by “welcoming as much expression [as] people are willing to provide” and offering a range of committees allowing members to explore various personal interests.
While the organization is known for exploring the business behind fashion, the founders and creative director Pranav Volety shared how they pride themselves on the notion of sharing an interest in fashion but also coming from diverse areas of study.
Volety, a UW-Madison junior studying neuroscience, said he broke into the fashion scene through reasons unrelated to fashion.
“I used to produce music for artists,” Volety said. “I just started with that and I’ve not got connected to artists quickly. I realized that I have a skill set where I can just apply myself to anything I want to because I can speak the language of graphic design.”
Organization members attend workshops where they expand their industry knowledge and plan fundraising events. The Vault hosted their first panel event in late March, where leaders in the fashion industry spoke about their backgrounds and experiences in the industry.
The speakers included ShopBop Chief of Creative Operations Loni Andreen, AugustStore Chief Creative Officer Rob Bowhan and Peacock Jewelers Chief Commercial Officer Ada Woitkowski. On April 20, the organization will host a workshop with award-winning New York Fashion Week Designer Dovile Riebschlager focused on upcycling clothes and making textiles.
The organization will also host its first student-run fashion show on May 2 at Tripp Commons, inspired by Homer’s “Odyssey.” Students will be able to traverse The Odyssey as written by Homer and learn through an immersive experience of literature and fashion, Zarboulas said. The show will portray each stage of the Greek tale through the lens of fashion.
“We want to delve into the literature, the significance and different symbolism and outfits. It’s so creative. Imagine how many opportunities there are to make outfits for this theme, and it could be educational while combining fashion with literature,” Zarboulas said.
The organization’s committees have collaborated on the basic structure of the event and venue decisions regarding overall lighting and portrayal, to the styling and sewing of the outfits from scratch based on literature inspiration.
“The collection created by The Vault will take audiences to a world of myth and legend and teach them about literature and fashion through a runway experience,” Zarboulas said.
As for the founders’ goals for The Vault, they hope to provide members with experiences deemed unimaginable through education, training and a sense of community, as described on their website. They strive to offer hands-on learning experiences that aren’t typically available in a classroom setting, and create a hub for creative freedom and expression.
Students interested in joining the organization can follow their Instagram @thevaultuwmadison and explore their website to learn more about upcoming events.
Editor’s note: Pranav Volety has previously contributed to The Daily Cardinal. He is no longer affiliated with the newspaper.