by Alexandra Katz
The library. A place filled with musty books and overworked college students. Hardly the setting you would envision for a dynamic, multi-level fashion show. Yet, that is exactly what Fresh Traditions is all about, reinventing the traditional thought. In it’s sixth year running the show sticks to one rule, stylist have complete creative freedom except for a little detail, there has to be a garment in the collection that reflects traditional Hmong wear and make it modern. However they can the designers have to incorporate the customary colors of neon pink, neon green, blue satin and black velvet.
Campaign manager for CHAT, Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, Sandy’ Ci Moua said she has seen Hmong fashion evolve over the past six years. “When the show first started the design of the traditional piece was very literal in terms of sewing and colors.” Now, she affirmed, the clothes aren’t literally trying to represent their identity. The traditional Hmong style and modern fashion meld together more effortlessly. Moua compares the clothes to the journey of the Hmong people in Minnesota. “The fashion has progressed, it is like our narrative. We aren’t just Hmong, we are mothers, daughters, wives, American. Minnesotan.”
For the first time in the show’s history all the tickets were sold out. The motto behind Fresh Traditions is simple, a ”culturally inspired fashion event.” The crowd was roaring and itching for a good show and some Hmong inspired fashion.
One should never play favorites, but when love hits you can’t deny it. I feel head over heels for the first time designer Khou Chang. The tribal high waisted shorts, slinky floor length gowns, mesh cut outs, crushed velvet and muted colors had me weak in the knees. Her debut collection entitled “La Sirena” mixes global prints and feminine silhouettes to create an extravagance for the woman who longs for more than the basics.
Next Pahoua Vue switched up the mood and presented a line of classics and essentials. Comprised solely of three colors white, black and a vivid neon pink, her clothes weave the story of a young woman finding her way. Vue gave thanks to her mother for inspiring the line. Flowy shapes contrasted form fitted styles with elegant pleating in the details. The collection was simple and understated.
The ocean was calling the three girls behind N3 when they cultivated the idea behind their line, “The Little Mermaid.” Ariel and her sisters swim us through abstract pieces with exaggerated details. Linda Lee, Hiyana Lee and May Yang work together to represent their personalities and use the clothes as a medium. My favorite piece in the line was a bi-level dress with a printed tangerine silk bottom, it goes from a mini to floor length with the perfect proportions. It’s too bad I can’t wear orange because I am too pale. I can dream.
Once the first couple of pieces came out from Hy & Pachia’s “Lady Essence” collection, things weren’t exactly ladylike. Plunging necklines, daring thigh high slits, jeweled accents, feathers and evening wear galore, not your mother’s night on the town. A cobalt blue with crimson flowers onesie underneath a nude mesh dress with crystal shoulder accents made my eyes go wide. Uber glam.
By all accounts the best was saved for last. Oskar Ly was undoubtedly the crowd favorite. Her reinvention of the little black dress did more then transcend fashion, these designs challenged society to reevaluate sexual orientation. Redesigned, the LBD can be suits and vests, jackets and silk shirts, minis and gowns, mixed and matched, with no gender roles and no limitations. The only thing that tied the line together was the use of black and peekaboo neon green. Not only did the clothing make a statement, but the models, part of the GLBT community did as well. That message was loud and clear: acceptance.
Original creator of the show Kathy Mouacheupao divulged that she is proud to see the show staying true to its roots. “I see the community coming together through the arts.” What a strong and diverse community it is. Tradition can be interpreted in many ways, and the show illustrated that the local Hmong community likes to keep it fresh.