The Lehigh African Caribbean Culture Club and Lehigh Black Students Union partnered with the Moravian African Student Association to host a fashion show that showcased the pride and diversity of the African and Caribbean cultures.
“There hasn’t been an event that we celebrate African and Caribbean culture, so we thought, how about unite both schools since we’re five minutes apart and form an event where you show color, some dances, music, fabric, all of it,” said Freddy Coleman, co-host of the event and member of the African Caribbean Culture Club.
Members of the clubs modeled apparel created by professional designers Ginese and Lief Kultuur, as well as student designers Danelia Changeux, ’18, Vaafoulay Kanneh, ’20, and Gwladys Boukpessi, ’18. Dance performances by Project OVD, the African Renaissance Dance Team and Latin Dance helped transition between each set of models.
The models and designers had to work together to design and create the clothing. They were responsible for accurately reflecting the formal and everyday fashion of the African and Caribbean cultures. The purpose was to educate about diversity and to offer a comforting and familiar place that encouraged celebration rather than discrimination.
“It was emotional, eclectic, and for me as a black person in a predominantly white institution, it was important for me to surround myself with people who looked like me,” Kyleigh Abraham, ’20, said. “It was something I’ll never forget.”
From swimwear to traditional formal wear, vibrant colors were prominent in the designs featured. For traditional west African wear, women modeled brightly-colored strapless dresses. Some featured chiffon trains and geometric patterns. Men wore long, light-colored T-shirts and sweaters with tribal patterns and designs. The garments were made of both thicker cloth fabrics and lighter cotton and chiffon fabrics.
The swimwear was representative of Jamaica and Puerto Rico. The formal wear of the Dominican Republic and Haiti featured floral patterns, whites and reds for the women, while men modeled brown and black suits. Traditional Puerto Rican and Dominican Republic dresses had ruffles and background colors of white, red, black and blue.
For the finale, two shirtless men escorted the last model. She wore a feathered headpiece and a bedazzled hot pink bikini, which embodied the colorful culture of the Caribbean.
Students among the audience cheered for their friends and other models as they showed off their bold prints and lively colors. The announcers encouraged more noise and support for the designers, the fashion and the culture.
“Several of my friends were modeling and I wanted to see them represent their cultures and others too,” Sofia Ramirez, ’20, said. “Also to support them in the actual modeling. I loved the dance intermissions during the event. It brought a lot of energy to it.”
To further share African and Caribbean culture, traditional cuisine like samosas, mini beef empanadas, fried plantains and jerk seasoned chicken wings were served. Lehigh and Moravian College both wanted an experience for students to gain knowledge and awareness of a diverse culture.
Coleman said they’ve been planning the event since November 2016. About 50 people attended the the event, which was followed by the African formal to conclude a night of celebration.
“This is spreading our culture, sharing with people who want to be interested,” Coleman said. “So try our foods, see our videos and movies, and listen to our music. That’s all we’re about.”