collage of images, including the Texas Southern University logo, a fashionably young woman posing against a blue background and a 3x3 grid of fashion magazine covers that feature Black women on the cover
Credit: Getty Images

Texas Southern University will host fashion scholars from around the world for “Text & Textile,” a two-day symposium and fashion show, on April 20-21.

Students, faculty and alumni are collaborating on this transdisciplinary event. This year, the annual Billy Joe Turner Writing Symposium highlights the correlation between literary, fashion, and media arts. The LIT Fashion Experience culminates the two-day academic event featuring the original designs of eight, world-renowned professional designers.

For those unfamiliar with the connection between fashion, the media arts and scholarship, Dr. Michon Benson, assistant professor of English at TSU with an emphasis on African-American literature, has an enlightening word.

“Oftentimes when authors are writing novels, they’re conceiving characters, they have an idea of how those characters dress. And especially if they’re period pieces, the characters’ fashion will reflect not only their respective character traits, but also the era in which they live and thrive. So, certainly some of the scholars who are presenting in the symposium might talk about different elements of fashion in the narratives that they explore,” shared Benson, who was one of the point persons for the two-day symposium.

headshot of Dr. Michon Benson
Dr. Michon Benson

Regarding TSU offering groundbreaking symposiums for visiting scholars, local students and the general public, Benson asserts Texas Southern is not new to this, but rather true to this.

“The English Department holds an annual academic symposium, and we focus on any number of issues. Last year, for example, we focused on social justice. The year before we focused on ‘Me Too.’ So, we take very contemporary, hot-button issues and we transform them into academic symposia ideas about which scholars and students write and share. In light of that, this year we had a special request from COLABS (TSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences) alumni and from students who were very interested in fashion design. And we thought, ‘Okay, well, in 2023, our focus can be the correlation between fashion, literature and the media arts.’ And so that has been our running theme for this year’s symposium. We’re really excited about what we’re going to present this year.”

And Benson’s excitement is infectious, especially as she discusses the array of scholars coming in from across the country and all over the world, to participate in this happening.

“We have a gentleman coming from California State University who’s going to be talking about the correlation between non-verbal storytelling in Palestine and the kinds of embroidery that storytellers wear when they’re telling those stories. There’s another scholar who’s coming to talk about costume design in a movie titled ‘Half of a Yellow Sun.’ Dr. Morolake Dairo is one of our presenters from Nigeria who’ll be talking about unraveling the threads of the Biafran War and costume analysis in ‘Half of a Yellow Sun.’ So, there’s culture, there’s fashion, there’s also literature. And we have scholars from Serbia, Nigeria, India, Australia, as well as our homegrown TSU scholars who’ll be presenting on a wide array of academic papers and topics related to fashion, culture and the media arts.

The presentations and panels to which Benson refers will include critical conversations with fashion icon and former Halston designer Kevan Hall, as well as fashion journalist and author Constance White, about the significance of African American representation in the fashion industry.

“Now is the time for Texas Southern University students to major in Fashion Design and Textile Technology,” White said. “Texas Southern University has the ability to foster students’ ‘excellence in achievement’ in the next quarter of the 21st century.”

It will also include Beatrice Chagnon’s “Between Schein and Shein: Inhabiting Clothing to Inhabit the World in Ingeborg Bachmann’s Short Story ‘Problems Problems’” as well as student and professional poets, including Lakia “Kanei” Taylor, taking the stage to perform spoken word, during an open mic on April 20.

The finale is an evening of fashion on Friday, April 21, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The 2023 LIT Fashion Experience will honor and promote Texas Southern University’s historic Fashion Design and Textile Technology Department. Headlining the show will be Houston’s own Chasity Sereal, couturier and Project Runway finalist. The show will feature original, literature-inspired looks.

Other globally renowned expert designers are set to grace the LIT Fashion runway, including the incomparable Toni Whitaker, Seven O’Keefe Jarmon and Negris LeBrum designer Travis Hamilton. As an additional treat, statement pieces from TSU alumna Yolanda Adams’ jewelry line will also be featured.

All proceeds from the symposium will fund COLABS Alumni student scholarships and academic events sponsored by the Department of English, World Languages and Philosophy.

“Text & Textile dovetails with university’s vision to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders, marrying curriculum with students’ passions,” says Sherry Fuller, COLABS Alumni representative. “If faculty, alumni, and students continue to strengthen their partnership, TSU will recruit the best talent and become THE HBCU destination for fashion design and textile technology.”

A survey conducted by faculty found approximately 130 current students are interested in majoring in fashion design, textile, manufacturing, and merchandising/retail.

For a full schedule of events, click here.

TSU's "Text & Textile" Symposium event flyer
TSU’s “Text & Textile” Symposium event flyer
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Aswad WalkerAssociate Editor

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...