Last Friday, Mass Exodus, an event showcasing the work of graduating fashion design students, presented its 30th anniversary show with a powerful message on our relationship with digital media.
As the show commenced, Robert Ott, the chair of Ryerson’s School of Fashion, challenged the audience to do the unthinkable: put away their phones for 20 minutes.
“You’ve braved the cold and the wind and the snow and the traffic to get here this morning,” said Ott. “But why? Is it to snap a post for Instagram?”
“Allow the lenses of your eyes, not the lenses on your cellphone to appreciate the beautiful work that our students have done,” he continued.
Anthea Alexiou, the project co-ordinator for Mass Exodus and a third-year fashion communications student, said she wasn’t expecting everyone to put their phones away.
“There’s always that one dad that really wants the picture of their designer student.”
Much to her surprise, they did. Phones were tucked away inside purses and pockets. When the lights dimmed and the first look debuted on the runway, there may have been a select few audience members watching through their phone screens rather than their eyes.
This year’s experimental, phone-free Mass Exodus show looked nothing like any of the other big fashion shows from around the world; shows often characterized by attendees clutching their phones, zooming in and out for the perfect Insta-shot.
For millennials, an Instagram is worth a thousand words; from a coffee break to a night out, everything we do makes its way to the ‘gram. And for some, attending an exclusive event like a fashion show and sharing live pictures and videos is a result of the unspoken “If you didn’t Instagram, were you even there?” rule.
The show also aimed to encourage the audience to reflect on why they share fashion show content on social media.
“Are they posting it because they want to say they were there?” said Ott, “To advertise to an audience that if they are, they have exclusive access? That they’re front row?”
This year’s theme focused on an “unimagined” post-digital world. A team of 26 third-year fashion communication students—the unsung producers behind Mass Exodus—were tasked with bringing this fantasyscape, undefined by technology or cellphones, to life as a part of their social promotion class.
Initially, Alexiou and her peers were shocked after learning that the show would be presented and produced completely tech-free.
“Nowadays, there’s so much tech involved in literally every aspect of a show,” said Alexiou. “It’s hard to think about marketing, branding, actually running a show without using a lot of digital.”
Show invitations were hand-lettered using Times New Roman font, artwork was hand-rendered and all photos were shot on film.
Challenging the status quo and creating disruption in the fashion system, as Mass Exodus does year after year, gives students a progressive look at the industry.
“The reason why we’re teaching fashion promotion at university level is so that we can begin to question the practices of the fashion industry,” said Ott. “Fashion really needs to look forward.”
Moving ahead, Ott imagines our world will see this post-digital era—where our phones aren’t glued to our hands—take shape.
Whether that’s due to artists and creatives pushing to work with pre-digital mediums (i.e., musicians favouring LPs over digital albums and photographers shooting on film rather than digital cameras), one thing’s for sure: social media won’t have a front-row seat to this phone-less future.
By: Melissa Oro and Harleen Sidhu
The collections presented on the runway showcased motifs of inclusivity, innovation and cultural diversity.
From a mother-daughter evening wear set to pieces inspired by a Singaporean cloud forest, here are some of the stand-out designers at this year’s show.
‘KIXBOT’ by Naomi Dojo Soeandy
KIXBOT amped up the cute factor when mother-and-daughter models in coordinating evening wear graced the runway. Naomi Dojo Soeandy, the designer behind this collection, was inspired by a photo of her mother and sister. “I loved the whole idea of connecting the mother and child and really bringing back the whole relationship aspect,” said Soeandy.
Her mother brought her into fashion design and because Mass Exodus would be her last hurrah in fashion school, Soeandy wanted to create a collection dedicated to her.
While other designers walked five looks down the runway, Soeandy pushed the limits and created twice the amount – five for “mom” and five for the “daughter.”
“Children’s clothing is supposed to be easier but I find that it’s more complicated than womenswear,” said Soeandy. “Especially with children’s clothing, I have to keep in mind that they have to look like kids but, at the same time, I want to get that balance between women’s clothing and children’s clothing.”
‘Cloud Forest’ by Jacqueline Au
Cloud Forest is a Fall/Winter 2018 collection inspired by the Cloud Forest conservatory in Singapore. Jacqueline Au translated the cluttered thoughts resulting from the development of a society of forward-thinkers through various elements in her collection. This concept was communicated through the cool-toned colour palette, asymmetrical silhouettes, and the unique structure of the individual pieces.
Each look worked together through this common theme and shared elements such as oversized sleeves, puffer scarves, and navy tones.
When asked to comment on how she came up with these concepts and fashion in tandem, Au said, “Sometimes I do both tasks together because my mind and design decisions are always jumping around.”
‘Avrgbbs’ by Julia Payton and Michal Perelmuter
Fashion communication student Julia Payton and fashion design student Michal Perelmuter collaborated on this playful finale to their undergraduate careers.
‘Avrgbbs’ (Average Babies) showcased a unique display of garments heavily inspired by childhood experiences.
Together, the duo created a collection meant to invoke a sense of nostalgia.
“We wanted to go through our childhood drawings and see if we could find something that inspired us from that,” said Payton. “As we’re going through our drawings, we noticed that there were all of these similarities [we shared] despite having really different experiences growing up.”
The collection showcased stunning avant-garde pieces featuring colours from a Crayola box – summertime yellows, pinks and blues.
‘City Drift Queens’ by Jessica To
Jessica To’s collection ‘City Drift Queens’ proves a Canadian tuxedo with a pop-culture spin is the coolest getup in town. Hand-painted with flames and checkered prints, To’s collection of denim jackets and pants, including a skirt and pair of cut-off shorts, is inspired by the blockbuster street racing film Fast and Furious, as well as the popular manga and anime Initial D.
“All my fashion ideas are based off things that I like,” says To. “I really like car culture and street racing culture.”
The collection also features fun purple and blue duochrome crop tops and denim garments with motocross patterns and race car number accents. Every piece, from bottoms to outerwear, range in colour from bright yellows to blazing oranges.
Her collection can be easily mixed and matched. Her flame-laden jeans for example, not only pair perfectly with the rest of her street racing-inspired garments, but can also be worn with casual tops everyone already has in their closet, she says.
By: Melissa Oro, Harleen Sidhu, Janine Tascioglu, Caterina Amaral