X-treme fashion, X-treme time commitment

“Lunar Gala is the opportunity to celebrate cultural awareness, creativity through expression, and appreciation for fashion and design,” said junior design major Natisha Kang, Lunar Gala’s 2006 design coordinator.

Ten years ago, Lunar Gala began as an event to celebrate the lunar new year. It is a fashion show that features the innovative designs of both Carnegie Mellon University students and local boutiques, as modeled by Carnegie Mellon students.

Every year the Lunar Gala committee, which is led by two producers, strives to choose a flexible theme that can be interpreted by the various designers. This year, the committee chose the theme “X” in honor of Lunar Gala’s 10-year anniversary. Co-producer David Kim, a senior ECE and business double major, said, “We wanted the ‘X’ to represent ‘eXtreme,’ or any words with the same idea, such as ‘eXpression.’”

In mid-October, nearly 20 designers submitted their portfolios to be evaluated by the committee. Each portfolio contained eight to ten designs for both guys and girls. Kim said, “The committee was looking for a designer or pair of designers who knew exactly what materials they would be using and knew how to directly replicate their sketches.” With this criterion as the basis, the interview process helped narrow down the nearly 20 applicants to 10.

Katie Rodgers, a sophomore industrial design major, was one of the 10 chosen. Her theme is “eXtreme Compost” and features designs integrating both fabric and everyday materials, such as newspaper. “I’ve always wanted to [create] things out of random things laying around,” Rodgers said.

While Lunar Gala encourages these sorts of creative ideas, there is a limit to the flexibility: time and money. Certain materials would take too much time to obtain, and the costs of these materials come directly out of the designers’ pockets. Kim mentioned that a few of the designers receive SURG funding.
In mid-November, the designers met with 30 to 40 models in order to see them walk down the mock runway. The designers listed their top three choices for models per design, and it was the committee’s job to distribute the models to all the designers. Rodgers said, “I picked certain models for certain outfits that I knew they would look good in.” As soon as all the different designer–model sections were decided, the real work began.

The designers had all of winter break to collect materials and create the designs. “Anything past winter break was just tweaking and fitting,” Kim said.

Along with designing and creating the actual clothes, the designers must have an idea of how they want the models to move across the runway. They are able to choose their own music and receive help with choreography and positioning from the backstage coordinators, senior Hannah Kim and junior Katy Lin. Rodgers chose “Kiss Kiss” by Tarkan, which is a Turkish song with a simple beat. “I just chose a simple choreography because I think the show is more about the clothes,” Rodgers said.

A designer partnership, first-year Gavin Stewart and sophomore Joannie Wu, chose industrial music to go with their Slavic-, wartime-, ’20s-, and cyber-themed collection. “I like that the song starts out slow but really begins to pick up as the section progresses,” said Stewart.

After winter break, the Lunar Gala committee met twice a week; the week before the show, they will meet every day in order to run through each of the designer’s sections and fine-tune any choreography and poses. For each designer, practice lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes. “Fitting and adjusting take the most time,” Rodgers said.

There is a reason why the designers are given five months to prepare for the show — every last second is needed. Outside of practice, designers continue to work on their pieces. They meet with their partners and their models to alter and enhance. Rodgers said, “[It] consumes a lot of my out-of-class time.” Stewart agreed, “My partner and I met twice a week and often spent entire weekends working on our designs.”
While being a huge time commitment, designing for Lunar Gala has also served as an extensive learning experience. “I’ve learned a lot about sewing, pattern making, and fitting,” Stewart said. “I plan on designing next year, so this has really acted as preparation for me.”

Professionally, Stewart is looking into industrial design with an interest in shoe design, and views Lunar Gala as a big step in first-hand design experience. Similarly, Rodgers said, “Since I’m an industrial design major, it will look really good on my résumé and in my portfolio.”

What makes the burden of costs so bearable for the designers, Kim believes, is that the designers get to keep each piece they create for their portfolios. Also, according to Public Relations Chair Winnifred Tse, the designers have the option of showcasing their work at The Frame, an art and music venue on Margaret Morrison Street.

“The most exciting thing about being a designer is getting to make your own designs come to life and showing them off to the school,” said Rodgers. “Also, it’s a way to get involved with a school activity.”

“It’s just a good time all around,” said Stewart.

Kang said, “The most rewarding part of the show is when the hard work of almost 100 people from all over campus and from such diverse backgrounds, comes together to produce a show that is unique to Carnegie Mellon.”

Lunar Gala is this Saturday at 8 pm in Rangos Hall. Tickets can be purchased at the Lunar Gala table or at the UC Info Desk. Tickets are $12 each and include food, the show, and entrance to the afterparty.