By: Alex Theriot
Not afraid to get dirty, Sommer Singshinsuk worked her angles for one of Unwind’s photographers, while leaning on brick walls and adjacent sidewalks.
Looking up at the overcast sky heavy with the coming rain she said, “Don’t worry, I’ve worked in worse weather than this.”
I first met Sommer Singshinsuk, a senior at this university, in the backstage room of the Capitol Hill Liaison hotel after D.C. Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer’s Showcase.
The 5’9” model was on her way out of the venue when I spotted her Maryland sweatshirt from across the room.
She cheerfully agreed to answer questions about the show in a backstage interview that discussed everything from atrocious snowy weather to her fierce strut down the runway just an hour before.
Fast-forward two months with little improvement of the weather, I met Singshinsuk, dressed in an all-black ensemble adorned with her favorite BCBG Max Azria jacket, for a photo shoot at a less swanky location, South Campus Commons.
Far from the stereotypical model with only a pretty face, Singshinsuk is triple majoring in accounting, supply chain management and fashion merchandising through the Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Fierce in her passion for the fashion industry, she created the fashion merchandising major herself through the university’s Individual Studies Program, where she incorporated multiple classes from the American studies department and the business school that suited her creative side and appealed to her love of fashion.
“I just love the creativity,” she said. “That to me is the fun part, it is understanding everyone is different and it’s more of a psychology trying to understand what people want, it is amazing,” she added.
Sommer was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland, but grew up in Calvert County where her family still resides.
She says her relationship with her family inspires her love of fashion and photography. Her grandmother – who sews and created Sommer’s prom dresses from scratch – inspired her fashion sense, while her father introduced her to photography.
“My mom went to University of Maryland, and so I kind of already had a personal connection,” Singshinsuk said about her love for the university she’s called home for the past four years. “My brother goes here now and that is a lot of fun.”
Singshinsuk has modeled since the age of 12. Starting at a school of modeling in Baltimore to gain experience, she later posed for local photographers and eventually started modeling on the runway.
Singshinsuk’s professional portfolio is as diverse as she is, ranging from editorial fashions to commercial campaigns. She is a three-year veteran of D.C. Fashion Week.
“I look for talent that embodies the true essence of a professional model,” Ean Williams, the creator and executive director of D.C. Fashion Week, said. Singshinsuk modeled William’s line of clothing back in 2014.
“Sommer is a true example of what a designer looks for in a model,” he added.
Her height and her ability to keep a stern face serves her well on the runway, but her ethnic half-Thai, half-Caucasian features are what drew Hakeemah Cummings, a local designer who specializes in modest inspired fashion, to Singshinsuk.
“After our first show together, I kept in touch with her and hired her as one of [the] faces of my brand,” Cummings said. “We even traveled to NYC to collaborate on a photo shoot.”
Who models are in a photograph may not always reflect who they are in real life. Singshinsuk is no different. Beyond the smile and the pose, even she has had her fair share of adversity.
In eighth grade, Singshinsuk was taken to the hospital, where she was later diagnosed with scoliosis, a disorder that causes an abnormal curvature of the spine, according to Taber’s cyclopedic medical dictionary.
From then on, the necessity to wear a specially formed back brace for 22 hours a day, everyday, literally shaped her life until her senior year of high school.
The brace limited her from certain sports and dictated her own fashion sense, causing her to compromise style in order to keep the brace hidden. Now in her 20s, the need to wear the back brace only extends to nighttime wear. As she described, her back is now in the perfect “S” shape due to her consistency in wearing the brace.
“[Without scoliosis] I would have been 5’11”,” she laughs. “[But] it is definitely something that made me who I am today.”
Sommer Singshinsuk’s future is bright. After graduation she plans to work for Deloitte in Rosslyn, Virginia, as a risk advisory consultant.
Her ultimate dream is to become a fashion buyer for the likes of Macy’s, citing that her main goal is to remain in the retail business.
“You can always go from finance to retail, but [it is harder to] go from retail to finance,” she said.
As the senior’s college experience draws to a close, Singshinsuk expressed that her favorite times at the university included spontaneous moments such as previous Art Attack concerts and camel rides on McKeldin Mall.
As a model transforms before the lens, Singshinsuk has also transformed throughout her time as an undergraduate.
“Looking back, understanding and valuing time, money, and work ethic was one of my important [lessons],” she said.
However, Singshinsuk gave some words of advice: “Take pictures because you never know how fast college goes by.”