The Lunar Gala (LG), Carnegie Mellon University's student-produced fashion show has become a stylish showcase of talent. Now in its 20th year, the 2016 LG producers are looking back on where the show began, and at the same time, building an even larger legacy.
This year's show, with its theme "Strain," has some 120 people involved, either behind the scenes, designing the clothes, modeling and dancing.
Sixteen design teams have created nearly 200 different looks that will be showcased to a packed Wiegand Gymnasium on Saturday, Feb. 13. Tickets tend to sell out, and this year's include a front-row VIP experience.
Richard Chou (A 2016) and Katherine Zhao (A 2017) are the designers of a line called "Polymorphism," which includes elements that have been 3-D printed.
"Each piece represents a sculptural form of data, physicalized into wearable artifacts," Chou said. "Placed once again onto human models, the line juxtaposes the invisible and the visible, the inseparable and the separable."
A line by Sasha Kerbel (DC 2016) and Madalyn Gryger (BXA 2016) called "Sanctum" explores the experience of living with mental illness. The work also serves as the basis of a BXA capstone project for Gryger.
"I've been wanting to design for Lunar Gala since I've been at CMU," Gryger said. "The experience allows me to tie together my interests in psychology and art."
The duo designed clothes that include elaborate decorations and masks at times.
"We wanted to play with the idea of creating mental and physical boundaries," Gryger said.
But it's not just about the fashion. Many of the skills transfer into other parts of the students' lives.
Jibby Ayo-Ani (DC 2016) is CMU's Student Body vice president and a resident assistant. The information systems major also is involved in Greek Life and a number of other organizations. This is Ayo-Ani's third year working with LG, first as a model and then as a modeling director before becoming a producer.
"So much of what I do translates to what I will be doing after graduation as a software developer," Ayo-Ani said. "The communication skills I have gained not only from leading over 100 people at practices each week but meeting with the board and other producers to make executive decisions around the show is invaluable experience that couldn't be replaced."
Co-producer Jessica Shen (BCSA 2016) said the experience has let her work with people outside of classes who have different backgrounds and that she understand the mindset of working in a team environment. The industrial design and computer science major was a designer in 2014, part of the creative team and a model last year. Along with being a co-producer, this year, she'll also be on the catwalk.
"It's amazing that people are willing to take so much time to work hard on something that isn't their field of study," Shen said. "I've worked with so many committed people and being able to see all these bits and pieces come together has been extremely rewarding."
Co-producer Miriam Buchwald (A 2016), an industrial design major, served as an LG lead designer for two years and created fashions lines that used materials like hot glue and rubber bands. Burchwald also served as last year's design coordinator.
"The opportunity has let me explore things that weren't assigned," she said.
"Both Katherine and I are looking to enter design-oriented fields," he said. "While our areas of study aren't necessarily involved in fashion, I believe that processes of design and production of LG are similar to that of our professions. All of the experience that we gained from Lunar Gala will contribute to our development into better designers and artists."
With it being the 20th year, the students have reached out to past LG producers. Some now work in the fashion and beauty industry.
Alex DeRonde (BHA 2013) was a producer in 2013 and part of a group that raised the bar for LG's production quality.
"I worked very closely with Chris Iofredda (A 2013), Joanne Yun (DC 2014) and Jiwon Choi (A 2013) to refresh the Lunar Gala brand," he said when interviewed as part of this year's LG magazine. "The four of us had a vision to really 'up-the-game,' and viewed Lunar Gala as a branded experience."
Now a brand strategist and design producer for aruliden in New York City, DeRonde works with brands such as Lacoste, Stella McCartney, Hugo Boss, Gucci and Alexander McQueen.
Alanna Fusaro, an industrial design major, now works as a jewelry designer for Macy's. The lessons that she learned from directing the fashion show have lingered, such as to always have a back up plan.
"It's good to know when to cut your losses and move on to the next big idea," she said.