By: Richard Joseph, Gazette Staff
Centennial Hall, the stately civic building in the downtown hub, became the site of what was perhaps the most energetic — and raunchiest — fashion show of the season.
On Saturday, the Canadian Asian International Students’ Association (CAISA) held their 17th annual fashion show, Vivify. The Hall was packed to capacity, with audience members from Lexus London, American Apparel and other affiliated companies present.
The show began with a speech from the representatives of the Children’s Health Foundation, who thanked the members of CAISA for fundraising an impressive $30,000 for Brain Trauma Research for Children and Adolescents through the fashion show.
Vivify, though advertised as a fashion show, was just as much a theatrical production — equal parts play, dance and catwalk. An abstract sort of narrative element continued throughout the show, based around the three “main characters” played by Luis Espinoza, Jordan Phouttharath and Marlie Goddard. They engaged with each other through the medium of dance, with the fascinating and surreal result of intense, high-energy interactions without any speech.
From the opening scene, the performers were able to retain an impressive amount of mobility given their clothing. Far from the tame stroll up and down the catwalk you might see at fashion shows in Paris or Milan, the CAISA models, in everything from tuxedos to wedding gowns, backflipped, breakdanced and pirouetted around the stage in an unconventional and glamorous display of sartorial acrobatics.
Following the “performance” aspects, the dancers walked up to the front of the stage in classic catwalk fashion to showcase their outfits. Vivify seamlessly combined the elegance of a Parisian runway with the glitz and glamour of a Broadway production.
Diversity was the show’s greatest strength. There was a variety of different types of dance; along with the blend of classical and modern dance styles of the three main characters, Western-based student groups WOOF and Hip-Hop Western added a contemporary edge with breakdance routines. The clothing on display ranged from mainstream retail to the work of independent designers.
The entirety of the formality spectrum was on display. “Ballroom formal” was the word that came to mind during the first act, with the men in impeccably-cut suits and bold ties and the women in predominantly white, flouncy dresses. This progressed to the more daring but equally dapper semiformal look with the mismatched blazer-pants combo and dresses in floral and aztec prints. Then, casual clothing took the stage — t-shirts with unusual prints, contrast sleeves, colour blocking and knit sweaters added excitement and variety to a fairly tame concept. Even sportswear made an appearance with black jerseys and varsity jackets.
Finally, there were the show-stopping swimwear and lingerie scenes. The sound of swooning and the discontented muttering of boyfriends could be heard as several muscle-bound men strutted on stage sporting nothing but a pair of very tight swim shorts or simple black Calvin Klein boxer briefs. The enthusiasm of the crowd reached a feverish pitch when the female models took the stage, first in a series of elaborate one-piece and two-piece bikinis and then in black lace lingerie. The confidence, charm and natural stage presence of the performers, along with a series of drawn-out wolf-whistles from the crowd, made for a raucous and entertaining atmosphere.
Despite the diversity and glorious chaos of the CAISA fashion show, there was the unifying thread of the main narrative to pull it all together. The performance seemed to follow a theme of technology and modernity, the phenomena of the digital age — the dancing, though sometimes fluid and graceful, was often interestingly robotic, even mechanical, and the music was sometimes electronic with hints of dubstep. CAISA must be commended for combining so many different mediums, styles and aesthetics and still maintaining artistic cohesion.