Last Thursday, Oct. 27, I had the pleasure of attending Contrast’s Annual Fashion Show. For those unfamiliar with Contrast, know that it is Vassar’s style and fashion magazine. The theme of this year’s show was the year 1969. This was a watershed year for Vassar’s history as it was the year that the College became co-educational. Additionally, 1969 was the time in which many revolutionary events occurred, such as the moon landing, the rise of Black feminism, Woodstock, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed Peace Hair Peace Protest. In short, 1969 was a year of events that shocked American culture and the world at large. Hence, it is no wonder why Contrast decided to celebrate such a revolutionary time.
The overall event had two components to it: the fashion show itself and a talk from a guest speaker. This year, Contrast was fortunate enough to have Ivan Bart–the president of IMG Models–come to Vassar and give a talk to open the fashion show. This was a huge deal. Bart has launched the modeling careers of some of the world’s most famous supermodels like Tyra Banks, Kate Moss, Giselle Bundchen, Joan Smalls and Gigi Hadid. Bart’s talk highlighted the importance of the liberation that accompanied the youth culture of 1969. Today’s shift in communication via social media—a revolution in its own right—has created stars out of seemingly nowhere and is important to a new wave of models that are making a splash in today’s catwalks and magazines.
Bart gave an anecdote on the rise of Vine star Cameron Dallas and how inviting him to a Calvin Klein show in Milan had the city streets flooding with fans of the 22-year-old up-and-coming fashion it-boy. The concept of the social media star, Bart explained, allows individuals to showcase their personality on top of their physical features. Some other interesting highlights of Bart’s speech involved his discussion of how IMG Models is pushing boundaries in the modeling and fashion industry by the inclusive nature in which it operates. For example, IMG has expanded to giving opportunities to plus-sized men and women, transgender people and people with disabilities. His talk ended with a video from IMG that highlighted the success of the spectrum of models that the company has led to stardom.
The most remarkable part of Bart’s talk was the life advice that he gave the crowd. He stated the importance of having vision and how despite life’s curveballs and uncertainty, it is vision that allows someone to remain true to who they are and ultimately be able to find one’s calling and happiness.
Soon after, the fashion show began. The show featured 18 looks, the first three from Vassar’s costume department. A very striking ensemble from these three costumes was Look #3, which featured an orange and rust tie-dyed dashiki dress. Some of the other looks featured included highlights of fashion from 1969, such as floral prints, power jumpsuits, stripes and wide-legged trousers. There was also a direct reference to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s protest in the form of two models each dressed up as John and Yoko holding up signs that read, “Bed Peace” and “Hair Peace,” respectively. The makeup on the models’ faces was very simple and understated, aside from the bold eyeliner details that served as a nice touch referencing the time period of 1969.
One of my favorite looks from the show was Look #6, which was a hybrid of a jumpsuit and a cape rendered in a striped fabric of teal, dark blue and white. Another eye-catching look was one that featured a lavender mini dress with eye motifs paired with bright orange leggings and black pumps. Overall, the collections gave a sense of the archetypal free-spirited nature evocative of the late ’60s mixed with urban self-confidence through statement pieces like a large faux fur coat and the overall ready-to-slay attitude embodied by the student models themselves.
Fortunately, I was able to interview one of the models, Sydney Lee ’19. When asked about her experience with Contrast she said, “This year’s experience particularly, as I was a part of this process last year, was incredibly pleasant. The [Contrast] org leaders right now are some of the sweetest people in the world and by far the most dedicated to the fashion community here at Vassar.”
I would like to end with some thoughts that I had in mind during the show, however. Though Contrast did a fantastic job in making sure that their model line-up was full of a spectrum of models, I could not help but notice the underrepresentation of Asian student models. I would also like to point out that, historically, Contrast has produced fashion shows that involved transporting their audience to a past time period. I invite Contrast to look to the future and to look to Vassar—a place where experimental fashion and style thrives— as sources of inspiration for themes to celebrate. However, the show indeed demonstrated hard work, dedication and talent from Contrast and everyone that contributed to the event.