‘Only the beginning’: Pitt students attend New York Fashion Week


Image courtesy of Nicole Marchese

Catherine Certo, left, and Nicole Marchese at New York Fashion Week.

By Donata Massimiani, Senior Staff Writer

After signing with Next Model Management — one of the largest modeling agencies worldwide — in Jan. 2022, Suze Esval attended New York Fashion Week last month for her first time as a professional model. After several years of work, Esval said she felt excited to finally walk the runway, especially in a show for Coach.

“I met Lil Nas X backstage, so that was cool,” Esval, a sophomore business major who is currently taking a gap year, said. “They put me in flat shoes, so I wasn’t too worried about slipping or tripping, just excited for my first show.”

NYFW is an event that occurs every February and September, where prominent designers in the fashion industry display their upcoming collections through runway shows and events. Three Pitt students Esval, Nicole Marchese and Catherine Certo attended the exclusive event this year, all looking to build a career for themselves in different areas of the fashion industry. 

Esval said NYFW is an exciting and hectic time for models. Her days consisted mainly of running around the city to different castings, sometimes up to 10 in one day. She got a callback after attending the Coach casting, then waited with high hopes to find out if she’d walk in the show. 

“I found out about the fitting for the show late the night before,” Esval said. “The next day, they kept pushing it back, so I ended up getting fitted around 11:30 p.m. and left at like 1 a.m. I was the last look they finished, and the show was the next day.” 

Esval also traveled to Milan and Paris for their fashion weeks and walked in one other show for the brand Koche in Paris. She said everyone involved in the show treated her very well and that it was a good experience. 

Esval said facing rejection so many times a day during fashion week is difficult to handle, but she knew it wasn’t personal because each designer was looking for a “certain look.” 

“Overall, I didn’t get too many other shows, which is hard to deal with, but it’s my first season, so this is only the beginning,” Esval said. 

Marchese, a junior marketing major, and Certo, a sophomore marketing major, also attended NYFW this fall, but on the business side of the events. 

Marchese and Certo were selected to participate in Universities of New York Fashion Week, a four-day program created by the Collegiate Licensing Company and IMG that provides students interested in careers in the fashion industry a behind-the-scenes look at how it’s operated. According to Certo, college students across the nation are selected for this competitive program, and Pitt’s partnership with the CLC made it possible for her and Marchese to attend. 

Marchese said she and Certo spent the first day of the program getting to know the other attendees and exploring Times Square. 

“It was super cool to meet students our age that have similar goals and passions from across the country,” Marchese said. 

According to Marchese, the second day featured a tour of Champion headquarters. Program attendees had the opportunity to chat with designers and “higher-ups” at the company and look at the upcoming Spring/Summer ‘24 and Fall/Winter ‘24 collections. Marchese added that the group went to the Champion flagship store after the tour, where they had the opportunity to customize their own sweatshirts. 

Certo and Marchese attended the Son Jung Wan show at Spring Studios, and both said it was their favorite part of the trip. Certo said Son Jung Wan is a “super popular” designer and that program attendees received “VIP” treatment, which included a backstage tour of the venue. 

“To see a runway model walk in real life, to hear the music through the speakers and see how other people look at the looks and the collection, it’s nothing like what you see online,” Certo said. “It was incredible and something I never thought I’d be able to experience.” 

Marchese said attending the show was an “amazing” and “surreal” experience that brought 

“tears to her eyes.”

“To see how everything that goes into it — being able to go backstage and see everyone get ready, all of the business side of things they would talk about too — comes together for ten minutes, or however long it was, you’re in awe,” Marchese said. “It was really awesome to see everything.” 

Certo said the two spent the rest of the trip networking and attending different panels and Q&A sessions. They got to ask questions, listen to discussions and learn from designers and top fashion industry professionals. 

“We’re both studying business, but we’re super interested in fashion and potentially want to break into the fashion industry post-grad,” Certo said. “It was great to see how the business background complements people that are fashion design majors or fashion merchandising and management.”