Joanne Yun yells over a crowd of models, designers, dancers, and organizers, urging them to come together for one last pep talk. On the other side of the curtain, in the university’s Wiegand gym, an 80-foot white runway awaits, as well as some 1,000 expectant audience members. This is Lunar Gala: Venin, the 2013 incarnation of Carnegie Mellon’s annual student-produced fashion show.

As Yun gathers everyone backstage, she feels a sense of surrealism. Just three years ago, as a freshman, she auditioned for Lunar Gala as a model and didn’t make the cut. Now a senior, the English major is a model and one of the event’s three executive producers. Along with Chris Ioffreda and Alexander de Ronde, she has been working nearly nonstop during the past 10 months to prepare for this moment.

Just as Yun works as a model, the other two executive producers bring their own expertise to Lunar Gala. Ioffreda, a senior design major, created clothing lines for the event, and de Ronde, a humanities and arts senior, photographed the show for a campus fashion magazine his freshman year and now helps out with public relations.

For this year’s show, all three began a massive rebranding effort to cement the Lunar Gala culture on campus. In the months before the show, de Ronde and the PR team headed up an overhaul of the organization’s logo and mission statement, pioneered a sleek new social media presence (creating Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, and Instagram accounts), and established a polished, brand-conscious Web site (

Additionally, Ioffreda worked to ensure that this year’s show forged connections with students across disciplines by integrating new student-driven technology into the show’s design. Each clothing line is backed by custom visuals to be projected on LED screens above the runway. Behind-the-scenes video spots, filmed by CMU TV, are interspersed throughout the performance, showing audience members the full scale of the production process. And spectators can follow the proceedings through a mobile Web app.

Interestingly, many of the models, dancers, and designers plan to pursue entirely unrelated careers. “My parents think that is quite funny,” Ioffreda laughs. “They’re like, ‘Oh, so your models are scientists?’ Yes, they are! They actually are. They’re scientists and engineers and architects and English majors.”

Yun, at last having everyone’s attention behind the curtain, gives her speech, which serves as the “on” switch for energy. The show begins. There’s thumping music, billowing fog, colorful lights, and—of course—models stomping the runway in four-inch heels, showing off line after line of innovative designs, such as paper wedding dresses and wooden shoes. Cheers from the packed crowd serve as a spontaneous review. In no time, the performance, which totaled more than 130 participants, is documented in designer portfolios, local newspaper features, and nearly every contributor’s Facebook profile.
—Olivia O’Connor (A’13)

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Lunar Gala 2013: Venin bares its fangs