Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass Fashion Organization’s show transforms grief into artistic expression

UMass fashion show’s ‘Through The Aura’ takes audience on a journey through the five stages of grief
Dylan Nguyễn/Daily Collegian (2023)

Former University of Massachusetts Fashion Organization President Chinyere “Chi Chi” Ogala left an indelible mark on the UMass fashion community, captivating audiences with her dynamic and chic styles she depicted at last year’s fashion show.

The show’s legacy lives on with Creative Director Darwin Our, tasked with coordinating the spring 2023 fashion show, “Through the Aura.”  On the evening of Friday, April 21, the UMass Campus Center auditorium quickly filled up with eager attendees, excited to see how the show would depict the show’s inspiration, the five stages of grief.

The first section of UMass Fashion Organization’s ‘Through The Aura’ fashion show, titled “Denial | Of Human Bondage: Captivity In Fashion,” made a bold statement with its provocative imagery of flesh and organs. The standout design was a nude-colored jumpsuit adorned with red and blue arteries, offering a striking contrast to the sensuality and glamor of the prior Old Hollywood-inspired opening look.

The beginning outfits continued to evoke the allure of the past with shawls, pastel baby doll chemises and romantic stockings paired with dainty spool heels. However, the inclusion of wedding dresses signaled a shift towards more profound themes, like commitment and tradition. As the section progressed, the incorporation of flesh-like and wound-inspired elements provided a commentary on the fragility and vulnerability of the human body, setting the stage for the deeper emotional themes explored in the later sections of the show.

In the second section of the fashion show, “Anger | Dark Victory: Subversive Beauty,” an abundance of black garments, domineering platform boots, slashed fishnet stockings, smudgy makeup and skeleton designs dominated the runway. The grunge rocker-inspired collection pays homage to the rebellious youth in the goth subculture. The youth who challenged societal norms through fashion by rejecting mass production in favor of repurposed distressed fabrics and embracing androgyny, rejecting the gender binary. It celebrates those who embrace their rage, often dismissed as “angst” or “craziness,” and find beauty in darkness and pain, reflecting the alluring and provocative kindred edge of punk rock. By contrast, the collection also featured the peace symbol prominently displayed on many of the outfits, representing a longing desire for the unattainable goal of peace.

UFO described the inspiration for their third section as a representation of “re-entering” after experiencing grief and loss during the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic. The streetwear collection, “Bargaining | Lost In Translation: Conversations In Style,” is designed to emphasize comfort and normalcy. The collection features bulky silhouettes, such as cargo pants, oversized hoodies and chunky sneakers, which embody the relaxed nature that people are seeking in contrast to the rigid rules imposed on us for the past two years.

These elements are emblematic of streetwear culture, which originated in 1990s New York hip-hop culture and Los Angeles surf-skate culture. These communities have challenged strict, formal fashion codes and encouraged people to view casual clothing as a form of genuine art, worthy of recognition alongside couture. The practicality and ease of streetwear clothing represents the shift in focus in the show from processing emotions to finding a way to move forward, much like how streetwear has influenced and evolved the fashion industry.

The UFO fashion show wowed audiences with a seamless transition between different stages of grief, showcasing a diverse range of looks that kept everyone on their toes. The fourth section, “Depression | Ordinary People: Beyond the Appearance,” was a striking contrast to the previous section, featuring professional attire with a neutral color palette, sleek pencil skirts, classic tweed skirts, rounded glasses and trench coats. One outfit that stood out was a collared black A-line dress, with a silky white tie-front bow and a beautifully pleated striped skirt that flowed elegantly with every step.

The decision to use simple and elegant workwear to depict depression was an intriguing choice, given the contrast between the sluggishness of depression and the monotony of the workplace. It also highlighted the desire for structure and routine during sadness and despair to maintain a sense of normalcy and goals. The collection served as a poignant reminder that even in times of sorrow and hardship, we can still find glamor in the mundane aspects of life.

 “Acceptance | Breaking Away: From Fantasy To Reality” was the most breathtaking and surreal display of ethereal fashion. The fifth and final section concluded the show. The models floated down the runway adorned in flowy whimsical designs, Greek goddess attire and angel wings, creating an otherworldly atmosphere that captured the essence of the theme.

The transition from the previous section, “Depression | Ordinary People: Beyond the Appearance,” was both striking and poignant, representing the journey towards acceptance and moving forward. The angel wings and slip dresses symbolized liberation and rising above challenges while the Greek Goddess ensembles conveyed strength and grace. Another standout outfit was a pair of shimmering, dark teal slacks with a matching sheer kimono and slacks and a transparent floral-designed top. The final section was a beautiful and uplifting finale to an emotionally charged show. The dreamlike clothing and imagery perfectly captured the idea of moving beyond grief and embracing a brighter future. The models radiated confidence and empowerment, with a sense of rebirth and renewal emanating from within.

The collections in UFO fashion show showcased the beauty and transformative power of fashion which left audiences captivated and inspired.

Senior computer science student Hannah Wu, a show attendee, said “it was amazing seeing how they portrayed negative experiences like depression through clothes in a way that was beautiful and honest.”

Samourra Rene can be reached at [email protected].

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