Lunar Gala: Sonder
According to the dictionary of obscure sorrows, the word ‘sonder’ means, “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”
As such, this word was perfect not only as a theme for this year’s Lunar Gala (LG), Carnegie Mellon’s annual all-student-run fashion show, but also for my experience of watching the show. Lunar Gala every year is a spectacle of astounding dresses, phenomenal dancers, amazing visuals, great music, and production quality that rivals those of professionally run fashion shows. This year was no different: the show not only lived up to my expectations but gave rise to the sudden realization that I was surrounded by such talented peers here at Carnegie Mellon. Lunar Gala involves three main components: the fashion lines, the dances, and the overall show elements like the music and visuals.
All the fashion lines this year were amazing, but the ones that stood out to me were États, Summer’s Mourning, Alumni Line, Assimilate, and Humanesque. États, designed by social and decision sciences senior Joanne Lo and business administration senior Lynn Kim was one of the edgiest and most innovative works I saw at the show - it involved exploring various states of matter using zip tie modules. Summer’s Mourning was another line that stood out to me. In this line the narration, the music, and the clothes all came together to represent the designer, global systems and managment and fine art senior Lanre Ad’s, loss. I appreciated the Alumni Line because each of the creations were so amazing and phenomenal I heard the crowd gasp in awe as soon as the models sporting the line walked out onto the runway. Also, the line Assimilate designed by electrical and computer engineering juniors Ananya Chandra, Ranjini Narayan, and Sarika Bajaj stood out to me because it incorporated designs and patterns from India into western clothing, which coming from India but having grown up in a more western atmosphere felt extremely familiar. Lastly, I liked the line Humanesque designed by business administration and modern language junior Emily Hirao and business administration juniors AJ Jeffs and Amy Yang because of the watercolor look of their designs.
After the show, I got the opportunity to speak with one of the designers of this line, Emily Hirao. Upon asking her why she wanted to design for Lunar Gala, she said, “after looking at Lunar Gala I really enjoyed the amount of creativity that I saw and thought that it would personally push me to be more creative and to think of a different industry as a person.” In addition, I asked her about why Lunar Gala matters to the Carnegie Mellon community, to which she responded, “It helps to bring together people to show the creativity of [Carnegie Mellon]. We see different designs, for example one, [the Assimilate line] was by three different electrical and computer engineering students, and it had a lot of circuitry involved with lot of LED lights, and also involved structural integrity, as well as being very creative by using Indian garments. I think it just helps to show that we’re a multi-faceted university.”
One could clearly see this multi-faceted nature of Carnegie Mellon in the various dance performances throughout the show. There were three dance numbers sprinkled strategically throughout the show. The first one was the LG Dance: Presynaptic, the purpose of which was to introduce this year’s theme. This helped kind of settle everyone down at the start of the show and helped people get ready for the things to come. The next dance performance was by the Infra Dance company that performed after the dark and personal* Summer’s Mourning* line. I found this dance to be really well placed because it helped to change the mood after the *Summer’s Mourning* Line and cleanse our pallet for the next few lines. The last dance number was after the intermission after the Ronin Division line. It was another performance by the LG Dancers titled Silence. In this performance, the dancers performed not only on stage but also used the gym floor to create a more interactive experience.
I talked to one of the LG dancers, Molly Chou, a senior business administration and statistics double major, who also took part in Lunar Gala as a model. She said, “Dance was the best, I knew all the dancers, and one of my best friends choreographed, and it was awesome.” This was Molly’s third time dancing at Lunar Gala and second time modeling. I asked her what made here return time and time again to Lunar Gala, “LG is known to be the biggest [Carnegie Mellon] event. Someone asked me today, like one of the makeup people, they were like oh do you guys have a fashion school here and I was like no. Everyone who does this is like [computer science], bio, and design, and everyone comes together, I think it’s crazy how it’s all student run. Yeah, it is kind of insane.”
What’s more amazing is the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to make Lunar Gala a reality. Other than the models, dancers, and designers there are a lot of other students who work on Lunar Gala. There is a lot of work that goes into designing the media, the visuals, the music that is played, the PR behind the event, the programming schedule, etc. I spoke to two such individuals who work behind the scenes to make Lunar Gala what it is. Jason Chen is a senior information systems and human-computer interaction major. Upon asking him his role on the show, he responded, “I’m one of the photographers for the show. The other photographer who was hired is Andrew Lee, and we brought on another person, Brendan Lee. We do behind the scenes work, day of the shoot, we also do the catalog shots for the clothing lines themselves. We work in the studio, work with the models, to take photos — almost like product brand shots. We do a lot of model features, spotlights for designers, even producers, headshots for board members, literally anything photo related — we do it.” Another person who works behind the scenes is Alisa Le, a senior communications design major, who worked as the experience coordinator at Lunar Gala this year. I asked her what it meant to be experience coordinator, “My role was this year, I kind of did a little bit of everything, but my responsibility was to guide the overall experience of the show. I worked together with motion team, visual team as well as producers to create a coherent experience, and just like help out wherever help was needed.”
After understanding their roles better, I asked them why they thought LG mattered and why the average fashion unconscious student, aka me, should show up to Lunar Gala. Le responded by saying, “It’s just really exciting 'cause it’s a completely student run show, and from the performers and models and dancers, and people who create the show, it’s all students, and a lot of people friends, and it’s just really exciting to see something that was created by people your age and I think in general the show is just very like visually, it’s really fun to watch, and it’s just a lot of different things, and we really try to make it more than a fashion show. It’s really for artists to showcase their talents and for dancers, and for visual artists, all the visuals that the creative team creates, are a big part of the experience as well.”
If you aren’t convinced about the awesomeness of Lunar Gala yet and why you should make it a habit to attend every show while you’re here at Carnegie Mellon, let me tell you my reasons for going to the show. One was obviously so that I could write this article and show myself as a fashion connoisseur. (Also, maybe because the passes were free. Press seating is great, you don’t even have to stand in line. But don’t tell anyone that.) The main reason was to see all my amazing peers across all fields come together and work so hard to create a show that is so interdisciplinary and unique that it could only exist at Carnegie Mellon. So please, next year, remember to attend and be blown away by Lunar Gala and give your friends less shit for not hanging out with you and instead spending countless hours putting on the spectacle that is Lunar Gala.