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Showing our colors in the SKIN Fashion show

By Jamie Wong

Section: Arts, Featured

March 28, 2014

Last Friday evening, you might’ve seen some students walking around dressed to the nines looking stylish on campus. They were most likely dressed up for the SKIN Fashion Show which was hosted by BAASA (Brandeis Asian American Student Association) and co-sponsored by Project Plus One and the Fashion Design Club for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. As a part of APAHM, the SKIN Fashion Show aims to celebrate successful Asian American designers and unite all people of color through a common factor: fashion. With the theme of “Seams of Color,” BAASA organized a chic event any student interested in fashion or the celebration of Asian Americans in the field should attend.
The Best Dressed Contest they hosted allowed the winner to take home a Fujifilm Instax instant camera. Like most shows, SKIN displayed a video to kick it off titled “My Style is…” This video highlighted the styles of the SKIN 2014 Models and introduced us to their handsome faces: Megi Belegu ’16, Ama Darkwa ’16, Leila May Pascual ’15, Agnes Walden ’15, Soojung-Crystal Wang ’15, Bridgett Corbin ’15, Becky Zhang ’15, Lulu Dong ’15, Weixi Shen ’16, Nicole Muther ’14, Jesse Chen ’17, Kaiwen Chen ’16, Alex Schmidt ’14, Dan Truong ’15, Rosby Kome-Mensah II ’14, Min-sung Chris Hong ’15 and Byungkwan Lee ’15 all showed off their impressive walks and Blue Steel looks.
Timeless Brand started the night off with their casual and cool line of street wear. Introduced as a brand that represents the hustle and bustle of the American Dream, the Timeless Brand describes itself as the “quintessential counter culture, a movement catered to the conscious and the dreamer; the motivated and the disenfranchised.”
Jennifer Kim ’14 then spoke about the message of APAHM and why the SKIN Fashion show is an important event for the student body to have. Through APAHM, BAASA recognizes the struggle that Asian Americans have in embracing our own skin and identity. This, for some, can be expressed through style. The SKIN Fashion show celebrates the success of Asian Americans in the fashion and beauty industry, and the theme Seams of Color purposely aims to unite people of color to share their connection between identity and style. Adding to this idea, pictures of the outfits of Asian Americans with text about these connections were put up on the walls.
The Brandeis Fashion Design Club also supported the “seams” theme with their collection filled with clean cut lines and the unconventional use of bright seams in the form of zippers, patches of fabric and unusual textures.
Taking a break from models, Project Plus One members Kathy Rivera and Nyah Macklin gave a presentation about tais. A tai is a traditional weaving made from cotton from Timor. After learning all about how tais are worn and an interactive presentation where they asked a guest to wear goatskin ankles, a gold headdress and a tai for the crowd, they explained how tais are a major source of income for Timor women. In conjunction with the theme, tais are the threads that weave together generations and districts—an example of how clothes can connect communities.
The Fashion Show took a turn toward couture with Kimono Dragons and their unique alternative designs. Their line featured unique patterns, long flowing dresses with sashes and long tails, splashes of color and unconventional patterned hoodies. It was a perfect example of modern clothing with well executed Asian flare.
A lot of the brands were ones that I, and likely most of the guests, had never heard of. But the next line with its impressive success and popularity is a perfect example of Asian American entrepreneurship. Founded by Do Won Chang and his wife Jin Sook Chang in Los Angeles, Forever 21 is one of the most loved female brands worldwide. They showed off their spring line with some of the newest trends for young women: crop tops, high waisted leggings, floral patterns, cardigans, as well as men’s shorts and more.
One of our very own alums, Grace Kim ’01, showed off her line g.KIM. It boasted a mix of contemporary and classic for the modern woman with a distinct mod style and clean cut silhouettes. Another break promoted a fundraiser for Mangok Bol, a Brandeis employee who recently left the U.S. for Sudan to search for his nieces and nephews, which features a raffle.
Enzoani gave the ballroom a formal feel with vibrant formal wear designed to bring a mix of innovation and high quality to the bridal world.
Every event has a highlight or a special guest speaker, and the SKIN Fashion show’s highlight was a guest speech by Julia Rhee. Rhee’s company, Retrofit Republic, switched the style from classic to innovative with some gems like see through striped leather pants, leather overalls, a long, skintight dress with slits on the sides and more outfits any guest could appreciate. Unlike the rest of the brands, Retrofit Republic is a fashion styling firm which has a focus on social impact. They emphasize sustainability and social responsibility; Retrofit Republic also commits itself to initiatives that benefit low-income populations, communities of color and LGBTQ people.
As the cofounder of Retrofit Republic, Julia Rhee effectively conveyed these values through the Asian American experience. She shared her story about how she grew up in an immigrant family in Washington and attended a Catholic school where she was only one of three Asian kids. She described how every time she walked through the door she felt as if she couldn’t share her culture with her peers and kept to herself as a shy kid until she opened up in college with the Asian American club there. With her best friend they started from the bottom and built up their company. Retrofit Republic began as a modest garage sale designed to help the community express themselves through their styles, and now stands as a styling firm that styles everybody (including various famous clients).
Rhee’s story has elements similar to those of many members of the Asian American community, and she ended with an important message. When we go out we’re a part of a new world where we can chase whatever dreams we have even if they’re in fashion instead of expected fields like medicine or law. But, Rhee advised, we should remember who came before us and use our opportunities to break down the barriers that hold the rest of our community back. Rhee captured the mission of the SKIN Fashion show well; APAHM aims to recognize and share both the struggles and the accomplishments of Asian Americans. We break down the barriers that the community faces in fashion and more by empowering ourselves through celebrations like the SKIN Fashion show.

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