Student Designer and Fashion in Business Creates Space For Fashion on Campus


Marco Lozzi

Student model walking down the runway wearing Balmont Ave clothing during the “Late Registration” FIB x Balmont Ave Fashion Show in front on the J. Willard Marriott Library in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 13, 2023. (Photo by Marco Lozzi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jake Duffy, News Writer


Student designer Balmont Ave and the University of Utah’s Fashion in Business student organization had their first collaborative fashion show on Thursday, titled “Late Registration.”

Other designers like Sore Thumb streetwear, Earth Curse Disco and MurMade Swimwear sent spring styles down the runway at the U’s Library Plaza. Student vendors were also scattered around the plaza selling fashion items and accessories. 

Owner and designer of Balmont Ave, Laurbong Gai, or LB as he’s known to his peers, is a third-year student at the U studying strategic communications. Gai is the son of political refugees from South Sudan who relocated to Salt Lake City, where they lived in Section 8 housing on Belmont Avenue in Salt Lake City.

“That’s where I saw them strive to achieve the American dream,” he said. “[Balmont Ave.] is their homage, and my narrative through clothes.” Balmont Ave. defines itself as “elegant and evolving streetwear.”

Gai got his start reselling Supreme and Bape streetwear before deciding to build his own brand in the summer of 2021. One of his business professors and current Director of Operations at Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute Kathy G. Hajeb encouraged and helped him get his current space at Lassonde.

Balmont Ave’s spring collection “deals with being a first-generation student, having the pressure to succeed and not be a failure,” Gai said. “Of having to hold your parents up and not know how to navigate the collegiate scene.”

“Late Registration,” the name of the show put on this past Thursday and a reference to rapper Ye (formerly Kanye) West’s sophomore record, has many inspirations. Gai said he wanted to capture the essence of Howard University’s Homecoming and famous Yard Fest Concert at the Late Registration Fashion Show. Yard Fest is an event held by the Washington D.C. college that celebrates students and alumni with live music, student vendors and local food. 

Balmont Ave reached out to Fashion In Business to help set up “Late Registration.”

Justine Nguyen, chief executive officer of FIB said, “We enjoy putting on all fashion events, especially since the U doesn’t have a fashion degree or fashion program.” 

Gai tried out studying business and psychology at the U before settling into strategic communications. “Business marketing is more analytical, from a communications scope marketing is more front-of-house marketing,” he said.

Gai described his attempt at business saying, “It was boring, I was learning everything I had already put into practice with Balmont Ave.” He added that FIB has been an important asset in taking care of the logistics of student fashion shows and advocating for students in fashion. 

Making Space for Fashion at the U

FIB and its six-person board aim to create a space for students who are interested in fashion to gather regardless of their major. FIB is open to all students, not purely restricted to business students. FIB puts on events ranging from viewing parties, sustainability events and opportunities for entrepreneurial and creative development. 

Nguyen said many members are interested in starting a fashion business but since they’re out of the business school, opportunities are limited. Since there’s no College of Fashion at the U, many students don’t have direct access from the U to an internship or job in fashion. FIB works to create professional skills and opportunities through business for any students interested in fashion.

Nguyen praised Salt Lake Community College’s fashion degree program as “more fleshed out,” and that FIB often receives requests from students studying fashion at SLCC to participate in their fashion shows. 

Erin Martin, a third-year strategic communications student at the U, transferred from SLCC’s fashion merchandising program. “[The U doesn’t] have any fashion-related majors, I had more exposure at SLCC in fashion and that’s how I got my first internship,” she said. 

“I changed my major just so I could get a four-year degree,” she said. “Strategic communications was never the plan but I’m making it work.”

Nguyen said, “The point of the fashion shows is to show the U how big the fashion community is.” She added that FIB’s more immediate goal is to create a sustainable fashion certificate which could be an opportunity to integrate both business and sustainability schools at the U for a fashion-specific qualification for students.

“I know there’s a lot more bureaucracy when it comes to like creating an entire school but I feel like a certificate would at least be a good start,” Nguyen said.

Martin believes that building a fashion community and making it more accessible begins with events like fashion shows and keeping vendors like Off The Rack and their events on campus. 

The COVID-19 pandemic created a surge in the fashion industry of people buying online and recycling clothes, but the growing awareness of the dangers of fast fashion have shifted both designer and consumer mindsets on where they get their clothing. 

“Sustainable fashion, that’s a thing our club is really passionate about,” Nguyen said. “Making sure our members are conscious consumers and know about the cycle of fashion and how it produces so much waste.” 

“We don’t need to continue to buy new clothes,” Martin said. “We’re able to recycle it and reinvent it. We’re eliminating the waste and it’s cost-effective to take something you have and fix it up.” 


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