REVIEW: Bronze Elegance Fashion Show

I’ve never been the most on top of the fashion world.  When I flipped through the pages of Vogue as a kid I could never put my finger on what made certain outfits so visually appealing. That being said, I was extremely excited to attend the Bronze Elegance annual fashion charity show this year, and see the diverse and choreographed fashion production I had heard about.

One of the things that that became instantly apparent as I walked in the door was how stylish the general crowd attending this show was. Almost all of the attendees were dressed to the nines, with several of the women standing in line with me looking like they could have just stepped off the runway themselves.  After I had a wrist band tied around my wrist, I headed to find a seat to the side of the stage, and waited for the show to begin.  They had  mounted a large screen over the stage, so that everyone could get multiple different angles and views of the models no matter where they happened to be seating.

As soon as the first model walked out onto stage, we were immediately treated to something far closer to a choreographed dance than a runway walk, where each model interacted with the other models walking behind them in some way.  This same alternative and performance-oriented direction  was carried out throughout the show, with each collection having a different type of “choreography,” or element that made it special and stand apart.  My only complaint with the first collection was that the outfits were not cohesive, however later collections were much more cohesive, and fit together perfectly.

Another interesting element of the fashion show was the space in which it was held itself.   When decorated and separated by a large black curtain, the inside of the gym was transformed into an almost entirely new space.  One of my favorite aspects of the venue is that there were large windows on either side of the gymnasium, and as the fashion show progressed we could see the light outside gradually fading into pitch black as the sun set, adding to the ambiance of the show.  Additionally, I liked how the lighting changed throughout, colors picked carefully to complement the  designs on stage.  Perhaps my favorite element of the environment were the fog machines, which were used off and on throughout the show.  During one particularly foggy section it seemed as if the models completely emerged from an entered into a foggy portal at the back of the stage, really adding to the feel of the show!  Later on, as one of the final and most dramatic runway walks, all the lights were shut off as black lights were turned on to reveal glow in the dark body paint over all of the models!

My favorite collection presentation of the entire night came at the end of the first half, where six dancers came out onto either side of the runway, and proceed to do an expertly choreographed dance routine as the models walked through the middle.  After this astonishing performance intermission started, giving me time to mingle and prepare myself for the second half.

The second half of the show also featured two different musical artists performing in between the individual collections. While I failed to catch the name of the first performer, the second performer was a budding musician and former vine star Wolf Tyga.  These music interludes were a fun way to further break up the shows and diversify what was being presented. In general I really enjoyed the music picked for the background of each collection in the show, and thought that the music was picked well to fit with the theme of each collection and further emphasize them.

Every time I thought that the last collection would be the flashiest and most impressive, they managed to change things up and keep me more and more intrigued.  Now I truly understand why their tagline was “A show with fashion” instead of just a “fashion show.”

To follow bronze elegance and get information about their future projects and next year’s show you can check out their official website or their instagram,

REVIEW: Athi-Patra Ruga- Penny Stamps Speaker Series.

img_3197Tonight’s choice of organ music was none other than “Over the Rainbow,” from the Wizard of Oz, a fitting tune considering featured guest Athi-Patra Ruga recently put on a show of the same name. Ruga framed his lecture by talking about self-made superheroes, these characters or rather, avatars, that he has both created and embodied to deal with past traumas. These figures have become the central focus of all his varied artistic ventures throughout the years.

performance1One of the very first avatars he created was “Miss Congo,” who he describes as a “club kid.” At this time he took up tapestry work, saying that he would prefer to define his own fate, and his own story, rather than let others do so for him. In particular he wanted to explore the way that black women have been portrayed at art.

The next character he explored was “Injibhabha,” which translates from his native language of Xhosa into alopecia, or hair-loss, in English. This character was created directly in response to a specific incident that occurred in his life.  Ruga had been in Switzerland when he saw a poster featuring cartoon white sheep kicking a cartoon black sheep out of the country, with the message promoting “cleaning up” the country by forcing immigrants out of the country.  He had built up in his mind Switzerland as a kind of utopian space, but in this moment it all came crashing down.  He did a piece of performance art in which he dressed up as this avatar by sewing together an outfit of “costume afros,” and entering a pen of white sheep.  He continued to experiment with this avatar for a while, and some of the photos he took at this time of Injibhabha are placed below.

The Death of Beiruth
The Death of Beiruth

The next character he began exploring was “Beiruth,” which was made in response to a news story covering a South African woman that had been attacked by a man in a taxi for simply wearing a miniskirt.  Beiruth was meant to be hyper sexualized, and create an immediate reaction in those that come across her.  However, eventually the weight of these issues began to wear on him, and so he “killed off” both of these characters with a dramatic photo of Beiruth standing in front of the crashing waves.

screen-shot-2012-11-28-at-1-13-59-pmHis next major avatar was “Ilullwane,” which refers to a bat, or in the context of his culture, a boy who goes to circumcision school as a rite of passage. Many young boys would die because of infection and ill treatment during this process, and those who leave the program would have to face heavy social stigma.  He wanted to create a “superhero” that would provide inspiration for these young boys. This idea led to several other interesting works.  One of which being, “The Body in Question.”  He showed the video below during the presentation.

With this series he hoped to raise awareness about transgender rights. One of his more elaborate works with the avatar of Ilullwane involved a performance act in an Olympic-sized swimming pool and 12 synchronized swimmers.  The photo gallery below shows just some of the images from that performance.

night-of-the-long-knives-i1The most recent of his series is “The Future White Women of Azania.”  Azania is a word used to reference the East African coast line since at least 14 AD among the Greeks.  The major motif of this series is Ruga’s body entirely covered in balloons, and by popping these balloons he is “shedding his identity.” This project is ongoing, and he continues to find new ways to explore this series, already producing everything from sculpture to photography to textiles.installation-view4


The presentation ended with the premier of Ruga’s new video, “Queens In Exile,” which marks the start of yet another character. The video started out with Ruga dressed as a queen, with extravagant jewels and costuming.  The video took us through several distinctive sections before ending with the shot you see below.  You can see a clip of the video, and hopefully eventually the full video on Ruga’s Facebook page.


I also got a chance to attend the Q&A session immediately following the presentation.  Nearly every lecture has a Q&A session, and I’ve always found them to be tremendously enriching. This time Ruga discussed in further depth his thoughts on the recent US election, the current trend towards conservatism globally, his process for getting into character, and the influence the internet has had on his life and work.

The Stamps Speaker Series is held every Thursday at 5:10 PM at the Michigan Theater.  There are only two more presentations this semester, but the series will pick right back up next semester.




REVIEW: Behind The Seams at Sheifest

Shei Magazine hosted a party Sunday night in celebration of their new spring and summer issue. The fashion show was the highlight of the evening, showcasing University of Michigan students, each nominated for their signature style. The show was tailored to all tastes, ranging in handmade pieces and vintage treasures. The new models represented fresh, Ann Arbor street fashion. Maureen O’Brien, a freshman studying Art History and Design at the University sits down with me at Bert’s café at the UGLi. She’s wearing two pieces from the show, a nautical themed sweater and a mustard yellow scarf.

Christine: How were you nominated to model for Sheifest?

Maureen: My friend Gabe Carels works for the Publication and told about the online casting call, so I sent in a photo and nominated myself!

Christine: Being a student, how you do incorporate fashion into your busy lifestyle and afford to stay stylish?

Maureen: College is a challenge to my style, but fun. I’ve learned how to mix and match different looks, especially when I haven’t done laundry in a while! On occasion I’ll go out, buy new pieces, and incorporate them into what I already have in my closet. I stick to my classic ensembles and wear them a lot. I like shopping but I have to budget what I buy. It’s a luxury staying up-to-date with current trends, but there’s always the occasional splurge!

Christine: Can you give [art]seen readers a behind the scenes glimpse at what goes into a runway production?

Maureen: There is a lot of chaos. Who goes where and who does whose makeup.  Shei invested a lot of time into organizing the final looks. The models chose what to wear but our outfits had to be approved by Shei’s styling team. There’s a lot of uncertainty. We didn’t even know the lineup until the day of the show. Like I said, it was chaotic running back stage through a kitchen between the first and second look, people tucking in tags and checking the time, but nothing too bad!

Christine: If we asked you to empty your purse of all its belongings, what would we find?

Maureen: You would find a pack of stride 2.0 Spearmint gum, pens, a Moleskine journal, an iphone, headphones, brown bobby pins, six different lip glosses (not an exaggeration), a piece of fruit stolen from the cafeteria, peanut butter packets (also pocketed from the dining hall), and a wallet.

Christine: In your own words, what is your signature style?

Maureen: Classic, combined with vintage, modern pieces and bright colors. It’s up in the air some days. I just see what happens!

Christine: What’s your favorite color?

Maureen: Maroon and mustard yellow. It’s a tie.

Christine: Do you have a favorite piece(s) in your closet?

Maureen: High waisted skirts and scarves.

Christine: What was the high and low of being on the runway?

Maureen: The high was being able to showcase something people don’t normally acknowledge. Sharing my love of fashion with other students was also a high. As for the low, I’d say the wait backstage and seeing the audience through the curtains, which only added to the anticipation!

Christine: What are your favorite fashion publications?

Maureen: Vogue and Elle.

Christine: What about Shei?

Maureen: I’m a new reader but a definite fan! It’s hard to believe that Shei is a student led publication. The photography is beautiful and the articles are well written. A lot is put into the magazine and it certainly shows.

PREVIEW: Sheifest 2011

Sunday, April 10th from 7pm-10pm, Shei Magazine will host their annual event in honor of their new issue. Shei Magazine is a student-led publication on campus that dedicates itself to the arts, culture, and fashion. The night will celebrate University students who have been nominated for their signature style. The selected group of students will model their looks, each showcasing their good taste in fashion. The fashion show guarantees an eclectic mix of clothing, ranging from vintage finds to current trends. To reserve tickets, email Simply include your name, the number of tickets you would like to purchase, and the ticket type. Presale tickets cost $7 for general admission and $12 for VIP tickets as opposed to $10 general and $15 VIP at the door Sunday evening. A VIP ticket includes a copy of the magazine and a gift bag. For those who preordered, tickets can be picked up and paid for at the doors of The Michigan League Ballroom the night of the event.