Astral

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10-07-2019
Reporting from the most explosive creative event on campus, Features writer Hannah Lowe describes the excitement and anticipation surrounding ROCKET Magazine and Students of Hip-Hop Legacy’s 3rd annual ASTRAL Fashion Show. With more designers, more musicians, more models, and more hype than ever before, ASTRAL more than lived up to its growing reputation.

It’s hard to fit all the creativity of a full fashion week into one night, but ASTRAL pulled it off. A line out the door and inspired outfits on and off the runway preceded the annual event, presented by ROCKET Magazine and Students of Hip-Hop Legacy (SoHHL). The waiting crowd stretched from the doors of ISC to Swem Library, all chatting about the evening to come and sneaking glances of models walking by the second-story windows. 

Some students, including senior Bronwynn Terrell, had been to ASTRAL before and knew what to expect. “The atmosphere [last year] was so cool,” Terrell said. “I got a unique spot under the stairs where only ROCKET staff were standing. It was a very cool vibe — everyone was so excited and I got an inside look at what was happening.” 

Other students, such as freshman Kiera Sears, were new to ASTRAL. “I’ve heard so much about it, and all my friends who have taste have been talking about it.” Sears laughed, “It wasn’t a choice to come.” Though she wasn’t sure how to prepare for the event, Sears, like many other students, dressed to the nines. “I wanted to show out but not distract.” 

Junior Julia Pratt agreed that she didn’t know what to expect, but added, “I’ve been told there are shirtless men — a flock of shirtless men!” She wasn’t to be disappointed.

AUDREY LEONARD

At nine o’clock exactly, the chattering crowd filed into ISC 3 and lined the runway on the first and second floors. Music filled the room and anticipation mounted. The volume went up and up as students speculated about what would come down the glass staircase.

Just before ten, the show began. The first designs on the runway were those of FIT student Audrey Leonard, who showed white and gold activewear sets and a knit sweater inspired by artist Cy Twombly. The trio of models danced down the runway to live music, firing up the crowd for the next collection. Later, Leonard’s “Scorpion in Amber” coat — made with melted organza and paired with lingerie — would close out the show. 

Following Leonard, a trio of VCU students, Taylor Virgil, Lama Ali, and Sarah Elsadig, sent their pieces down the runway. Their distinctive styles ranged from elegant dresses to embroidered polo shirts with illustrated jeans. The structured garments featured asymmetrical hemlines and graphic highlights, taking conventional silhouettes and warping them into unorthodox shapes. The ingenuity of the designers was matched only by the confidence of the models who wore their pieces. SoHHL alum Huey Shy gave an electric performance as the women walked by him, showing why he was chosen to return to ASTRAL after a standout performance its first year.

VCU COLLECTIVE

As the VCU student designs disappeared up the staircase, down came the menswear line from TWELVE accompanied by musical guest Babysosa. Babysosa, an 18-year-old Richmond DJ and rapper, gave an effervescent performance that contrasted with the angular lines and mugshot expressions of TWELVE’s models. The brand, returning to ASTRAL for a second year in a row, chose to spotlight the tightly-curated aesthetic of its Spring/Summer ‘19 menswear collection. This year, founder Matthew Jonathan Harewood chose to remix his runway style with different colors and textures on every model. Consistent visuals cues — boxing gloves, pictures of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, graphic text — tied it all together. “Seeing those symbols allows people to say, ‘That’s got to be TWELVE she or he is wearing,’” Harewood explained. As the menswear models circled the runway in their final lineup, Babysosa performed her Pitchfork-featured single “EVERYWHEREIGO” and Instagrammed the men as they passed.

Babysosa finished her performance dancing in the crowd, and handed off the mic to William & Mary student-musician Khaiba. Khaiba performed his songs “Moments,” “Liquor,” and “Memories” as designer Maya Cross sent her pieces down the runway. Drawn from her Luxe Nomad collection, the garments projected edgy femininity through innovative use of denim and chunky knitwear. One standout piece, a floor-length duster with fringed sleeves, was paired with an exquisitely-beaded strappy bralette and shiny trousers. It was followed by another stunner: a cloudlike gown of white fabric worn with a yarn ball choker. Cross accompanied her last model during the closing lineup, floating along with a huge smile.

JONATHANS TWELVE BOAT

The last collection, designed by collective Boyhood Society, wrapped up the night. The Boyhood creators, Arcadya, Boyvillain, and Jan, have distinctive styles that combine to form an aesthetic that is more lifestyle than brand. Aiming to “humanize fashion” rather than “materialize it” — in the words of Boyvillain — Boyhood’s “queer and genderless” designs ranged from a glamorous baby pink gown with feathers and beaded details to a light green neon top paired with a matching fanny pack and graphic eyeliner. One model sported a white jumpsuit with a lacy neckline under a translucent salmon red overcoat, looking like a twenty first century reincarnation of Ziggy Stardust. Performers Yuvi and DJ Eze closed out the show, keeping energy high. ISC 3 echoed with the shouts of the crowd as the models and designers did a final walk down the staircase and around the room. As they passed by, attendees called out the names of the student models and snapped pictures for social media.

In conversation with the designers, their passion for their craft — and their excitement for ASTRAL — shone through. For Audrey Leonard, whose activewear and art-inspired garments began the show, ASTRAL is one step towards a future in the fashion industry. “Ideally, I would like to be a designer at a mid-sized company or play a role in textile development at a women’s apparel brand,” she said. “Maybe one day I will start my own brand.”

MAYA CROSS

Maya Cross likewise looks forward to a fashion career. “I would love to create inspirational garments for celebrities and create a well-known brand and clothing line.”

For fashion rulebreakers Boyhood Society, ASTRAL was another place to share their unapologetically-deviant attitude and social justice mission. Through fashion, the Boyhood designers push boundaries and make space for queer and trans people of color in the industry. Creator Arcadya described the playfully androgynous clothes they presented: “Sexy, badass, goddess-like. Lingerie-inspired biker chick.” 

As for post-ASTRAL ambitions? Boyvillain said it best, for everyone involved — their fellow designers, ROCKET, and SoHHL. “Take over the gotdamned world.”

As for post-ASTRAL ambitions? Boyvillain said it best, for everyone involved — their fellow designers, ROCKET, and SoHHL. “Take over the gotdamned world.”

Photography by Andrew Uhrig. Originally published in ROCKET Volume IX, Issue 1. Additional photos courtesy of Boyhood Society.

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