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Penn Fashion Week Opening Credit: Ciara Stein , Ciara Stein

A line of chattering girls snaked up four flights of stairs and refugees camped out with books and laptops — all in the name of fashion.

With Penn Fashion Week ready to kick off at 7 p.m. and 100 gift bags waiting to be claimed, students started lining up outside the Hall of Flags as early as 5:30 p.m.

Incredulous looks and muttering rose when the building manager announced that the line would have to move outside because it was a fire hazard to block the stairs.

When the doors swung open at 7 p.m., a deluge swarmed into the room. The lucky 100 got their gift bags, which included a Michael Kors bracelet and coupons for local retailers. And the food, provided by Pod, was gone in one wave of chattering bodies.

“It was a little crazy, but it was good,” College sophomore Janelle McDermoth said. “I think anything that’s free and cool is worth waiting for, if nothing else then for the experience.”

Despite the drama, spirits ran high in the Hall of Flags. The crowd, mostly girls with a few brave guys scattered in, posed for silly photos at a professional photo station. A few tried on dresses from Rent the Runway, a company that rents out formal wear and accessories.

Amid the din of chatter and the energetic Fashion Week promo video playing in the background, former Wharton Retail Club President and Wharton senior Marlena Filipowska admitted she felt they “overhyped the free stuff,” but overall she was pleased with the turnout.

“People get kind of frenzied,” she said. “[But] ultimately the whole point is just to get people excited about Penn Fashion Week.”

The group hosted the first ever opening event at last year’s Fashion Week. The night, according to Wharton sophomore Pascale Tam, serves as a “quiet bang” to start off the a la mode week.

“The event is huge and definitely a lot of fun but is much lighter and less professional than the others that come as the week progresses,” Tam explained. “It serves to gently ease everyone into the Fashion Week mood.”

For some students, Fashion Week began long before the line formed in Houston Hall. In fact, the show’s organizers — students involved in Dzine2Show Fashion Society, the Wharton Retail Club, Delta Sigma Pi Business fraternity and other volunteers — have been hard at work since shortly after the end of last year’s Fashion Week.

“A lot more goes into the preparation of Fashion Week than people would expect,” Tam said. “Every aspect of Fashion Week takes a great amount of planning and communication.”

But, she added, the “creative process” is one of the best parts of the event.

“A large part is coming up with grand ideas and high-reaching goals for everything, from speakers to marketing concepts like the promo video this year, and trying your best to execute them.”

Filipowska, Tam and the rest of the organizers’ work is far from over, however. Fashion Week continues with a talk by the CEO of Michael Kors, panelists of online shopping and publishing professionals and more. It all comes to a close with the grand finale, a student-produced fashion show Friday night.

Big names aside, Filipowska hopes that the week’s events will appeal to a wide range of Penn students. “Whether or not you’re super into high fashion, you’re still somewhat affected by it, and hearing how that all comes together is fascinating.”

Tam agreed. “Even people who don’t necessarily want to go into fashion after they graduate, Penn is such a big school for girls who just love fashion and there are so many girls who dress well here,” she said. “It’s still a pretty fun experience if you just like fashion in general.”

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