Monday, February 13, 2012 • 12:00 AM •
I grew impatient and anxious as I watched Dorothy shrieking over the phone at Susan, “Are you SURE?!” she yelled, stomping her patent leather Micheal Kors heels in frustration. “It’s Sherbrooke West, not East. Sorry!” Susan confirmed. Dang. It was almost 9:30 PM and we were supposed to have already been backstage at the 2012 SynesthASIA fashion show, mingling with the models and trying to nab interviews with some of the designers. Instead, having misread the address, we were in another part of the city. It probably also hadn’t helped that we’d spent hours getting ready.
As we rushed to Arena nightclub I tried to ignore the hints of pain my block heeled desert boots began to cause. This would potentially be a very long night. We finally made it to the front door and the bouncer barely glanced up as we approached, “IDs Please,” he said, clearly bored out of his mind. We pass the long line of people waiting to purchase their show tickets, and enter the backstage room where some models sit and chat as others obsess over perfecting their hair and makeup.
We scan the room and try to take it all in. This year’s SynesthASIA designs are numerous and varied, ranging from fully-embellished traditional saris, to men appearing to have been pulled straight out of an episode of Man Men with their form fitting tawny suits and perfectly coiffed hair.
Founded in 2008 by four McGill University students, SynesthASIA is a Montreal based charitable organization. We come across Shazia Abji, one of its core founders, who explains to us that the foundation began as a means to showcase Asian culture through a different lens. “We started SynesthASIA as a way to address the widespread ignorance surrounding Asia”.
In order to support grassroots organizations in Asia and bridge them to ones based in Montreal, SynesthASIA began what was to become an annual fashion show featuring the work of Montreal designers. Each year all the proceeds from the event are donated to a charity of choice. This year, Right To Play, an organization that strives to improve the life of children in impoverished countries through sport and play, was selected.
Beginning our hunt for the night’s best dressed, Dorothy and I notice a girl wearing a sari that seemed to have been created precisely for her. Wearing a Camilla Boutique design, model Tomi Tade looked amazing in her sequined black and gold dress. As she struck a pose for our camera, Tade glowed in her sari, embodying all the sass and attitude an outfit like that required.
These beautiful saris are just in time for Karl Lagerfeld’s Indian-inspired line.
Our favorite collection of the night belonged to Nurin, an International Development Studies and Management student from McGill whose work displays an undeniable eye for creativity and quality design. We approached the quiet and easy-going designer and discovered that her line, titled Rumi, had been hand made over the course of a year.
Our excitement over Nurin’s line doubled when we discovered that amongst her inspirations was one of our favorite designers; haute couture Lebanese designer Elie Saab, whose signature lengthy drape dresses are hinted at in some of Nurin’s work.
Asked about the intricacies of being a designer, Nurin says that finding the balance between showcasing one’s art and personal preferences with what others will actually value can be tough. “You want to show your skills, but at the same time you have to ask yourself, is it wearable?” She is also very candid about fashion’s image centered character, “You have to know yourself – your strengths, your weaknesses and what you want to project”. On the runway Nurin’s image is evident; elegant ready to wear attire projecting simple feminine beauty.
Drinks in hand and dancing to the blaring sounds of the night’s electro-pop tunes, we watched the show as it took us on a whirlwind journey through Asia. Dumaine’s dark hobo chic attire paid tribute to the Korean War Memorial, while Moral Fibres’ procession of comfortable acid-wash hippie-like dresses are a celebration of the Sinulog, a festival celebrated in Cebu, Philippines. A cool break dancing number by Raw Kingz followed by a colourful over the top bollywood-esque routine in between hinted at the afterparty that was to come. The show ended with a return to the West through the work of four student designers.
It’s past midnight and my feet are killing me. I’m surprised I’ve made it this far without giving in to bare feet. As the last model struts her stuff off the runway, the after-party kicks off. Dorothy already begins flipping through her camera photos, reliving the night’s highlights as I desperately search for a free leather couch to sit on. While some styles did not offer overt originality, most showed promise of some good things to come given more time and experience. We partied, danced, raised money for charity and looked good doing it. SynesthASIA 2012? Check.