Campus Spotlight: SynesthASIA

This past Friday, March 27, SynesthASIA hosted its seventh annual charity fashion show at the Gallery Gora Montreal for Free the Children in rural China. Brooke Schwartz, co-director and U2 Arts student believes that the directors’ aspiration for the show, which debuted in 2009 has been consistent throughout the years.

“It seems like from talking to past directors, the motivation behind [SynesthASIA] is pretty unanimous, [which is] that we’re all interested in bringing together this Montreal and McGill spirit in art while at the same time benefiting a better cause,” Schwartz said.

After two years of working on SynesthASIA, Schwartz has considered a very well-rounded interpretation of what the group represents.

“SynesthASIA’s goal has always been poverty alleviation through various means,” Schwartz said. “This translates into raising money for vulnerable populations, destroyed communities, the improvement of education, and so much more depending on the executive team behind the work.”

Although SynesthASIA always donates to a charity based in Asia, Schwartz believes the motivation behind selecting specific charities as varying, specifying the executive’s team relation with students in rural China as a particularly influential factor for this year’s choice. 

“This year, we agreed on a Free the Children project that would help build a school with running water in rural China upon learning about the gap in education opportunities between rural and urban China,” Schwartz said. “It’s a lesser-known issue we all felt passionate about, being students ourselves.”

Charity liaisons Charlotte Moores, U2 Arts, and Joanna PineDa, U1 Science, spearheaded the selection of the charity for this year. According to Pina, Free the Children is a sustainable project. 

“Free the Children had similar goals in mind [to SynesthASIA] in terms of education in Asia,” PineDa said. “[They have projects including] the training of teachers and building three to five schoolrooms [… as well as] the distribution of school supplies [and] libraries.” 

According to Schwartz, Free the Children is a well-thought out initiative. She cited the inclusion of running water in the schoolroom initiative as an example.

“I think the working water part was the most interesting because we thought that was an aspect of past projects that we haven’t necessarily heard,” Schwartz said. 

One feature of the fashion show that distinguishes SynesthASIA from the many fashion shows in the McGill community each year is that the models do not simply walk down the runway—they also dance. Student designer Claire Peng, U2 Arts, said that the dancing helps to showcase the hard work that she has put into her designs.

“Sometimes there are certain items that I’ve made that I feel less confident about; but then the models really rock it and they can rock it a lot more [dancing] than when they just walk,” she said. “That added effort helps a lot in making it shine.”

Not only does the dancing help feature the designs, the upbeat music and high-energy dancing ensured that there were no dull moments during the show. First-time show attendee Alex Lei, U0 Arts, said that the added dancing down the runway brought a special dimension to the show.

“The combination of choreography and fashion was unique and new,” Lei said.

Many participants shared this sentiment and agreed that the dancing and choreography included in SynesthASIA  set it apart from other fashion shows. SynesthASIA co-director Hana Bell said that this unique facet of the show is an integral part of SynesthASIA’s identity.

“About four or five years ago, the dancing started,” Bell said. “[SynesthASIA] began as a regular fashion show, and recently, it’s been getting more and more choreographed and because that sets us apart from other fashion shows,  we’ve been embracing it a lot more.”

However, incorporating dancing and choreography meant many rehearsals. After all the long hours coordinating this show with the executive team, Bell shared her personal show highlights.

“My favourite part is the end of the show—after we’ve seen it all come together and we’ve been so nervous for hours beforehand about it running smoothly, and afterwards it’s just so amazing,” Bell said. 

Schwartz also shared her sentiments on her favourite moment in the show.

“I think my favourite part is the beginning of the show, which always makes me cry,” Schwartz said. “The beginning of the show, seeing everybody on stage for that […] first time at the same exact time is just too surreal for me and I feel very humbled that I helped put this together.”

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