The Western Indo-Canadian Students' Association kicked off March with its sold-out Friday evening fashion show, Navyata. Sanskrit for "new beginnings," Navyata was the perfect theme to debut WICSA’s inaugural event. With visually stunning introduction videos, an aesthetically pleasing venue and charismatic models, it was hard to believe this was WICSA’s first fashion show.
Karisma Sharma, fourth-year management and organizational studies student at Huron College and co-president of WICSA, spent nine months planning and coordinating to bring the fashion show to life. With the help of 18 executive members, Sharma created storyboards, held promotional photo shoots and curated a lookbook to bring this event together.
Having been involved in the Spur Fashion Show and having witnessed the success of the Canadian Asian International Students Association Fashion Show over the years, Sharma was confident in the potential of hosting WICSA’s own show.
The WICSA co-presidents, Sharma and Nanditha Iyer, a fourth-year Western University health sciences student, opened the evening by introducing the three pillars of WICSA: unity, diversity and inclusivity. Sharma states WISCA’s goal is to try and represent all three core values in every event they hold. Friday night’s fashion show successfully incorporated these values into the night. The diversity of Navyata can be seen through the 65 models of various backgrounds, with black, white and Indian representation. The inclusion and unity was evident through the 300 attendees sharing and embracing Indian culture together.
“The overall goal was to diversify Western’s culture and showcase all Indian culture has to offer within the campus and as a country as a whole,” says Sharma.
The first half of the evening showcased traditional Indian wear from all regions of India: East, South, North and West. Using inspiration from India’s geography, attendees were treated to a vast collection of styles. Models commanded the runway dressed in traditional silk sarees, kurtas and dhotis, among others. The outfits, ranging from deep earth tones to hot pink, shared a common theme of intricate silver and gold details on every garment.
WICSA also decided to put a refreshing spin on the traditional runway walk; models formed circles, walked in duos or trios and then showcased their look through small skits or signature poses. The crowd was audibly entertained with a finger-guns-and-wink pose from one of the models in the West India category.
Audience members were also in for a treat between each fashion set, when performers graced the stage with various traditional dances, such as Bhangra, a popular Punjabi folk dance characterized by its vivacious energy. The musical numbers between the runway walks kept an upbeat tone throughout the evening.
Following intermission, the sets were categorized by Streetwear, Fashion Week and Reception. Kicking off the second half with an extended hip-hop choreographed dance, it was clear WICSA had saved the most exciting for last. The dancers energy poured into the audience and set the tone for the next wave of models.
Taking the stage, the Streetwear models maintained semblance of the traditional Indian styles seen in the first half of the show. The traditional looks were contrasted with puffer coats, leather jackets and, of course, AirPods. Breaking away from the instrumental music that accompanied the previous models, the Streetwear collection strutted the stage with Migos, Drake and Ariana Grande behind them, and closed the set with Lil Wayne’s "Uproar."
Next up, the ladies dominated the stage in elegant, detailed gowns. The models remained in traditional lehengas, a short top paired with a flared skirt and shawl, with updated patterns, silhouettes and embroidery. The men walked in sleek, clean-cut kurtas, a suit that features a knee-length jacket with buttons straight down the front.
The event closed with the extravagant looks of those often found at an Indian wedding. Through exaggerated performance makeup and hair, as well as multi-chain head pieces called matha patti, the details seen in Reception were clearly intended to close the show. The final scene featured a representation of a traditional North Indian ceremony called "phoolon ki chaadar" (sheet of flowers). This involved the final model, the bride, walking down the stage as four other women held a red draping over her head. Traditionally, a bride’s male cousins or brothers would hold this sheet as a symbol of protection, love and care.
“On a modern take, we decided to have the bride walk with other women — interpretatively her friends or sisters — as a representation of the support between women in the Indian community. In addition, we wanted to break the stereotype that only men can offer protection,” says creative director Nabeel Josh, a fourth year biology student at Western.
WICSA's beautiful display of Indian fashion and culture was indicative of an event far beyond its first year. Overall, the entire executive team and both co-presidents were thrilled with the turnout and the event as a whole, expressing that the show would not have been possible without the support of the attendees. The team looks forward to hosting the event next year with hopes of growing it even larger.