The Maven Society brought fantasy to life in its Friday event, a runway show themed after film producer George Lucas’ movie, The Labyrinth, and featuring Cornell designers. The artist’s collective has hosted similar pop-ups, auctions and gallery events since its founding in spring 2020.
The event took place at the New Park Event Venue and Suites, where viewers could eat dinner and view canvases across the walls. Walking into the event, a large white tent hosted a runway in the center, with artwork on the walls and a DJ booth on the side.
Maven organizes events catered to the next generation of Cornell artists, said Maven CEO Ravi Patel ’22. According to Patel, the society aims to bring students together across different art forms and walks of life at Cornell.
The idea for the society sprung to life at the end of Patel’s sophomore year, inspired by two visits to an empty New York City Art gallery and a historic cafe in Paris, Café de Flore.
“I got to visit a cafe — this place where Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, everyone came together and shared ideas in a social setting, sharing drinks and stories,” Patel said.
Patel saw potential in creating a social space for the art world at Cornell, inspired by this history.
“I wanted to create something for people to come together and exchange ideas similar to Hemingway’s cafe,” he said. “But also, I think there isn’t a better conversation starter than a really cool piece of art.”
Patel said each Maven Society event begins with picking a theme. Next, the society releases a Google form to take submissions, reaching out on Instagram to Cornell artists of many mediums, such as oil paints, pastels, charcoals and sketches. From there, Maven plans transportation, venue, food and beverages.
“We’re looking into bringing different mediums of art,” Patel said. “Every single event, we’ve tried to bring a new medium of art, whether it be through fashion or music.”
The mission of the Maven Society that Patel describes — creating a community of young art appreciators and fostering a platform for undiscovered and rising artists — progressed at their 220 person event.
For last weekend’s event, Maven partnered with the Cornell Fashion Collective, which gives space and resources to students starting out in the fashion industry and hosts an annual fashion show, according to CFC president Cardinal Robinson ’23. He said he appreciated the opportunity to pursue those goals and showcase his work with Maven.
Since COVID-19 restrictions canceled CFC’s spring 2020 and 2021 fashion shows, Maven’s stage was the first to show Robinson’s work.
“There are not a lot of spaces — especially in Ithaca, especially for designers — to present work to a larger audience besides Instagram, and that doesn’t have the same effect at all,” Robinson said.
Robinson originally created his sheer dress, featured by Maven, for the canceled 2020 CFC show, themed “Modern Royalty.” To Robinson, today’s royalty are those that thrive in a world of likes and comments, such as the Kardashians. The sheer dress presents a commentary on social media, body image and fashion culture.
The in-person event, according to Robinson, rebukes the “hyper image-centric social media world.” His dress intends to reveal the true form of the body, celebrating his model’s humanity.
“Everything I make is restricted to the canvas of the human form,” Robinson said. “That’s what fashion is. It’s an expression of who you are. It’s not just about the clothes.”
Drew Brown ’25, who is also studying fashion in the College of Human Ecology, appreciated how the Maven event expanded the audience of his fashion designs.
Maven charges tickets to attendees to fund the venue and pay participating artists. Brown said that CFC artists spend their own money on fabric and materials, so he appreciated being compensated for his work.
Designer Maisie McDonald ’23 made her dress for a draping class and spent about 60 hours on it. She currently runs an Instagram fashion brand, MODSLOP.
“I would love to have my own fashion brand one day,” McDonald said. “Maven gave me the opportunity to have my first runway show to display my work, and it’s letting me show it to a group of people that I normally wouldn’t have had exposure to.”
Walking the line between painter and designer, Montse Longoria ’22 showcased denim jackets with quotes and designs painted onto them. In high school, Longoria started painting and selling her designs in her hometown.
“I think that Maven has given me that confidence to go even bigger,” she said.
Longoria said she paints the things she feels for other people to relate to. One of her jackets displays teeth and the words “I don’t know” at the end of both sleeves.
“I don’t know what I’m doing, and that’s OK. That’s fine, and I’ll express it,” she said.