“I really like the eighties a lot,” junior Lana Shahmoradian said as she finished applying another layer of eye shadow to the already deeply blackened circles around one of her models’ eyes.
p. “I wanted my clothes to be something you could see someone rocking out in,” she said, describing the line of clothing she designed for last Saturday’s student fashion show. She began drawing a set of thick, exaggerated eyebrows across the model’s forehead, then paused in consideration. “Maybe not on this planet. Maybe on a different planet.”
p. Shahmoradian, who is a biology major and art minor trying to decide between medical school and launching her own fashion line, presented her clothing to around 200 fellow students at Saturday evening’s show in the University Center Chesapeake rooms. Dozens of models — all of whom were students — took turns marching down the makeshift runway to a background of soft lighting, deafening European dance music and plenty of flashing cameras.
p. The student designer was one of six to have her work displayed. Her own line, which she titled “Heavy Metal Unicorn,” was marked by common themes of tinsel, electric blue and duct tape. Her dramatic use of makeup, she said, complements the clothing.
p. “My clothes are kind of out there and I wanted makeup to match that,” she said. “I’m trying to get the audience to think ‘half woman, half robot.’”
p. Shahmoradian, who grew up playing violin and piano, but has since switched to computer-driven electronic music, said that music played an important role in her designs. “I could probably dedicate each outfit to a song, a specific song I listened to on repeat while I was designing it.” In the programs handed out before the show, she dedicates her designs to French techno band Daft Punk and her mother.
p. If there is such a thing as polar opposites in fashion, then Shahmoradian spent Saturday’s pre-show preparations sharing a makeup table with hers. Quietly stitching away among the buzz of abstract post-modernism that defined Heavy Metal Unicorn’s models was senior Lisa D’Aromando, who was putting the finishing touches on her own line, “BellAmore.” She held pins in her mouth between hurried bites from a take-out salad from University Center Center Court as she attempted a few last-second changes to an unassumingly normal yellow dress.
p. “Clothing shows your personality,” said D’Aromando, whose prim, carefully colored designs were punctuated with bits of bright, charming jewelry.
p. “I like making clothes comfortable and still dressy,” she said, adding that she encouraged her models to have fun and even to smile — a fashion show faux pas that drew snickers from a handful of high-minded spectators. “That might not be the way they do it in New York, but I want to have fun with it,” she said.
D’Aromando’s attitude is more businesslike when it comes to her jewelry. An art student turned marketing major, she has sold her designs online, to stores around her hometown on the New Jersey coast and to her sorority sisters in Kappa Kappa Gamma.
p. D’Aromando’s sorority features prominently in her work — two of her models are sorority sisters. Much of her clothing and jewelry include the distinctive blues of the sorority’s logo. D’Aromando’s website (which features an elaborate quadruple-stranded necklace inspired by Angelina Jolie) bears the fleur-de-lis, which is also Kappa’s official symbol.
p. D’Aromando, who said she drew inspiration from the art she saw when visiting extended family in Italy, is not out to change the world with her designs. “I started making jewelry because it can dress anything up,” she said.
p. Somewhere between the casual sociability of BellAmore and the dadaistic feminism of Heavy Metal Unicorn was sophomore Max Kaplan. Meeting Kaplan is not easy, not only because he is taking classes in Washington, D.C. this semester. Between the briskly formal e-mails Kaplan fires off from his BlackBerry, the no-nonsense entourage that keeps eager fans at bay and then, of course, the adoring fans themselves (“Max is, like, really amazing,” one wide-eyed student told me in response to a totally unrelated question about when the show would be starting), one finds that Kaplan’s celebrity looms large in the College’s fashion design community.
p. Kaplan has certainly put in the work to earn the respect that was so evident at Saturday’s show. “It’s a passion,” he said. He had been working on this year’s show since he and senior Elizabeth Moore set up last spring’s fashion show — the first of its kind at the College. He and Moore were so happy with the results that they decided to form a fashion design club, which they named Cobblestone Couture, and to hold the show every spring.
p. Even from three hours away in Washington, D.C., Kaplan’s enthusiasm is unmatched. “It was tough to get everyone together last semester because of classes,” he said as he jogged across the runway to make a last-second change to the lighting before the 4 p.m. run-through. He was worried about the photos coming out overexposed. “Last year we were packed. It brings a big mix of people. We get football players, sorority girls, art students — everyone comes together,” he said as he fussed over a large lighting stand borrowed from Swem Library.
p. Kaplan, despite his looming reputation, has a slight frame and a self-effacing, eagerly polite manner. He moved the stand toward the wall, away from where the photographers would be. He reasoned that it might not make for ideal lighting, but that the photographers would be more comfortable. Satisfied, he started jogging again, this time toward the dressing room where he needed to start the run-through. “We set this up to think about clothing, design, art, pop culture — to think about all these things,” he said. He disappeared backstage, where he had been at work since 8 a.m., and did not reemerge until the end of the show, when he marched out to thunderous applause and, with one of his models in hand, leaned over to kiss his mother in the front row.
p. Kaplan relied on freshman Tage Waite and senior Megan Dorward to help run everything. During Saturday afternoon’s many run-throughs, Waite stood at the end of the runway, arms crossed, watching the models. “Dawn, slow down a little bit. Watch your walk. Remember your arms. That’s good,” she shouted across the massive hall. “You want people to focus on the clothes,” she noted, “not the model.” Once the show started, Waite went out front, managing the show’s music and helping to take tickets. She said her goal after college is to supervise professional fashion shows. “I don’t design myself, but I really like fashion,” she said.
p. Dorwood, who described herself as Kaplan’s assistant, spent the afternoon run-throughs standing backstage with a clipboard holding the model roster. “I interned with Nannette Lapore,” she told me between barking orders at the models, most of whom towered over her. She snapped her fingers at a model waiting to make a practice run and pointed to the curtains that opened into the runway. She turned back to me. “In New York.” The models waiting to go out watched Dorwood in silence.
p. “You just have to put your game face on,” sophomore Yodit Kifle said of the stresses of being a fashion model. Models spent three weeks learning how to correctly walk down the runway. (“The walk has a New York style or a Paris style. Ours is in the middle,” Moore said.) Kifle said she had been called to do fittings with her designer, junior Julia Elkin, in the middle of the night. Kifle playfully shouted at a fellow model who was doing a practice run, trying to distract her. The other model cracked a smile and Kifle laughed. She said that everything, the makeup, the walking lessons, the months of designing and planning, all come down to the turn at the end of the runway. “You have to connect as much as possible with the cameras.”