REACTing to COVID’s Challenges 

Like all other organizations and businesses across the world, the 2020 Threads team was challenged to be as resilient and adaptable as possible in a completely unknown situation. The virtual runway the students produced is evidence that times of turmoil can become opportunities for creativity. 

We invite you to view (or view again!) 

 2020 Threads: React Virtual Runway!

TFD Student Amanda Hurwitz featured her Senior Thesis Collection as part of  Threads 2020 React Virtual Runway


  By Campbell Fauber 

Most years, Threads, the annual fashion show hosted by UW-Madison’s School of Human Ecology (SoHE) and the Textiles and Fashion Design (TFD) program, pulses with excitement. People eager to see the show crowd into a large theater, and wait with anticipation. The models are nervous. The designers, even more so. Then the lights dim, and the crowd collectively holds their breath as they wait for the flash of lights and the first beats of music that signal the start of the show.

But this year was vastly different. Most of the Threads audience members were alone in their apartments or in small family units. Odds are that they were hunched over a computer, sprawled on their couches with a smartphone in their hands, or lying on their bed or floor, with their heads propped up in their hands gazing into their laptops. There were no cheering crowds to share the energy and excitement. Nonetheless, it was a joyful celebration of student talent, creativity, vision, and resiliency. 

Back in the fall, when the creative team developed React as a theme for the Spring 2020 show, we had no idea how fitting it would be.

 Like an abrupt, unwanted spring storm, COVID-19 swooped down in March, closed down the campus, and upended eight months of planning for Threads. Without crowds and a theater, there could be no runway show. We knew it was time for us to do what our theme asked — React and find a way to create a positive event during a difficult time.  

Student designers were suddenly scattered across the country without access to studios, equipment, or creative support of their fellow students. As student Lindsey Wilson said, we “were overwhelmed, scared, bored, and uncertain.” While struggling to put together make-shift studios, or devising alternative strategies to finish projects, the TFD students in lockdown gave a resounding response when the Threads team called for digital material. The designers quickly generated the digital content for the show. Most of the 800 images, video, and audio used in the Virtual Runway were created on the students’ cellphones while in lockdown. Aaron Granat, a professional video editor, compiled the submissions into a 20-minute video celebration of the students’ work.  

So in five short weeks, the TFD designers and Threads creative team converted the planned live, runway event to a completely virtual show. The virtual format allowed us to do more storytelling and show more up-close details of the work than would have been possible on a runway. The Threads Virtual Runway has been viewed more than 2,500 times by people who were safer-at-home instead of in a crowded theater.

In the early days of the pandemic, Soyeon Shim, Dean of SoHE, reminded us that during times of stress, “the strengths of a human ecology approach can shine: we are flexible, compassionate and creative.” The social typhoon of a shuttered university and the emotional wildfire of a global pandemic did indeed spark new creativity and tenacity. We are grateful for our education at SoHE, which compels us to think deeply, creatively, and empathetically about the world.

TFD Student Jany Vang  featured her Senior Thesis Collection as part of  Threads 2020 React Virtual Runway

For the Threads creative team, it instilled in us a desire to continue to React — to work together as an interdisciplinary team to positively impact the world. We are continuing to work through the summer, addressing social issues through articles, designer spotlights, and interviews with the Madison community. Our ultimate goal is to show what we are reacting to what is going on around us. We don’t expect to change the world, but we know that a thousand little things, no matter how small, can add up to make the big picture come to life.

We encourage you to take a look inward and around you, and ask yourself: 

What are YOU REACTING to?