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Groups dress in top, local fashion to help

Shanika Gunaratna

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The students were prepped to walk like professional runway models: hands back, shoulders up, no smiles, all strut. As they walked down the runway, they showed off Northwestern’s multiculturalism.

NU’s numerous multicultural groups came together for the first UNITY Fashion Show on Jan. 18, just three days before the university’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

“Our goal here is to unite the campus,” said McCormick junior Howard Lee, vice president of the Korean American Student Association and one of the 14 group leaders who put the show together.

The culturally unifying event was co-sponsored by the African Student Association, Chinese Students Association, Korean American Students Association, Kappa Phi Lambda, Muslim-cultural Students Association, Lambda Phi Epsilon, Omega Delta Phi and Thai Club.

Tickets were sold for $5 each and donations were accepted. All proceeds from the show, which was attended by more than 200 people, will go to the International Humanity Foundation, which is a grassroots volunteer organization that runs orphanages and schools in Kenya, Thailand and Indonesia.

The pupils of these schools “come from the poorest of the poor,” foundation volunteer Nylie Afuyog said.

Karen Attiah, president of ASA and an event co-chair, said UNITY decided to give to the foundation because it serves more than one corner of the world.

“It was a truly multicultural, multicontinental group,” Attiah said.

The event’s organizers also chose the foundation because of its unique appeal and because it is still in its beginning stages. In addition, the foundation is an all-volunteer organization, meaning that all donations go toward operation rather than administrative costs.

The show featured mostly first-time models, although a few had runway experience from past student-run fashion shows.

“We tried to get a very diverse group of people because that’s the whole point of (the show),” said Communication sophomore Jane Oh, a member of KASA and an event co-chairwoman.

Weinberg freshman Dana Nickson said she appreciated the show’s diversity.

“It wasn’t the stereotypical American view of how models should look,” Nickson said.

On Friday, the Louis Room in Norris University Center was transformed into a full-blown, high-fashion venue. Flashing lights were emitted not only from moving spotlights, but also from the cameras of friends in the audience. The event also had some celebrity appeal, with reality star 20 Pack of VH1’s “I Love New York 2” fame attending as emcee.

“I’m actually here because I’m part Korean,” joked 20 Pack, while on stage.

The show had a worldly, urban feel. Models walked to the remixed sounds of T-Pain, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Frou Frou and Rihanna, as well as to traditional world music. Diverse NU dance groups – NAYO Dance Ensemble, Graffiti Dancers, Deeva Dance Troupe and Tonik Tap – performed while models transitioned between designers.

The show featured styles from well-known Chicago and New York designers, as well as local Evanston boutiques. Labels included Belmont Army, Lavanya Badrinath, Untitled, Francesca’s Collections, The Things We Love and Andrea Vangna. In a segment called “Fashion Around The World,” ethnic prints were made fresh with modern forms and revealing cuts.

Nikki Okrah, a Weinberg freshman and member of ASA, said she attended the show to support her friends who were involved, as well as “the idea of ‘unity.’ “

“It was good to support people and a good cause at the same time,” she said.

Reach Shanika Gunaratna at s.gunaratna@u.northwestern.edu

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