Annual Lunar Gala shows CMU students' fashionable side

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, 5:54 p.m.

The clock strikes midnight as models finish their walk on the runway.

They've been practicing their struts since October at University Center in Rangos Hall at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland.

The students will be wearing clothing designed by their peers, most of whom are not studying fashion. They are focusing on other curriculums, such as engineering, computer science and robotics.

But for a short time, they create apparel for the annual Lunar Gala on Feb. 15. It's a fashion show that draws 1,200 spectators. This annual event is a collaboration of student producers, designers, models and dancers, brought together to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Lunar Gala produces a showcase for the students' work in fashion, dance and modeling. The show brings together designers, programmers, artists and technicians.

This year's theme is Hypnose. It will incorporate kaleidoscopic videos, a Red Bull unusual materials competition and wearable technology.

Organizers invite attendees to become lost in the fluctuation between simplicity and intricacy, clarity and ambiguity.

The show will feature 18 student-designer collections combined with dancers and live entertainment.

One of those collections is Errorz, created by Aya Demler of New York City, who is studying human computer interaction, and Rick Shanor, a mechanical engineering and robotics student from Atlanta.

“I feel honored and proud to have our designs in the show and hope the people who see them will like them,” says Demler, who was a model in the show her freshman year. “It's a chance for us to do something outside of school and a chance to be creative through our fashion designs.”

This is Shanor's first time working on Lunar Gala.

“What is fun about this show is it is completely different from anything we do in class, so we invite everyone to come out and see it,” he says.

The two will feature nine designs worn by five male and four female models.

“We had a lot of errors along the way, lots of trial and error in creating the collection, so the name fits perfectly,” Demler says. “We did a lot of experimenting with our collection.”

The two juniors chose materials such as acrylics, plastics and LED lighting, including a heart design that appears to beat on the model's chest like the real thing.

Helping students during the creation process is the job of fellow designer Rachel Ciavarella, a junior from northern New Jersey, who is also design coordinator for the event. The industrial-design major created Spectral Discord, which uses black-and-white with other colorful patterns.

For the event, 40 designers applied, beginning with a portfolio, followed by interviews to decide on whose designs will make the cut.

Ciavarella assisted with everything from the concept of what designers wanted to create to the actual sewing.

“There are a lot of creative designs in this show,” Ciavarella says. “Most of the designers are self-taught, and participating in Lunar Gala might be a once-in-a-lifetime event for them. The entire evening is a unique experience. You won't get to see anything else like this anywhere else. It's a wonderful combination of fashion, dancing and art. It also showcases a diverse group of individuals.”

Senior industrial-design major Alanna Fusaro, from Reading, is co-executive producer of the event with CeeCee Chang, a senior biology and psychology major from Chicago.

“This is such a great organization,” Fusarao says. “It's a wonderful community of individuals, and it is so exciting to see what the students come up with in their designs. And they do it all outside of the course work. They really enjoy working on their collections and seeing them come to life on the models as they walk the runway.”

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

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