Raising cultural consciousness on the runway and on campus

Student groups host annual fashion show

Olivia Ford fashion show

Olivia Ford models in the fourth annual International Fashion Show, put on by the International Student Association (ISA) and Fashion Corps at FDU's Metropolitan Campus. (Photos courtesy of ISA)

By Kenna Caprio

Small lights illuminated just the runway in the Fitness Center, as models strutted out in global garb to a standing room-only crowd at the fourth annual International Fashion Show in November.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” says Sandy Than, senior biology major from Yangon, Myanmar, who modeled this year. “You could hear my heartbeat before I walked out,” says Koushik-Goud Aluvala, an electrical engineering graduate student from Kollapur, India. “When I was wearing the lungi [a casual Indian garment], I got lots of screams. For a second I thought I might make modeling my career,” he jokes.

This year’s theme, “Fashion Through the Decades,” told the stories of cultures and countries from across the globe through traditional and modern clothing, and for the first time, featured dance performances.

Niska Perpignand at fashion show

Niska Perpignand on the runway at the ISA fashion show.

It takes a full year to plan the Metropolitan Campus fashion show, put on by the International Student Association (ISA) and Fashion Corps, with extra support from the Office of International Student Services.

“Different roles were assigned to eboard members. We were responsible for the volunteers, performers, models, food, music, video and more,” says Mahader Guade, a junior biology major from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and president of the ISA. “Urusha Lama [graduate student and former ISA president] and Susan Cuffee [assistant director of international student services] gave tireless support and advice. They are the backbones of our fashion show.”

Thirty-three models, 40 volunteers and 10 executive board members from both student organizations made the event possible.

Sandy Than fashion show

Sandy Than models clothing from Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). She also wore Chinese and Vietnamese outfits.

“I have a lot of respect for what Susan and the eboard did — I know what went into coordinating and planning the event — the sleepless nights. The audience only sees the final product, so I want to acknowledge what they put into it to make it happen,” says Than.

Preparation for the show is demanding — performers had three tryouts, volunteers and models attended multiple dress fittings and everyone involved came out for rehearsals and run-throughs. At the last rehearsal they ran the whole show twice. “It was really a relief to know that everyone would have enough time to change between segments,” says Gabrielle Bamberski, a senior criminal justice major from Philadelphia, Pa., and president of Fashion Corps.

Koushik Aluvala and Akshay Patel fashion show

(L to R) Koushik Aluvala and Akshay Patel sport Indian casual ware on the runway.

ISA maintains a collection of outfits, donated over the years by FDU students, and solicits the campus community for additional loaner clothing. Some students wear their own garments, but many others model borrowed pieces. Featured costumes and countries are determined by what fits each year’s crop of models. Represented this year: Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Russia, France, England, the United States, Columbia, the Philippines, Haiti and Nepal. As models walked the runway, a screen projected the name of the clothing’s country of origin.

“It’s so nice to see the models and volunteers having fun. We got a lot of good feedback from the audience; they enjoyed the show, food and performances,” says Vanessa Yong, a junior psychology student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and ISA public relations officer. She worked with models throughout the whole process—recruitment, fittings, and practices — and was backstage at the fashion show, helping them with their costumes. Yong received positive feedback from the models, too, and adds, “that is important to me, after going through the whole journey.”

Rose Polynice fashion show

Rose Polynice wears colorful garb from Nepal.

The Pri'shizen girls step team and a Haitian dancer performed, and modern and contemporary dances were featured. After the fashion show, the audience, models, volunteers, ISA and Fashion Corps members mingled and sampled diverse foods. Gourmet Dining, the food provider on campus, contributed Asian and Spanish dishes.

“Through these events people get to actually meet other people from different countries,” says Guade.

Bamberski adds, “It’s nice to spread awareness. A lot of colleges don’t have as diverse a campus.” Both ISA and Fashion Corps promote that diversity, looking to bring domestic and foreign students together at fun, informative gatherings. “We want to create cultural awareness for people, and this is a fun way to do it,” says Yong.

“At the end of the day, we are all the same, all humans,” says Aluvala. “Just because people have a different skin color or culture, that doesn’t mean they’re not your friends. Don’t be judgmental. We cannot judge a whole country or race based on one person. We need to stand for one another. Unity and diversity, that’s what I see here at FDU and the fashion show.”

Fashion show group members

Members of the International Student Association at the fourth annual fashion show.