First-ever CMU queer fashion show celebrates authenticity and love
Central Michigan University's first-ever Queer Fashion Show was designed to spotlight the latest chapter of inclusivity and boldness in a celebration of love and aesthetics.
The show, titled "Every Body, Every Love: Queer Fashion Show," showcased the visual and performance art of CMU students and alumni who identify as living and creating outside of heterosexual tradition on April 19.
Grand Blanc graduate student Cecilia Alfaro, the show's producer, said she longed for the product to be a celebration of unlimited love, acceptance and individualism in its rawest form.
"We figured Mount Pleasant is such a small town and it's not very diverse and sadly it definitely projects itself as not being super inclusive," Alfaro said, explaining she wanted the venue, Art Reach of Mid Michigan, to ultimately flourish as a party for differences.
She said the show was clearly far from a traditional fashion show, with only five featured designers and the absence of an elevated runway.
Along the walls of the room, was a photography series titled "Spiritually Conflicted" by Muskegon senior Nick Sullivan, which covers his experiences with Catholicism as a gay male.
"I've never really put myself out there like that," Sullivan said. "So to be asked to showcase my photography for the first time in a more gallery-like and formalize setting was amazing. Also being with other LGBTQ artists felt so right and the perfect fit and (time) to make the jump to show my photography that way."
Sullivan said while he was confident the show would be a festivity of love, the reality surpassed his expectations.
"It's so overwhelmingly positive," he said. "It's like the whole building is about to explode because there's so many smiles and laughing and it just felt like everyone was genuinely supporting each other, which I love."
Collections ranged from one titled "Send Noods," featuring outfits directly inspired by high-quality pasta, and "D3voted," a lingerie collection with lengthy trains and serving as a more sensual retelling of the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone.
The event also featured an erotic "boylesque" show by CMU alumnus Dixon Derriere, who first entered from behind a fringe doorway curtain to Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" in a red corset with a rose stem between his teeth.
Student participants, dressed in heeled shoes and equip with rainbow-painted buckets for tips, journeyed through the room collecting compensation for the wiggling "boylesque" dancer and a featured hip hop performer.
Alfaro said the inspiration for the show originated from in-depth work on her graduate thesis on recreating the wedding and bridal industry to be more inclusive to non-binary people and a massive variety of genders and identities.
Her research and aspirations for highlighting a nonrestrictive expansion in fashion brought her to discussions with the Office of LGBTQ Services and Ian Mull, a fashion merchandising and design faculty member who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.
"I wanted to have as much knowledge before putting this together so it could come off as a fun, respected thing and not the wrong way," she said, explaining both she and Mull wanted to create something big and loud with her research.
As the master of ceremonies, Mull said "queer" existed in his childhood as a negative term and he once never thought a fashion show devoted to the demographic could ever be possible.
He said now the term has been reclaimed and now offers the means for empowerment and persistence.
"Alloy," a showcased collection Alfaro designed, was comprised of wedding pieces used to emphasize the power of metals being fused together, in a manner of existing as neither feminine nor masculine.
Illinois junior Lorenzo Aleman was a model for the conclusion and attracted applause when they snapped open a black fan showing off the word "shade" in bold, capital letters.
"The materials used in it are mesh and leather or either satin and silk and it's more free flowing," they said. "I like modeling because I get to walk and I get to make statements with the garments I use or the poses that I pose."
Aleman said while the overall fashion industry continues to expand and progress through the years, CMU is behind "not just in fashion and the queer community," but in the spheres of race, diversity and actually living inclusively, not just promoting it.
"If you say you have an inclusive (environment) for all, don't just say that," Aleman said. "Put your words where they matter and actually show it."