Heels clicked down the runway and gowns shimmered in the spotlight as student models showcased garments from various countries and cultures at the Cross Cultural Centers’ (CCC) fashion show Jan 30.
The CCC — comprised of the Multicultural Center, the Gender Equity Center and the Pride Center — hosted the second annual multicultural fashion show in Chumash Auditorium located in the Julian A. McPhee
Unlike last year, this year’s fashion show encompassed more than multicultural fashion. Queer fashion and women’s fashion were also incorporated to celebrate intersectionality.
“The multicultural fashion show and the trans fashion show used to exist as separate entities,” sociology and comparative ethnic studies junior Francisco Gaspar said. “We wanted to focus on the concept of intersectionality with our programming, so this is a way for us to get models from different backgrounds who are underrepresented to come together in one cohesive event.”
Student models walked down the runway as hosts explained the cultural significance of their outfits to the audience .
“There’s a lot of ties to culture and identity with fashion,” Gaspar, a stage manager, said. “This is a way for a lot of students to show who they are, because what they wear every day may not be a part of their cultural tradition.”
Art and design sophomore Danielle Sher walked the runway representing Israeli culture. With the 12 tribes of Israel stitched in Hebrew on her jeans, a bright yellow top, a military-style hat and a traditional Jewish Chai necklace (a symbol of life), Sher brought a modern Israeli look to the show.
“I was going back and forth between trying to find something that was traditionally Jewish, but that wasn’t really reflecting who I was or the actual modern Jewish population in Israel or the modern values,” Sher said.
While orthodox traditional styles are still abundant and present in Israel, Sher said she wanted to reflect her own personal style.
“I’m a bit nervous because I’m one person representing my entire culture. My idea of what Judaism is might not be what everyone in my culture would agree with,” Sher said. “But the point is for me to get on stage and show that I am here. I am one of the people part of Judaism, but I’m not the only one. This is not the only representation, but I am one person.”
The show’s theme “I Am Here” allowed underrepresented groups on campus to assert their presence and foster a sense of belonging on a campus that significantly lacks diversity.
Kinesiology sophomore Garrett Brisbane said the lack of diversity on campus hinders students’ knowledge of cultures unlike their own.
“I see a lot of different people just staying in their bubbles and being comfortable with people who look just like them and speak just like them and think just like them. But that’s repetitive and you don’t grow that way,” Brisbane said.
Brisbane sported a long, slitted purple skirt and a fringed crop top; he was one of the models representing queer fashion.
“Queer fashion is about doing whatever you want, not worrying about gender norms especially,” Brisbane said. “It’s about throwing gender norms out the window and doing what challenges you if you feel confined to gender roles. It’s about getting outside your comfort zone.”
Brisbane hoped the show encouraged students to learn more about people who may not share their cultural background.
“Hopefully people will become more tolerant of people who aren’t just like them. Hopefully it’ll make them curious and hungry to explore other peoples cultures, ask people questions and hang out with people of a different culture,” Brisbane said.
Industrial engineering sophomore Nora Kabbani has participated in cultural fashion shows since she was a child, but this was her first show at Cal Poly. For this show, Kabbani wore a Palestinian dress made by her grandmother who lives in Jordan.
“Continuing it on in college is a big thing for me,” Kabbani said. “I’ve been growing up doing it every year with my family, but going voluntarily on my own in college is a huge statement saying that I’m going to continue this tradition because it should never end.”
Kabbani said the dresses help her feel rooted in Palestinian culture despite a tense political climate.
“Palestine isn’t really a country anymore, but I can still feel it grounded into me,” Kabbani said. “I won’t shy away from my culture. Instead of taking the route of forgetting it, I want to bring more attention to it.”
And the dress did. The colorful patterns on Kabbani’s dress were inspired by objects in nature — trees, the moon and stars.
“[The dress] shows that we’re still present and we’re still here, and our colors are still more vibrant than ever,” Kabbani said. “We’re making a statement with what we’re wearing. We won’t be swept under the rug. We’re still here making an impact.”