A fashionable finale: From the UCI runway to “Project Runway”

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“When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep and you’re never really awake.”

It’s 3 a.m. and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. I’m sitting in my living room with only “Fight Club” streaming on my laptop to keep me company. As I stitch a thin metal chain onto a shiny black miniskirt, it barely registers that it’s already Wednesday morning. Finally, Wednesday, May 27, the day I’ve been waiting for the entire school year, has arrived.

Today is UC Irvine’s Fashion Interest Group’s Spring Fashion Show. It’s been a grueling, seemingly never-ending couple of days. My Memorial Day weekend has consisted of mostly sleepless nights accompanied by the sound of a whirring sewing machine and repeated needle stabs in the fingers. In a matter of hours, I will be showing 10 of my outfits in front of hundreds of people.

By 1 p.m., the lethargy has worn off and I’m in full panic mode. I’ve compiled a list of adjustments to make on eight out of 10 of my outfits (Fix this strap! Take in the back! Add more studs!), and I pray that I can actually finish everything on time. With a friend’s help, I manage to load my clothes, loaned sewing machine (my faithful machine, Betsey, inexplicably committed suicide — “sewicide,” if you will — when a vital internal piece came loose and she spit out a terribly-timed death rattle), ironing board, iron and hair and makeup supplies into his Corolla.

When I arrive at Pacific Ballroom C in the Student Center, it only takes a few minutes for me to recreate the same post-apocalyptic craft store look that was in my living room. The next few hours are a whirlwind of last-minute model fittings and hastily styled jewelry and accessories to each model to create the look I described, half-facetiously, in the show’s program: “Inspired by my favorite fashion and music icons, I designed a collection that’s a mix of bright hues, dark glamour and louche ensembles, a line fit for Malibu Barbie if she joined a biker gang.” With the help of Tiffany Ung and Daniel Nguyen (who would showed three of his handbag creations with my line) perfecting the smoky eye and teased hairdo on all of my models, I’m ready for the show.

When the opening notes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll” blasts from the speakers, it’s time for my models to start their walk. “Louise Lao: Accessories by Daniel Nguyen” flashes onto the backdrop. At this point, I should be more exhausted and nervous as ever, but I’m ecstatic. I don’t know if it’s adrenaline, delirium from lack of sleep or an insane combination of both, but I break into a little dance that turns into hyperactive jumping when this song ends and the disc jockey puts on Does It Offend You, Yeah?’s “We Are Rockstars.”

When the 10 models are off the runway, all of us do a final walk and I wave to the crowd, blinded by the runway’s colored lights. As I literally hop off the steps going down from the runway, I thank whoever’s watching — God, Buddha, Coco Chanel — that I didn’t trip in my five-inch platforms. My part of the show is over.

In less than a month, I’ll be making my very first trip to New York City to complete the Summer Intensive Studies program in fashion design at Parsons The New School for Design, one of The New School’s campuses.

Yes, I’ll be attending class in the famous red building where Project Runway contestants compete; however, I’ve never seen a full episode of the show. For some reason, that seems to surprise people. Frankly, I’m a little scared to watch one for fear that the reality of the situation — flying across the country and spending thousands of dollars to learn about something that isn’t necessarily going to be my career of choice — will have me shaking in my studded shorts.

Until this year, fashion has not dominated my life on such a level. Balancing this bi-weekly column and designing and constructing my line for Fashion Interest Group has left me both exhausted and exhilarated, yet still confused about what I’ll want to pursue in the future. I’ll be a third-year this fall, so I still have time to decide if I will pursue journalism or apply to earn a Master’s in fashion design after graduating from UCI.

Like procrastination, indecision affects us college students, no matter what major we’re in. Whatever we decide to do in the future, it should be something we love, something that makes all of the stress and sleepless nights worth what we accomplish in the end.

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