Xpressions: Carolina’s fashion club gets a makeover

by Barbara Wiedemann

You’re a Carolina student with an eye for fashion and the desire to work with style-savvy undergraduates, regardless of major. You cannot NOT be fashion-forward. Where do you bring that energy?

To Xpressions, the revitalized and reenvisioned fashion club associated with Carolina Professor of the Practice Dana McMahan’s FashionMash program.

The club is an opportunity for Carolina students who may not be in the UNC Hussman advertising/public relations track or who have already taken all the school’s FashionMash class offerings to keep a hand in the world of fashion.


Creative co-chairs

Recent UNC Hussman graduate Pareen Bhagat ’22 (above left) and rising senior Nicholas Fantauzzi ’23 (above right), both in the advertising/public relations area of study at the school, revamped the club as co-chairs over the course of the 2021–22 academic year.

“I wanted to make a community for people like myself,” said Fantauzzi, a tall, striking Bronx-born visionary with modeling experience. He credits his Equality Charter High School and CUNY community college experience with laying the groundwork for the confidence he needed to form the new iteration of Carolina’s fashion club — not to mention the leadership skills he’s gained at the Mu Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in Chapel Hill.

“My fashion sense and style are inspired by being myself,” said the Xpressions founder. “I love to express myself through clothing and break down any negative toxic masculinity in the stuff I wear, get my nails painted, and use visual art to impact people in a positive way!”

Fantauzzi first approached McMahan with a vision for a fashion-oriented club that would showcase Carolina student talent and diversity in a contemporary way.

McMahan supported the vision. She connected Fantauzzi to Bhagat, a Zimbabwe native and then-UNC Hussman senior who smoothly added Xpressions co-chair responsibilities to her existing roles as FashionMash student assistant and We Are SAATH club president. The peripatetic creative force credits McMahan with the inspiration to keep busy — and manage her time.

“I was Dana’s student assistant this spring [2022] semester,” says Bhagat. “I saw her schedule and I asked, ‘How are you even alive with this much going on at all times?!’ She has a positive attitude and she goes with the flow. I met her my freshman year and thought, ‘That’s who I want to be.’ I’m lucky to know her.”

Bhagat brought an equally passionate sense of the possibilities for Xpressions that fashion provides to people of color like herself.

“I see an opportunity to express culture, politics, morals and ethics,” says Bhagat. “That’s why I’m passionate about fashion.”

Today, Bhagat is a social media manager with holiCHICbyMegha, a South Asian brand she reached out to via an ad campaign she developed in Assistant Professor Lisa Villamil’s MEJO 334 “Visual Design for Strategic Communication” course last spring.



Xpressions |  Volume One  | InceptionFantauzzi and Bhagat combined their powerful vision, desire for inclusivity and collaborative approach to jump-start a club that had been sidelined by the pandemic. The revamped and renamed Xpressions club is here to ensure that everyone interested in pursuing fashion at UNC has a platform. It is already making a difference on campus.

Last fall, club members coordinated thematic photo shoots envisioned by Creative Director Tyler Layne ’24 emphasizing themes like: ties to nature (Roots), capturing joy in motion (Boogie Wonderland) and celebrating bodies in all shapes and sizes (Soul n’ Body).

What started as a lookbook showcasing those modeling and photography efforts turned into an 84-page magazine (Inception, Volume 1) incorporating poetry, prose and other forms of self-expression under the Xpressions masthead.

“The beauty, confidence, and culture students of color bring to UNC holds a level of significance too vital to disregard,” the magazine’s outreach coordinator wrote of the team’s efforts to provide a platform for students of color to express themselves and bond with other like-minded individuals.

“The magazine turned into a place for students to have opportunities to practice writing or develop their graphic design or photography skills,” says Fantauzzi. “I love it!”

Bhagat adds that the magazine became an important place for students to express themselves during a challenging year. “There was a lot to talk about,” she said. “It was important that we get it out.”

The rare printed copies are hard to find. If you have one, hang on to that potential collector’s item.

Club events included a fall pop-up catwalk outside of Carroll Hall showcasing a combined streetwear/workwear vibe; and a spring event at One Africa’s “The African Wedding Party” on campus, showcasing both young Black fashion creators at Carolina and native African clothing.

The co-chairs credit a core group of students who helped relaunch the new fashion club iteration.

“It was so helpful to get their perspective,” said Bhagat. “They pulled a lot of weight this year.”

Along with Creative Director Layne — a media and journalism rising junior — that team includes business major Halah Ballard ’24 (model director), information science major Kathryn Chao ’25 (graphic designer), media and journalism/public policy major Kayden Hunt ’24 (head photographer/editor), psychology major Destiny Lewis ’24 (communications/outreach), media and journalism major Ann Licharew ’24 (editor/organizational manager), psychology major Chiagozie “ChiChi” Onukogu ’24 (treasurer), business administration and management major Jaziah Planter ’25 (event coordinator) and media and journalism major Nina Scott ’24 (graphic designer).


Next level

“Pareen and Nicolas’ leadership allowed an exciting evolution to happen over the course of the year, going from a single big project (which is what the club had done in the past) to many moments with many voices,” said McMahan. “I’m so grateful for their work and the care and support they brought to other students. That’s the magic—Xpressions is now a platform where concepts can happen more in the moment as new teams come together.”

“I want to thank Dana for believing in me,” Fantauzzi said as he looks ahead to his senior year and the further evolution of Xpressions. “She trusted me to take fashion on the UNC campus to another level.”

Now, from his summer internship in New York, Fantauzzi says he wants to spread that energy and encourage other club members to be leaders.

“I want Xpressions to be a place for other students to grow, to build their portfolios and to enhance their leadership skills, like Pareen and I did.”