Materialism should not triumph over talent

At Carnegie Mellon, the prevalence of design, in part through student fashion shows like Lunar Gala, is unique to this campus community and is highly commendable. But when this event takes a giant cultural step backwards, turning into more of a celebration of materialism than one of culture and talented student work, we question the appropriateness of its presence on our forward-thinking campus.

Lunar Gala is a widely popular fashion show and Chinese cultural celebration on campus. However, at this year’s Feb. 16 runway event, the emphasis of the show was more on the supposedly sexy exposure of both male and female models, rather than pushing the fashion design envelope.

During several sequences, female models — and not just any models, but people we all have classes with and interact with on a daily basis — became less our intellectual peers and more sexual objects. In one dance, a female model was down on her knees, seemingly subservient to the pleasure-seeking male model sitting on a chair above her. Does this sound like something we want representing Carnegie Mellon women, men, and designers? Moreover, several models sported barely-there underwear — even thongs — during the scene of Victoria’s Secret’s apparel. Besides not representing the female population of this university, the majority of whom are intelligent, working, multi-dimensional people, this hardly represents the Chinese culture, and seems like more of an excuse to be banally sexy than representative of the intended culture.

Male models were also objectified. The ideal man is not necessarily the one with the most defined abs, the spiked hair, or the outfit consisting of, well, just pants, but those are the qualities that the majority of Luna Gala designers chose to highlight. Additionally, though the show’s frequent objectification of women may at first seem primarily offensive to women, it also negatively portrays men as pigs that use women for sex and pleasure.

The objectification of the models overpowered the work of the student designers. Several collections lacked a sense of completion, and we don’t just mean by showing too much skin. While it’s fine and good to think outside the box and stray from classic fabrics, it’s not enough to just use trash bags in their place and call it a day. We want to see more intricate detailing and more attention to the qualities of the materials themselves. Maybe if the focus reverted back to more of a fashion-conscious setting than a sexually-driven one, we’d see more of the designs we know our student body is capable of. A short yellow dress framed by tulle, for example, was strong and fashion-forward — what we came to see. As we applaud the effort of the show overall, we want to see it put to good use — representing quality student work.

Carnegie Mellon students are talented — there’s no doubt about that. Many students are aware of trends in fashion — ankle boots and leggings, anyone? Therefore, to feature clothes (well, non-clothes) from Victoria’s Secret, which are less creative than any student work in the show, and offensive model behavior both in this brand’s apparel and in others’, is to devalue the work of Lunar Gala designers and the rest of the school. We hope that Lunar Gala 2009 gets back to the basics: fashion, talent, and a respectable presentation of both student designers’ work and the Chinese culture.