RPI may have had some rather nasty weather on Saturday, February 21, but those who braved it to get to the McNeil Room at around 7:30 pm were rewarded with a very enjoyable evening. The Black Student Alliance hosted its annual fashion show this weekend, which is the main event in their celebration of Black History Month.
The director of the show and co-director, Sabrina Duongtran ’16 and Ricardo Johnson ’17 respectively, opened the show and Johnson highlighted the show’s part in the BSA’s mission to promote a positive presence of African Americans on campus. The show kicked off with a video of one of the models smiling, dancing, and generally being goofy, while looking directly into the camera. It was a quirky and rather charming way to begin. This was followed by the first of five lines to be showcased that evening. The first collection consisted of sleek black pieces with a lot of sky high heels and bold red lips. There were dresses, black pants paired with tank tops and tops with flirty cut-aways. Though the cuts varied, the outfits shared the characteristics of being simple, but with a sexy sophistication. Overall, the mood of the section was like a slightly edgier version of the classic little black dress. The models added their own little flairs at the end of the catwalk, and they should be commended for making these subtly provocative but not too much.
There was a slight wait between this section and the next. This was a downside of the show for me, and there was a significant wait between all sections that could have been filled with some short performances or something other than the music that had been playing for the last section. After the wait, a collection by Mario and Lee was displayed. It had a very sporty feel. Almost all the clothes were black and white and there was a lot of play with texture and prints. There were hoodies and puffed out velvet sleeves, and leather pants in the ensemble. There was one pop of color in this section; a pink velvet top with blue paisley print tights that made its appearance right as the music changed with quite a nice effect. The highlight of this collection was a lovely paisley print black and white dress with cut outs in the side and back. This was modeled beautifully by the director, Duongtran, who—in my opinion—stole the show with her professional looking strut. In a short chat after the show, designer Lionel Nichols (Lee) explained that he had been trying to express “art without color,” which is why all the clothes were black and white. He also shared that that some of the clothes meant to be displayed had been forgotten in the packing between this show and another that he had showed at last week. As a result, they had ended up styling some clothes they had designed for guys for the female models. As far as I was concerned, they certainly pulled this off well.
The next section, in stark contrast with what preceded it, featured bold, fun colors. It began with an outfit consisting of a colorful top and red leather pants and continued in that vein with lots of reds and pinks. Designer B. Chris also included neons, such as neon yellow and orange dresses. Overall, there was a fun, playful feel to this collection. Following this was perhaps the most memorable section of the night: opening with a tribal song, Laura’s collection had a very earthy, hippy feel to it, and got more eccentric as it progressed. A wrap around traditional African skirt, a knitted poncho-like garment in mustard and orange with one sleeve, and a pair of pink boxers with a teddy bear shaped pocket purse applied onto them were only some of the pieces to leave an impression. There were eccentric accessories including a necklace with a toadstool pendant and one with what seemed to be a dart. There was about an equal amount of high heels and bare feet sported by the models in this section. It should be said that the models did a very good job in this section. Apart from carrying off some very eccentric looks with grace, they added their own little touches and flair to this section, including a little shake at the end of the catwalk that was a crowd favorite. A particular model should be appreciated for a very smooth recovery from a little stumble at the end of the catwalk. This designer was certainly a favorite among the models, Ariel Effotte ’15 said that she really liked Laura’s collection and “felt very comfortable in those clothes.” Brianna Blessitt ’17, said this was her favorite section, and that she enjoyed the “very tribal, ethnic feel.” She also shared that the collection “is from a very fun, impromptu designer. She could see something lying around and just make clothes out of it if she likes it.”
Next up was a very urban, provocative collection that played with all kinds of cuts and silhouettes. This section also featured some interesting accessories, most remarkable of which was what seemed to be a paddle carried by one of the male models. Some of the more provocative pieces included a lovely sheer, black, and gold dress, a dress with a trailing black chiffon train, and a basically see through black chiffon top. Unless I am mistaken, I believe I heard a jaw or two drop in the audience behind me. It had quite the effect, which, I believe, was well carried off.
The final collection, by Christina Walthall had a very dreamlike, fantasy character. The music was slow and dreamy and the clothes were very flowy. It was a rather eclectic section with chiffon, silks, velvet, and many white flowing dresses with accessories like parasols and long, elegant gloves which lent to the dreamy feel.
For the finale, the models walked down the catwalk in pairs. They did a great job throughout the show and especially at the end, adding their own touches and flair to the entire event and delivering a great show. It concluded with a candid video compilation of the models practicing and messing around, having fun during rehearsals. A lot certainly went into the event. In a short chat after the show, Duongtran, the director, said that work on the show and practicing by the models had been going on since last November. She also revealed the inspiration for the show’s theme “Identify.” One of the models last year was uncomfortable with the outfit assigned to her. This year, Duongtran tried to make sure that the models got their choice in what they wore. She believes that fashion should really be a way to express and own who you are. Effotte certainly appreciated this, saying “I really liked that section where they just let the models do their thing.” It was also clearly a fulfilling experience for the models. Effotte, who has participated in the show in all of her four years at RPI, and was the director last year, said that she has “seen girls grow doing this show.” Blessitt also commented on how wonderful a feeling it was to feel like she was part of “creating something with the models and designers.” While I liked the idea behind the show’s theme, I wish they had emphasized and talked about it more.
Overall, I enjoyed the show, and I, for one, believe fashion events are definitely refreshing and welcome at RPI. I’m looking forward to next year’s show.