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Davis, California

Friday, March 1, 2024

UC Davis on the runway

Editor’s Note: For the rest of this quarter, Aggie arts reporter Sasha Sharma will investigate the process of designing a runway collection from beginning to end. Check MUSE bi-weekly to see Funmilayo Alabi’s progress as she continues to work on her collection for the Picnic Day Fashion Show in spring.

Funmilayo Alabi is one of the students from UC Davis showcasing her collection at the Picnic Day fashion show. As winter quarter draws to a close with only two more weeks left, Alabi said she is nervous as she hurries to finish the collection.

Alabi has spent the last week dyeing more fabrics, constructing her garments and fitting her models. “More immersion dyeing,” she laughs, pointing to a beautiful golden-yellow cotton sateen. Alabi’s hand-printed fabrics with tribal motifs lay strewn over her work table in the nondescript design lab in Cruess Hall. “The fitting with models went well, so I’m excited about that,” Alabi said with a sigh of relief.

Alabi continued with saying how she has once more begun spending hours in the lab, often leaving as late as 5 a.m.

“I fell asleep this morning while I was seam-ripping one of my garments,” Alabi said.

With most other designers’ garments slated to be included in Ready To Wear (RTW) and sportswear collections, Alabi is anxious about her own much more avant-garde collection.

“I kind of felt the need to go back and edit my garments through the styling and even through the prints. I’m worried that my collection may be the only bizarre collection as opposed to what other people are doing,” she said.

A nervous energy is in fact palpable in the design lab as the designers scramble to finish their collections on time and with finesse.

“I moved my garments to my locker, with all the frenzied work going on here right now,” Alabi said.

With the fashion show so close, Funmilayo is also paying regard to makeup, hair and the overall look of the models. Alabi’s collection, christened Milayo, contains elements of hair in the presentation of the garments. The look of the models, then, is presumably strong.

“I want their hair in a turban and I would love to go crazy with their makeup,” Alabi said.

The models walking Alabi’s show can be expected to wear face paint and lots of jewelery.

“My culture is definitely the inspiration for the look of the models,” Alabi said.

Indeed, face painting is a cultural phenomenon that is central to the women of the Yoruba tribe — the tribe that Alabi ancestrally belongs to.

Yoruba women often have tattoos and face paint essentially for aesthetic purposes. Although the practice originally began with a desire for women to attract husbands, it has since evolved into a powerful symbol of femininity and strength among the Yoruba women. In fact, during the Rio Carnivale, the attendees and the performers often paint their faces and entire bodies as the revelry ensues. The Carnivale is an annual festival held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is inspired by the Yoruba tribe.

According to Alabi, the jewelry will be comprised mostly of beads in another nod to her roots.

“I think the music is going to be mostly African drums or artists such as King Sunny Adé,” Alabi added. King Sunny Adé is an artist famous for his performances of Yoruba Nigerian Jùjú music.

“Maybe something Kanye West,” Alabi said, laughing.

SASHA SHARMA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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