Lunar Gala: reduce, reuse, recycle

Karma can take many forms. It can be a $50 bill on the sidewalk, a betrayal from a friend, a stranger’s unsolicited act of kindness, or even a thigh-skimming skirt constructed solely of balled-up bags from Target.

The theme for 2008’s Lunar Gala fashion show, Karma, provided the backdrop for the runway celebration of the Chinese New Year. Last fall, an executive board headed by Joshua Cummings selected 12 submissions from among Carnegie Mellon students for inclusion in Feb. 16’s lineup.

Perhaps to mount suspense before the first section’s debut, a child initiated Saturday’s performance with a classical Chinese dance, which was followed by a video sequence showcasing the whimsical and witch-like Karma emblem before the lights fell, the chatter subsided, and the stage lit up.

The first sights of the show were stunning woodsy tones prevailing in senior design major Katie Rodger’s “Terra Bonita.” This series featured dresses alive with leafy layers, sparkling accents, and a display of vivid detail that linked last season’s metallics with spring’s girlish bright colors. Each garment was feminine and intricate, and the empire waist reappeared throughout the collection.

L.A.-based retailer American Apparel sent outfits down the runway that failed to distinguish themselves from those on the mannequins that pose urbanely in the storefront windows. Variations on aerobic wear transformed the runway to a scene belonging in any corridor of a university building. There were the typical henley-under-vest and hoodie-over-T-shirt combinations and the post-disco leggings-plus-leotard getup. Finishing off the High School Musical track team’s threads were American Apparel’s outrageous silver tights.

Clothing from the South Side boutique Original Cin elicited a burst of applause for the sassy models that catwalked in jumpers and minidresses. Sporting a scarlet afro, one model dominated the runway with her audacious posing.

Throughout design major Diana Hurd’s “Tab-leux,” cutout faces crept onto the corners of hoop skirts, sweatshirts, and shirt dresses — details that reflect the title, which means “paintings” in French. The garments exquisitely invoked hip-hop’s oversized outerwear, hip-hugging denim, and silk-screened, graffiti-inspired graphics.

With remarkable precision and structural attention, architecture first-year Alexandra Legrady and second-year architecture major Katherine Chin showcased “Metal Morphosis.” Their section contained dresses made of horizontal metal strips connected by vertical wires. “Metal Morphosis” resonated with cohesiveness and saluted the Santa Monica firm of the same name, m0rphosis, committed to the architectural expression of reconstruction.

Suggestive and revealing, junior design major Angela Huang’s “Reincarnation” took pleather to sadomasochistic extremes. The segment featured an outlandish parade, complete with balloons and a steamy kiss between two models. However timely “Reincarnation” was in its representation of Valentine-colored plush fabrics and heart graphics, no amount of kissing could redeem the gaudiness rampant in this rendition of the theme.
Toward the show’s finale, the audience delighted in watching Carnegie Mellon’s less-modest members of the student body strip down to their skivvies for Victoria Secret’s section. Also using abs to his advantage was Joseph Orlando, whose urbane menswear hung from the chiseled shoulders of suavely strutting, partially clothed models.

Not every collection channeled so much sexual energy. From Pleasantville to Pittsburgh came senior Victoria Spindel’s “Just Desserts,” a walking prom catalogue of eveningwear gowns and skirts.

The show by sophomore design students Vanessa Koch and Margaret Gerhart was designed especially cleverly in conjunction with this year’s theme. Using found materials such as cardboard, paper bags, and garbage itself, “Let’s Get Trashed” conveyed playfulness rivaling British couture-maker Luella Bartley with parasols, baby-doll dresses, and paperboy outfits.

Meticulous attention to cut, form, fabric choice, and presentation characterized 2008’s Lunar Gala, an overwhelmingly current exhibition of conceptual and contemporary fashion design.