Beneath the fabric of 21st century fashion lies the stigma of blemished consciences, body shaming and dissimilarity — criticisms targeted by the College of William and Mary’s premier fashion show, ASTRAL. For the third year in a row, ASTRAL showcased the work of professional designers alongside performances by up-and-coming rappers and hip-hop artists from around the country. Together, ROCKET Magazine and the Students of Hip-Hop Legacy worked tirelessly, perfecting and curating ASTRAL — a show featuring the nonconformity of fashion and music.
Saturday night, bright lights illuminated ASTRAL’s showcase of diversity. Down the makeshift catwalk paraded models of different shapes, sexualities and ethnicities — characteristics that have been praised for their intersectionality during the College’s celebration of 100 years of women.
“There are a lot of different body types, heights, races in the show,” model and vogue dancer Kyoko Minamino ’22 said. “Everyone is beautiful; it’s so interesting to see the diversity the show offers. We are here, breaking through the traditional ‘this is what beauty is’ and the standard of it all.”
According to models and crew alike, morale bore more importance in ASTRAL’s model casting call than a tiny waistline or a perfect set of teeth.
“[ROCKET Magazine] casted the models with a group of people who they thought would fill the confidence piece rather than the traditional look,” model Sallimata Santo ’22 said. “These are people who are ready and excited to do this, not just fit a certain mold.”
A contrast of east and west ensued as the designs of Seattle-based Boyhood Society marched alongside the melodic beats of the Historic Triangle’s rappers, Huey Shy and Yuvi. According to several attendees, the pairing of east coast hip-hop and west coast grunge was idyllic, inspiring and all the more astonishing.
Designers Audrey Leonard, Jayla Barbour, Maya Cross and Jonathans Twelveboat collaborated with ASTRAL staff to ensure their visions were translated seamlessly. While some designers offered inspiration for possible hair and makeup looks, others left it entirely up to the ASTRAL beauty crew.
ROCKET Magazine beauty editor Claire Powell ’19 has been a part of ASTRAL since the show’s debut in 2017. For Powell, her final ASTRAL show marks a bittersweet ending to her position as a part of the ROCKET Magazine team. As Powell reminisced on previous shows, features and frolic, she noted that not all that glitters is gold, and oftentimes that effortless look is, in fact, not effortless.
“You would think it would have become more streamlined over the years, but we have learned that there is only so much preparation you can do,” Powell said. “Each look takes upwards of thirty or forty minutes.”
Model Robert Rust ’19 commented on his experience initially becoming a part of the team the year prior — his own involvement highlighting some of the fashion show’s flawed precincts.
“[Last year,] I was pulled in the Wednesday before the show; some people will drop out [at the last minute], and they will have to change which models are in which groups,” Rust said. “It was really interesting clothes, pretty interesting stuff, and overall a really fun experience.”
Apart from the occasional setback, the ROCKET Magazine group has perfected the art of production, according to many of the ASTRAL models.
“I normally shy away from bright colors and bright lipsticks,” Santo said. “But I trusted that they knew what they were doing; it seems like they always know what they are doing. The [ASTRAL production team] is giving us confidence to push limits and test new boundaries.”
Once again, the models returned full circle to discuss ASTRAL’s emphasis on body positivity and inclusion. ASTRAL, the brainchild of ROCKET Magazine and SoHHL, sought out models who embodied diversity and exhumed confidence and in turn, emphasized the poise of those models. For some of those models, dipping their toes in the world of modeling for the first time was frightening, but the ASTRAL production crew tugged them into a sea of an uplifting community swarming with positivity.
“I think just looking around the room, we have a really big variety of people,” model Calvin Colbe ’20 said. “The crew did a really good job of not just having one kind of person, and that goes beyond just the work done by the ASTRAL team selecting models as well. The selecting of designers also plays part. A lot of designers will talk about body positivity, but until you actually implement it and have runway looks that are inclusive to all it won’t really show. The designers chosen by the ASTRAL team embody the philosophy of body positivity.”
Pairing morale and design, east and west and the arts of music and fashion proved successful once again at ASTRAL.