A tangible sense of eagerness filled the air at CRAVE’s latest event. Models and executives made last minute preparations, students, alumni and family members reunited and each audience member sat with anticipation and excitement reserved for only one event — the annual spring fashion show.
CRAVE — which stands for Creative, Raw, and Very Edgy — combines cutting edge student design, dynamic modeling and philanthropy. The organization goes far beyond traditional showcases of fashion, committing to delivering on each element of the acronym at their annual spring shows, each of which tells a story through its central theme and precise, artistic choreography executed by its models.
The club offers a platform for the artistic expression of some of the University’s most gifted and dedicated creative forces and above all, champions true originality and inventiveness. According to Davon Lewis, CRAVE co-president and fourth-year College student, the group explores the “edgy” element of their acronym through fashion.
“Our whole organization is about being different,” Lewis said. “I feel like fashion is one of those things you can do anything with.”
The group’s commitment to quality is made clear by the extensive preparatory process. The executive board spends the fall semester planning the show, booking venues, auditioning models and arranging philanthropic events. By the time the spring semester begins, the rehearsal process is in full swing.
Beginning with rehearsals two times a week, the show develops over the course of the semester from basic walks and choreography to full scenes, stories and eventually a final show. In the week leading up to the show, models have daily rehearsals lasting late into the night.
Chantal Hernandez, CRAVE co-president and fourth-year Education student, says that a special bond is formed through these countless hours spent together.
“We become a family because we’re with each other for four hours a week,” Hernandez said. “It’s not just work. You get to have fun, you’re here with your friends.”
Olivia Wimbish, director of philanthropy and fourth-year Education student, values CRAVE not only for the community it has offered her, but for the opportunities it has given her to grow as an individual and performer.
“I really appreciate CRAVE for giving me confidence to go out on stage and to do choreography and to model,” Wimbish said. “I feel like CRAVE has really helped me to come out of my shell.”
Hernandez and Lewis both take pride in the effort and commitment of the entire CRAVE community.
“I’m really proud of our models, as well as our exec team, because it takes a lot of work to prepare a show,” Lewis said. “Everyone’s really doing their best… I know we’re hard on them in practice but it’s all love at the end of the day.”
In addition to their performances and photoshoots, CRAVE is a philanthropic organization. This semester, the group partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Central Virginia, raising money for the charity and directly volunteering with them.
Each week, models went to the Boys and Girls Club to put on mock fashion shows and teach the kids about modeling and design. Wimbish said she values this aspect of the organization and the efforts made by members to engage.
“I’m proud that everyone has taken time out to be like ‘No, let me go have fun with the children’,” Wimbish said. “It really is fun.”
This semester’s show — “The Evolution of Fashion” — took the audience on a journey through the long history of fashion, beginning with looks inspired by the extravagant wealth of the early 1900s and exploring several iconic eras, even touching on futuristic looks.
Each model that stepped onto the stage flaunted a distinct new look. The “Haute Couture” scene showed off embellished gowns and elaborate headpieces, while the “Athleisure” scene explored the classic, casual styles of the late 1990s and early 2000s. One of the show’s final scenes, “Risqué,” featured models in all-black lingerie and leather.
Although clothing served as the basis for the show and the primary display of the theme, the show was truly powered by the energy and talent of the models. Every move was executed with intention and precision — the careful synchronization of the models made for a mesmerizing performance.
Models told subtle stories of competition or flirtation in their brief interactions walking down the runway. Each scene brought creative new twists — some models lit cigars or tossed cash, while one even performed a backflip over his scene partner.
The show did not pause for a moment, extending far beyond just a showcase of fashion. Intermission featured a stunning performance from ReMiX A Capella, the University’s only hip-hop and R&B a capella group.
Audience members became a part of the show by participating in walking competitions between scenes and engaging with the charismatic announcers that introduced each scene.
At its core, CRAVE is powered by a uniquely strong sense of community and belonging. The show often falls on Spring Fling or Black Alumni weekend, allowing prospective students, alumni and families to become a part of the experience and community. According to Hernandez, the connection CRAVE builds within the University’s Black creative community is what makes it so special to audiences.
“All around it’s about coming together and celebrating Black U.Va. and POC at U.Va.” Hernandez said. “CRAVE means coming together, celebrating each other, focusing on each other’s accomplishments, lifting each other up and just overall having a good vibe.”
In every aspect of its being — between design, philanthropy and the final performance — CRAVE is a triumph of student creatives.