SPIRIT Fashion Show goes beneath the fabric
Saturday night saw Rangos Hall in the University Center transformed from a dull and unassuming space into an electrifying celebration of culture, beauty, fashion, and art thanks to the 2014 SPIRIT Fashion Show. Going beyond the typical fashion show format to combine all forms of performance, the show was more than a showcase of clothing, but rather a statement on numerous social issues related to discrimination and the lingering feelings of hatred that course through the blood of America.
The theme for the 2014 SPIRIT Fashion Show was “Prima Facie,” Latin for “at a first glance,” and guided the show’s discussion of discrimination. As described in the program, “Image is powerful and complicated, and we want to show the community just how complicated it can actually be. Our show will demonstrate the power of someone’s first impression.” Indeed, the show’s four acts were divided into four sections, each dealing with a specific theme: “Sexuality” touched on the struggle for gay rights and acceptance, “Women” railed against unnatural standards of beauty and disregarding strong female behavior as “b****y”, “Black Men” dug deep into racial discrimination and violence, and “United States of America,” the first act of the show, served as an introduction to the evening by briefly mentioning all three aforementioned themes.
What sets the SPIRIT Fashion Show apart from other events, such as Lunar Gala, is the fact that its much more than simply a showcase of clothing. Throughout the night, there were numerous performances — spoken, sung, and danced — that made “Prima Facie” more of an artistic statement than a mere runway. Poems performed by junior acting major Mitchell Edwards (who also wrote a number of them himself), senior dramaturgy major Alesia Etinoff, and junior psychology major Nkem Chikwendu gave each section a narrative voice, with music and dance performances also serving to highlight the themes. Junior musical theatre major Jean Floradin’s defiant dance performance to Bon Iver’s “Lost in the Woods,” which provided the close to “Sexuality,” was especially powerful in its representation of the spirit of the night.
The fashions of “Prima Facie” kept in line with the sections in which they were placed. For example, “Human,” a collection by Sammi and Company that was included in the “Women” section, strives to “remind everyone that no matter who we are and what we wear, we should be treated and judged like humans, and not just as a trend.” Many of the collections showcased in “Black Men” were influenced by urban streetwear and, in keeping with the section’s character, some drew inspiration from figures who fought against repression. “Versus,” for example, included sweatshirts and T-shirts that bore the images of everyone from the Notorious B.I.G. to Malcolm X and Maya Angelou.
“Prima Facie” was a tremendous effort that transcended usual fashion show fare to become a statement on incredibly important issues of social justice and equality. Rather than celebrating perfection, “Prima Facie” chose to rail against it and celebrate beauty and triumph in its most true forms. And as an added bonus, the proceeds went to fund the Visionary Performing Arts Academy in downtown Pittsburgh.