Late December, students were coming down from their Christmas high and started to gear up for the boozy festivities New Year’s had to offer. However, something lingered. It lingered behind Ryan Seacrest and his famed NYE television broadcast. It lingered behind Joe Burrows historic college football season. It lingered in the depths of the media until it came to the forefront of every outlet in the world. It once seemed like a foreign fairy tale that could never affect us in our tight American bubble. But now it’s real. More real than ever. Covid-19, the Coronavirus, the dreaded curse, the new plague, however you want to call it, it’s no longer a distant tale and it is affecting millions of people. The virus’s impact has reached countless amounts of people and Julia Luff is no exception.
Luff a senior on the Marist Women’s Lacrosse team isn’t your ordinary student athlete. Luff along with a few others is a part of the Marist Fashion Design program, where young artists and fashion enthusiasts come to hone their craft. The design program isn’t some rinky dink major that anyone can transfer into. Applicant’s interested endure a rigorous selection process where they are given a fashion orientated project to complete within a certain deadline. After a careful selection process the incoming class is formed.
The design program is constructed to weed out the weak. The strict rules and qualifications needed to stay in the program are engraved into students’ brains the moment they enter class. They are wired like machines, programmed to work with little break time. The program employs former industry professionals who act as the students tour guides leading them through their tumultuous academic process. Hours upon hours of work and time in the studio is encouraged. Students who fail to meet the criteria are often outed by the professor for their lack of commitment. Commitment is the key underlying value for success in the design program. But Luff separates herself from the pack with her commitment to both fashion and lacrosse. A commitment that would soon be taken away.
Before the world was in shambles Luff pushed herself to excel in both lacrosse and fashion. She quickly learned that time was her most valued commodity.
“On average practice was 3 hours a week, two game days a week and one day off on Sunday. Lacrosse, depending on the travel and game locations, on average lacrosse would consume 24-30 hours of my week. That is not including extra draw lifts and watching film on my own. Pretty much every moment outside of lacrosse is dedicated to my other classes and fashion. I would say I would dedicate 10-12 hours to fashion daily. Every day I would wake up at 6:30 and use the morning productive hours to knit until practice at 11. Practice was from 11-2. After that I would work straight out stopping for lunch and dinner and ending at 11/12 each night. So, on average I would spend 60-70 hours working on my fashion each week.”
The famed college stories of partying and taking excessive naps did not pertain to Luff. Instead she often found herself at the fashion studio, weight room, and practice field.
The Marist’s Women Lacrosse team had a weak start to the season. Their overall record was 2-4 before this lethal virus bulldozed its way into the United States. The swift progression of the virus lead to the NCAA canceling sports as we know it leaving Luff and seven others out of a senior season.
By no means were the Red Foxes projected to win the MAAC but now they are deprived of the chance of even trying. But an athlete’s senior season is never defined by wins and losses, but by the underlying connection and unbreakable bond they developed with their teammates. Yes, the coronavirus took away the physical season and one last chance at the MAAC title. But it can’t take away those grueling 6 am practices where coach Wilkson dragged the team out of bed. It can’t take away the dining hall meetups where the team would sit down and eat the inedible chicken and greasy pizza. It can’t take away the nights where rest was optimal, but the old college try got the best of them. Covid-19 can’t take away the memories and lasting relationships that lacrosse presented these eight seniors. So, if we can’t celebrate the season let’s reminisce and celebrate what we do have…teammates and the memories with them.
Luff and the seven other seniors are currently presented with a different challenge. The challenge being finishing their course work, in what is stereotypically the hardest semester of college, all online with the physical absences of their professors. Marist President Dennis Murray sent out a campus wide email informing the fashion department and every other student of their greatest fear.
“I am writing you today to let you know that we have made the difficult decision to move all of the College’s classes online for the remainder of the semester,” said an email from Murray.
As some kids rejoiced claiming they can finally sleep in and drink all day the fashion department was left to die. With no physical studios and lack of equipment the senior’s final collections changed drastically. Professor DooRi Chung was the first to deliver the devastating news to the designer students.
“For the past week, the design faculty, chair, and dean have been advocating for the senior designers to have access to Steel Plant Studios in order to complete their collection… Unfortunately, today we received the word that this will not be possible… No facility including studios, computer labs, science labs, the MakerLab, the photo labs, and others can be used for instruction or work. This applies to all buildings on campus and to all student majors,” the email from Chung stated.
Students were told to finish what they could with the equipment at home, but for many Marist students’ labs were the only access they had to professional grade sewing equipment. The designers are now faced with a greater task of finding professional equipment so they can actually complete their project. Luff explains some of the current challenges she and her fellow colleagues now face.
“My collection process has changed. The hardest part is not having the instruction and resources the steel plant provided. I was working on a specialized knitwear independent study as well as my senior collection capping. The in-person dynamics were a large part of the creative process we are now missing. It is almost impossible to proceed on really finishing my collection without fitting the garments on any models. If we want to finish, we can guess and estimate the fit, hem lengths and possible details needed,” said Luff. “I also had to rent equipment from local shops to serge my inside edges. I am fortunate to have the space in my home and one dress form to work from. Some of my other classmates are doing plus size and men’s clothing that they may not be able to fit their garments at all.”
As if the students weren’t tortured enough the annual SNR fashion show was canceled where the senior designers showcase their work.
However, Luff, her fellow designers and teammates along with the rest of the world are now on the same team. The national pandemic has deprived so many of so much. Basic everyday conversations are now done via computer. Anxious and fear-stricken people outweigh the number of individuals that actually have the virus! But it’s in times like these people’s character is tested. So, as you lay down at night let’s not think of what if, let’s think of what we have and are grateful for. Luff when asked didn’t even flinch.
“I have been reflecting a lot on how fortunate I am to have my friends and family and the wonderful memories of the past four years. I know the entire world is facing these issues and my losses cannot even begin to compare to people who are losing loved ones. I think I am grateful I am safe and in a solid home with the support and love of my parents,” Luff said. “It still isn’t easy emotionally. My brother is currently serving as a soldier in Northern Italy. His life is much more strict right now. He needs papers to go anywhere and is not allowed to work outside of the base or have the normalcy of walking around town like we can still do.”
Lacrosse and fashion have been halted but are not gone. The designers should hold their head high and be proud of the work they have accomplished. They should be proud of the late nights and endless coffee runs they endured. As for Luff and her lacrosse teammates they now hold their breath on a possible fifth year of eligibility. But they too should hold their head high. Be proud of handling the commitment of being a division one athlete. Be proud of your first win, or your first save. But whether you’re a designer, a goalie, a defender, a coach or anyone who has experienced any kind of interaction be grateful for the memories you’ve made because right now they are all we got. So right now, hold on to your thoughts and hold on to your loved ones because together we will get through this and continue to make more memories.
Edited By: Rebecca Rose Header Photo by: Marist Athletics