By: Kathy Mouacheupao
Friday, October 7, 2011 – Minneapolis, MN The Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) held the Fresh Traditions V Fashion Show (FTV) at the beautiful McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. FTV is an annual fashion show featuring all Hmong fashion designers and Asian models.
Each designer is given creative control over their collections, with one exception. Because there is little documentation as to why the unique palette of traditional Hmong fabrics were used, designers are challenged to make sense of the traditional fabrics in today’s contemporary world.
They are all required to design at least one full outfit using a combination of the 5 Hmong fabrics: black satin, black velvet, neon green chiffon, florescent pink chiffon and a royal blue satin.
As the doors opened at 6pm, the line at the entrance quickly filed out into the hallway and the room filled with excitement and curiosity for this year’s 5 featured designers. With only an hour left before the show, attendees were entertained by DJ Luchie’s music spinning in the background.
At the stroke of 7pm, the VIP audiences quickly got into their seats as the general audiences pushed their way as close to the runway as possible. Katie Ka Vang, Director of Navigate at CHAT, came from behind the curtains in a red and gold Chinese dress and a floral-feathered hairpiece that made just the right statement of high fashion for an event like FTV.
“Is everyone excited?!” Katie screamed at the audience. She received a buzzing response that confirmed a positive answer to her question. With that the fashion show began.
FTV opened with a video that set the mood of enchantment while a beautiful woman appeared and danced among weeping willow trees. Next was the introduction video from the first designer, Sai Chang featuring her collection, Essee.
“Sai’s collection, Essee, is designed for the woman who enjoys the simple things in life, but also want to look fresh, edgy and fashionable.” Influenced by both hip hop and punk rock, Sai was able to deliver the look as her models walked the runway with an upbeat, fun and fierce determination. The Essee collection was a mix of black, white and occasionally pink accents. Sai successfully executed a look that combined sporty, sexy and rebellious elements.
The next designer was Marlena Thao with the Bombshell Collection. “Marlena’s vision and concept was inspired by the 1940’s pin-up girls. She wanted to accentuate the female figure with sultry yet flattering garments.” The Bombshell Collection had a summery pastel pallete with floral prints –a sweet contrast from Essee’s bold black and white. Besides the feminine appeal, each of Marlena’s outfits offered versatility as each model walked the runway twice, showing two different looks in one – such as reversible pieces, a skirt that transformed into a hooded cape, and a mini ensemble that turned into a full-length dress.
Fresh Traditions V Fashion Show, Photos by Yeng Yang
The third designer was Dokiang Thao, the only out-of-state designer from Madison, WI with her bITTERsWEET Collection. “bITTERsWEET originates from the girl who loves tea parties and lipstick, but is a risk-taker, someone who loves to stand out and is not afraid to get her hands dirty.” Dokiang’s collection delivered a “hardcore” feeling of rawness as each model walked out with asymmetrical Mohawk hairdos carrying a large lollipop as a prop. The innocent deviance was even more emphasized by the dark black and green fabrics she used with her short and body-hugging designs.
Next was designer, Ashaley Yang with the Color Me Beautiful Collection. “The design focus is to embrace females with larger structures encompassing bright and bold colors to contrast with an edge of drama.” Ashaley is the first FT designer to design for the fuller-figured woman. She designed full-length dresses using free-flowing fabrics in daring colors that her models wore with confidence and elegance.
The final and most dramatic designer of the show was Kao Lee Thao with the Once Upon A Time Collection. Kao Lee’s line was a collection of wearable art that demonstrated her talents to go beyond the brush and canvas. Already having an established reputation as an amazing painter, Kao Lee’s collection was an extension of her imagination as she brought to life characters from Hmong folktales. Starting with a theatrical opening, her required pieice, the “Hmong Warrior”assassins an orphan boy. The Once Upon a Time collection was a dramatic ending to the entire show.
The Fresh Traditions Fashion Show’s unique format of allowing each designer their own creative team and models makes for 5 different fashion shows in one event. As the show came to a conclusion, there was a clear desire to see more. There were cameras flashing and offerings of congratulations and admiration as people eagerly approached designers and models that made their way from the backstage to join the audience after the show.
With the wide range of styles from this year’s designers, FTV left audiences with an up-lifing impression of great things to expect for the future of fashion.
Subscribe to 18XEEM’s print publication for in-depth coverage and interviews with featured designers in the next issue. To see more photos, videos and reactions to CHAT’s Fresh Traditions V Fashion Show, go to www.freshtraditionsfashion.com or visit their facebook page.
Center for Hmong Arts and Talent exists to nurture, explore and illuminate the Hmong American experience through artistic expressions.