FEBRUARY 13, 2012

Lunar Gala 2012: Blur
Students present designs in annual fashion show

By Rachel Cohen, The Tartan, February, 13, 2012

Lunar Gala 2012, Photo Credit: Jennifer ColomaElectrically engineered clothing, politically charged fashion, and biologically inspired design: These seem unlikely enough on their own, let alone incorporated into the same student-run fashion show. But all of these elements came together on Saturday night for Lunar Gala 2012: Blur, as student designers showcased a diverse array of talent and inspiration. The culmination of a full year of organizing and designing, Lunar Gala was a dazzling display of what a group of dedicated students is capable of putting together with a great deal of focus, innovation, and artistic savvy.

Behind the Scenes
A significant amount of work goes into preparing for Lunar Gala each year. An intensive, year-long process of recruitment and advertising makes the event possible, said Alexander de Ronde, the gala’s director of public relations and a junior Bachelor of Humanities and Arts student in communication design and decision science.

There is “really not any down moment” for the Lunar Gala, de Ronde said. As second-time director of public relations for the gala, de Ronde oversees a significant amount of work going into the show: designing posters, organizing the program, recruiting designers, and advertising for the event, particularly through Facebook and other social media. By the time this year’s Lunar Gala was over, the board and theme for next year’s show was already decided. Lunar Gala is, in many ways, a “continuous thing,” de Ronde said.

Designers also have a daunting workload in preparing for the show. “Blood, sweat, and tears” is how designer Rain Chan-Kalin, a fourth-year design and linguistics double major, described it. According to Chan-Kalin, designers’ work started in September, when they submitted their portfolios, and continued with sewing, fitting, and choosing models for each outfit. “Somehow it all comes together — usually in the last week,” she joked.

“It was a lot,” said designer Ibrahim Garcia-Bengochea, a fourth-year architecture student, commenting on the workload for the gala. Over winter break, Garcia-Bengochea redesigned his entire line. On top of the stress from the past few months, nerves were also running high right before the gala. “Something always goes wrong,” Garcia-Bengochea said, remembering a fiasco from last year when he lost a pair of pants. Despite the strain, however, Garcia-Bengochea was “really pumped” for the gala and its exciting air of “non-stop heart-beating.”

Optimism was a common sentiment between designers and organizers on the eve of the gala. Despite some concerns about this year’s more complicated stage setup, co-producer Ian Anthony Coleman, a senior international relations and politics major with a minor in French, was confident in his models’ abilities. “People know how to just keep going,” he said.

As co-producer, Coleman also had a heap of tasks leading up to the event, from working with Student Activities, AB Tech, and cmuTV to looking over designer applications to organizing and running rehearsals. Despite being “kind of tired,” Coleman looked forward to the event with enthusiasm. In particular, he was excited to see the audience’s reactions to the new elements in this year’s show. “The moment I know I succeeded is when the line starts forming,” he said. “The energy in the room is just unparalleled.”

Lunar Gala 2012: Blur
The energy was indeed high before the show began on Saturday night, as viewers waited in a line that wound all around the first floor of the University Center. The night got off to somewhat of a hectic start, with organizers trying to clear space for people to walk through the University Center and viewers still eagerly standing in line well after the doors opened at 7:30 p.m.

Once the audience was seated and the program began, however, the months of preparation became apparent. With its impressive runway and sophisticated lighting, the show gave off an air of professionalism. Considering the sheer volume of elements that had to come together, the show ran with very few hitches.

Student designers showcased their talents in diverse collections inspired by everything from photography to biology to Lady Gaga. Several of the clothing lines featured organic looks and muted color palettes. “Verdure,” a collection by Andreea and Silvia Manolache, a senior Bachelor of Science and Arts student and a senior business administration and math double major, respectively, started the program. The collection offered a series of graceful, soft, and effortless looks that sought to “symbolize the grandeur of nature,” according to its description on the program.

Similarly, junior communication design major Sarah Gorman’s “Aviary” incorporated natural elements in her first few looks with a more subdued palette and looser silhouettes, though moving toward more modern, fitted, colorful pieces as the collection progressed. And though not explicitly inspired by nature, Chan-Kalin’s “Oblique” had similarly organic elements, with simple shapes and a somewhat earthy color palette of reds, yellows, browns, and whites.

Beyond the mere inspiration for clothing, other collections pondered the nature of clothing itself. In her line “Transparent,” Alina Narvaez, a sophomore in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, explored the restrictions of women’s clothing and the changing forms these restrictions have taken throughout history. Moving from vintage to modern styles, Narvaez asked the audience in the written program, “Is the modern woman liberated? Or is she objectified?”

Likewise, Colleen Clifford, a first-year architecture student, examined different kinds of curvature in her collection “Raw Curves,” while Anya Weitzman, a senior Bachelor of Humanities and Arts student, showcased female-empowering pieces in “PRO.”

Senior Bachelor of Computer Science and Art student Alex Wolfe’s collection “Kitsune” directly challenged the way we wear clothes by presenting a whole new dimension to clothing: Sculptural extensions grew out of the pieces or served as eccentric headpieces. In essence, Wolfe sent wearable art down the runway. Fashion is considered in many ways a form of art, and Wolfe took this definition to a more literal interpretation of what people wear and how they wear it.

Two particularly interesting collections drew inspiration from science and engineering, in true Carnegie Mellon fashion. In “Lux” by Alanna Fusaro, a sophomore industrial design major, and John Brieger, a sophomore computer science major, the clothing was adorned with LEDs that set off blinking patterns. Junior design major Chris Ioffreda’s “Bioflux,” on the other hand, took inspiration from and incorporated visual elements from biology — such as webs and scales — into the clothing.

Scattered throughout the program were performances by several student dance groups. Between collections, Dancers’ Symposium, Soulstylz, and Jungle Royalty took the stage with fierce choreography, earning loud cheers from the audience. In this way, the organizers of the event tipped their hats to other art forms being explored on campus and added some variety to the program.

This year, many commercial boutiques also showcased their work, adding a new element to the show. Designer Days Boutique, H&M, Victoria’s Secret Pink and Calvin Klein, Urban Outfitters, Jupe and Panello, and American Apparel, among others, all presented large collections. Many of these boutiques offered discounts to students with Lunar Gala tickets to further promote their lines.

As the program closed with a series of thank-yous from the organizers and wild cheers from the audience, student reactions were very positive. “It was really good,” said senior biology major Sherry He. Senior biology and viola performance double major Megan Peaco agreed. Both were there to support their friends who had designed collections, and each began excitedly listing their favorites, generally very impressed with the show and only stipulating that they wished there had been more lighting in the aisles.

But, according to de Ronde, this enthusiastic reception should come as no surprise. After all, as de Ronde said, “People keep coming back.”