CMU shows its fashionable side at Lunar Gala

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Carnegie Mellon University is not known for its fashion curriculum. The school doesn't even have one.

But Saturday, CMU will showcase its style with a runway event — the 17th annual Lunar Gala Fashion Show — featuring exciting student designers.

“I think the fact that our school is not known for its fashion is what makes this event that much more interesting,” says Christopher Ioffreda, one of three producers along with Alexander de Ronde and Joanne Yun. “It also gives student designers an opportunity to showcase some of their skills that are not part of their major.”

The producers are part of the elected student board of Lunar Gala, a student-run organization at the Oakland school devoted to promoting fashion, talent and innovation throughout the campus community.

Each February, Lunar Gala produces a fashion show that showcases students' work in fashion, dance and modeling. The show brings together the talent of the school's student designers, programmers, artists and technicians, to create an event that is an example of the innovative and interdisciplinary teamwork at the university.

The show started as an event to recognize Chinese New Year, but has since evolved. There is still a connection to those beginnings in that this year's theme is Venin, for the year of the snake. It is the French word for venom.

“Through the show, we use the concept of a snake and venom as a catalyst to transition from our light lines to our darker lines,” Ioffreda says.

Each designer comes with a different viewpoint, but, in the end, it all fits into the theme of the show, de Ronde says.

It's the largest student-run event on campus with at least 1,000 attendees expected like in past years.

“We really want to take it to the next level, de Ronde says. “And we want to add some really cool details to the show, and make it more of an experience and not only a fashion show.”

For this year, there will be a mobile web app ( to stream live updates and photos of the outfits as models walk the runway.

A team of visual artists has been working for months to create each scene.

“We want a show that goes above expectations of college fashion shows,” Ioffreda says. “It takes a lot of dedicated people to put on a show like this, and it is all student-run.”

Stores that will showcase their clothing and accessories include Kate Spade in Ross Park Mall, The Pussycat in Squirrel Hill, Panello in Lawrenceville, Jupe and Decade from the South Side and Modcloth.

“It has been so much fun to be part of this event,” says de Ronde, whose double major includes communication design and decision science. “Every year, we want it to continue to grow.”

Ioffreda enjoys seeing designers with majors such as engineering, architecture and political science incorporate details from those disciplines into a piece of clothing.

“This school has so much to offer in terms of thinking outside the box,” says Ioffreda, who is majoring in industrial design.

Student designers are chosen based on a rigorous portfolio application and interview process. They work both alone and in teams and represent a broad array of backgrounds and majors from architecture to engineering and creative writing to industrial design. The designers pay for their materials, although some find ways to acquire grants to fund a project they are working on for their specific major.

Alex Wolfe of New Jersey, who graduated in December with a double major in computer science and art, created a collection called “Valiant.” It was inspired by modern armor, such as a fencing jacket.

“I love to do something like this that is so creative and is done just to do it and not for any specific class project,” she says. “Being a designer and part of this show is fun, because I get to meet so many students I may not have met otherwise.”

Architecture student Colleen Clifford from Massachusetts has incorporated what she calls “cohesion through shapes,” in her clothing line.

“I believe architecture and fashion overlap,” she says. “It's a way for me to design a piece of clothing with lots of details and create certain angles and shapes that I have learned through architecture.”

Design coordinator Alanna Fusaro, a junior industrial design major from Reading, has spent months working with designers to help them get ready for the show. She also created a line for the event.

“My pieces are from my winter collection made with velvet and leather and are Italian-inspired from my experience studying abroad,” she says. “It is so much fun to be a part of this show because everyone brings a different perspective. We all learn from each other.”

The school's Joint Funding Committee gives $20,000 to fund the show, money that is repaid from ticket sales. Any additional money made is earmarked for next year's show.

Chosen by audition, student dancers choreograph and perform original pieces during the show. This year's dance troupes include soulstylz and DS company.

There were 200 students who attended modeling auditions where 60 were selected — 40 women and 20 men who will walk the 80-foot runway.

“I told the models I want them to walk with confidence,” says Yun, a technical writing major. “We want them to have fun, too, and to enjoy the night. We want this to be more than a fashion show. We want it to be a performance. We want to make it entertaining for the audience.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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