SHEI Magazine offers University of Michigan students a path to the fashion industry
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Not even a University of Michigan degree assures anyone entrance into the tight-knit world of high-fashion. Experience is what matters in that world, and for years U-M students have been gaining that experience at SHEI Magazine.
Now in its 11th year on campus, SHEI is on a major push for new contributors, said editor-in-chief Sagar Deshpande. A pre-med senior at Michigan, Deshpande joined the magazine years ago because he thought it would be cool to learn more about fashion. Though medical school is in Deshpande's future, he wants to solidify SHEI as a tool that its participants can use to write their own tickets from Ann Arbor to the world of fashion in New York and beyond.
To that end, the magazine is holding a contributor- and model-recruiting event this evening at the the Work Gallery on State Street.
This year, SHEI's recruiting tool is its pre-zine, a slim 16 page magazine conceived as a low-cost way to pique students' interest.Like many student organizations, SHEI had a table at FestiFall, the annual student-group recruiting fair. Handing out a bulky magazine in an information-rich environment wouldn't even guarantee more readership, let alone contributors, in an environment where students are bombarded with paper. For a magazine that opts for high-quality paperstock because, as Deshpande explains it, "SHEI is going to be a lot of students' portfolios one day," giving magazines away would be a poor investment.
The very size of the pre-zine, meanwhile, all but begs for additional contributions from its readers, be they budding photographers, writers, designers, event-planners. There's even a place for accountants in there.
"The people who join our staff go deep and really get into it," Deshpande told AnnArbor.com. "We just want more of them. The trick is showing people what we do, what they can be a part of."
The articles in SHEI's pre-zine are true to its multiple identities: Part University of Michigan student (“Best of Ann Arbor”), part diva-fashionista (“A Modern Girl’s Guide to Gold-Digging”) and part resident of the world (feature with “Pink Pump” owner Tawny Thieu).
Thieu's story is the main draw. The owner of the “Pink Pump” shoe store on East Liberty Street seems to defy the idea that making or buying fashion requires that a person come from money.
Raised on hand-me-downs and thrift store looks, Thieu developed a passion for fashion and started thinking about the looks she would sport when she had the money, she explained in an e-mail interview with literary editor Bridget Bodnar.
Turns out Thieu’s passions went far deeper than just clothing herself, and in 2005 she and her brother went in on a salon in Bloomfield Hills. Five years later, Thieu’s empire has expanded to four boutiques, including the shop in Ann Arbor, which specializes in $30 to $500 looks.
SHEI is a for-us, by-us effort by university students. Its purpose is less to make money than to give its contributors enough experience that they can walk confidently through doors to the fashion industry when they open.
“When our people interview for positions in New York, we want them to be proud of what they’ve done,” Deshpande said in an interview. “That’s why we invest in quality rather than go the cheap route. SHEI magazine has opened up doors for so many University of Michigan students.”
SHEI wasn't always glitz and glam. It started originally as an Asian-culture magazine but its mission changed as wider portions of the student body took interest. Now the mission is fashion, first and foremost.
The magazine works with designers and shops and charitable organizations all the time to spread its name.
The globally minded approach has worked. Outside of Michigan, the next biggest chunk of SHEI's readership hails from New York and California. Several of its editors worked summer internships in New York over the summer, building expertise that they'll bring back and share with the next batch of participants, who will take the next batch of fashion internships, and so on.
University of Michigan students hoping to contribute to SHEI should contact Deshpande at SHEI@umich.edu.
James David Dickson can be reached at JamesDickson@AnnArbor.com.