BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The crowd at University of Vermont's Davis Center went wild Saturday as models strutted and posed in vibrant fabrics that popped on the catwalk.

"It's culture. Fashion is a type of art. And it's a testimony of you," 2019 event organizer Michael Chea said as students prepped for the fashion show, "Paint it Black," in rooms on the fourth floor of the Davis Center on Saturday afternoon.

The fashion event featured students wearing clothes by black designers walking the runway to contemporary beats. Chea and other UVM Black Student Union participants traced the origins of the show to Black History Month 2006 in the online archive of The Cynic, UVM's student-run news group.

The idea for the fashion show was born out of a talent show in 2002, according to alumni. The event was open to all. For some Black Student Union students, it was an opportunity to educate during Black History Month. Other students wanted to "showcase individual talents, share with others and have an enjoyable time," according to responses on Facebook about the event's origins posted by Burlington's Nana "Edwin" Owusu, fashion-show host in 2007.

Chea, a third-year UVM student born in Ghana who graduated from South Burlington High School, said the yearly show brings the art of fashion to semi-rural Burlington — to people who might not have access to culture. It also creates a rare space on a largely white campus where 12 percent of UVM students identify as people of color, according to university data from fall 2018.

Saturday's student-produced show was sold out. At least 300 packed into the Grand Maple Ballroom to see trends presented by up-and-coming designer labels Mimidesignss, Myb Clothing, Ataria NYC and Diamond DDD. Music included a guest appearance by local hip hop artists 99neighbors.

As students made their way out of the Davis Center ballroom, it was clear that the scenes weren't just on the runway.

Students were giddy and glowing as they posed for friends in their best Instagram-worthy outfits.

"It feels like an affinity space for black beauty," UVM senior Javana Clark said, describing the shared love of fresh designs as she crowd watched during intermission with first year student Gabrielle Benimadho.

"I love the energy," Benimadho said. "It's a celebration of all cultures."

Ariel Tubbs was one of the catwalk coaches who helped the models find their light on cue and make scenes to create beautiful tableaux on the double runway. The models worked to capture the motion of the fabric and the attitude the designers hoped to invoke.

"A stage is a dynamic pathway, you want multiple view of clothes to create visual interest," Tubbs said. She added that the feeling of the show was meant to be a celebratory culmination for Black History Month.

Tubbs is a psychology major with a love of fashion who walked the runway in past shows. She passed on what she learned from alumnae to the current crop of divas. And that, according to Chea, is how the whole show runs, with former student leaders bringing the next generation up to speed.

Second-year student Eddie Travieso, who is studying social work, said modeling gets him out of his shell.

"I'm a shy person," Travieso said, admitting that he also does it for the Instagram tags.

Jeremiah Crawford, a graduate student studying physical therapy, was doing it to relieve stress and, of course, for the admiration from onlookers.

"I like the atmosphere, being around other students of color," Crawford said. "And I like being on stage when the crowd goes wild."

Crawford said the clothes spoke to him, especially the African print fabrics some of the designers used. He described the look as traditional with an urban twist for a younger crowd.

The evening was unmarred by a little disorganization at the doors and on stage. Nothing could dull the collective euphoria. Even a hiccup with presentation as Mwai Nyamu, president of UVM's Black Student Union, opened the annual fashion show garnered applause.

As dancers hit the stage and models began walking, the crowd was transported. Young Prince, a New York-based showman who hosted the event, had small work getting the crowd to respond to his banter.

"This is a hidden niche," Chea said of the event which he considered an unexpected cultural gem on campus. "UVM has a diverse face. Not as diverse as I want it to be, but there's a place for people."

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Online: https://bit.ly/2INifIC

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Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com

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