Looks that Last: UCI’s Fashion Interest Group Walks the Spring Runway

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By Elyse Joseph

Melodi Flack walks down the runway of the UCI Fashion Interest Group’s 10th Annual Spring Fashion Show. Her dress is designed by Umbro Xie, who was inspired to create a black and white theme showcasing styles from different periods in time. Flack is pretending that no one is watching, but underneath the veneer, she knows this is serious. Xie worked to design that black off-the-shoulder top and the full white tea-length skirt with silhouettes of Anubis (an Egyptian mythological figure with the head of a dog and the body of a man) on the front and back.  Flack is putting that hard work on display as she struts down the runway to the applause of the audience and the wordless electronic music in the background. She leaves the runway to walk behind the judges’ table located at its end, displaying the design to the rows of the audience at the back of the ballroom. When the next model takes her turn, Flack walks back up and off the runway.

The design she is wearing is made from repurposed materials and used garments — the requirements for this year’s show. The show’s theme this year is sustainability in fashion, and the proceeds go to Beyond the Label, a group that educates consumers on the environmental impact of their fashion purchases.

Student designer Ruth Guerrero points out that fabric is very reusable, yet, “There’s so [many] clothes that get thrown away.” Guerrero’s designs for the show featured old band T-shirts from her own closet, embellished with white lace, distinct among the gowns and dresses other designers featured. The white lace was acquired from a donation made to the Fashion Interest Group from ex-club member Christina Vencchi, who now owns an event planning company named Events by the Cea.

Guerrero has always had an interest in fashion and wants to work in fashion journalism in the future.

“I like fashion because it gives people confidence. The right shirt or a pair of shiny shoes can change the way you feel so quick,” Guerrero says.

Audience member Jim said that he liked Guerrero’s designs for their distinctly “street” style. Having attended the show for the last three years, he liked that this year’s models were “wearing fashion stuff, but in a different way.” Even as a fourth-year chemical engineering major, the relationship between the show’s sustainability theme and his own field was not lost on him.

“That was a big light bulb that came on in my head,” he said of the show’s informative approach to recycling textiles.

The show also included a performance by singer Kenai Gonzalez, three  raffles that gave away prizes such as Beyond the Label T-shirts and leather-bound planners, and an intermission performance by The  Bellydancers at UCI. The group featured dancers of various body types in matching leggings and cropped tops with hip scarves that jingled with their movements. They were all excited for the performance, as they had never performed on a runway before. The bellydancers’ performance echoed  the tasks of  fashion designers. Like fashion, bellydancing both requires and builds self-confidence.

“I think it’s also cool to get diversity in body styles down that runway,” says Lauren Lynn Manzano, the advisor for Bellydancers at UCI. Each dancer walked the runway with colorful wings, fans, or cloth blowing behind them, and at the finale, they all danced in unison before leaving the runway.

After the brief intermission, the final three of the six designers displayed their work. Then, it was time for the judges to announce the winners. The third place winner was Earlinne Fabelo, whose designs featured gowns with motifs of deep purple flowers. Lewen Sun won second place. Her designs had a playful theme, with makeup and props reminiscent of clowns. One of her designs even incorporated lights. Others included balloons as a part of the dress. The first place winner was Umbro Xie. The judges liked the timelessness of his collection and the wearable look of his styles. They were also Jim’s favorite, because they reminded him of styles featured in Paris fashion shows.

Sustainability is a topic that is incredibly relevant in the world today. Fashion, as it is today, generates excessive waste. The designers of FIG’s show  demonstrated and took steps toward a much-needed change in the fashion industry, as well as in many other industries, by repurposing old clothing in creative ways to make new designs that are both environmentally friendly and a pleasure to view and wear.

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