Mélange 2013: Spotlight on the Afterlife

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We might not get to dictate whether we end up in heaven or hell, but if either place is anything like the worlds imagined by the designers showcased at Mélange 2013, both places look like a great way to spend eternity.

On October 19, local and internationally renowned fashion designers, performers, and artists descended on Temple nightclub in SOMA for the third annual runway event, celebrating diversity and multiculturalism on and off the catwalk. With a Halloween theme of “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory,” innovators from as far away as Paris and Peru came out for a night celebrating all things fashion and to honor their peers in the industry.

Fashion Ambassador award-winner and Peruvian native, Varignia Garcia, 26, couldn’t wait to bring her South American-inspired fashions to the City by the Bay. Her eco-friendly designs, which incorporate alpaca natural rustic wool and natural dyes, were an instant hit with Mélange’s team, who asked her to return to San Francisco after a successful run during the 2012 show.

“My country has magical places,” admits Garcia, who appreciates Mélange’s commitment to promoting designers from around the world. “This (show) is helping increase the quality of life for Peruvian people. Mélange is the perfect match because we are all working together to promote human rights and diversity around the world.”

Jean Paul Gaultier’s Creative Director and Mélange Board member, Guila Clara Kessous, was on the first plane out of Paris when friend and Mélange CEO, Nick Navarro, asked her to come out to present her new handbag collection. The two met when Navarro was a student at Harvard and attended Kessous’ lecture on French fashion. The UNESCO Artist for Peace admits it was a no-brainer when he asked her to join the Mélange board of advisors. “I always linked my art and design work with human rights values,” explains Kessous.

Academy of Art University student Jennita Itthi-angkul had to pinch herself when she found out she had won the Student Designer Award. “I didn’t expect much since there are so many talented designers out there,” admits the 35-year-old Thailand native. “I was so happy that I had to call back to Thailand and share the news with my parents. I couldn’t believe I had won,” Itthi-angkul’s eyes filled with tears as she confessed to having three glasses of champagne to celebrate.

Growing up in Southeast Asia, Itthi-angkul’s passion for design came from watching her parents. Her father was a tailor and her mother was a seamstress, so it was only natural she would follow in their footsteps. Her line in the show was inspired by the juxtaposition of freedom and restriction. “I wanted to send the message that we all crave freedom, but in reality, we are cased in a society called ‘the world.’ If we learned how to balance it, we would be much happier.”

And when it comes to following your own fashion dreams, Itthi-angkul believes it’s important to remember where you come from. “Stay true to who you really are. Never forget where you come from. You can’t find your identity if you forget yourself,” she says.

Kessous abides by this same philosophy. “Never give up, and trust yourself in the process.” She says that at the end of the day, fashion lines must reflect your fantasy based on your personality.

Other designers featured in the show include Punk Kouture, Charmosa, Atussa, Chona Pike, Topher Adam, Eric Tibusch, The Great Worm, Glynneth B Jewelry, Marise Oliveria, and Rae Agency.

This advice aligns perfectly with the event’s overall mission to highlight designers from all different backgrounds and walks of life and bring them together in the name of art. And with more than 10 designers, 80 models and numerous performers, including a debut number by the girls of AsiaSF, Mélange Productions managed to pull off a show that would make a chorus of angels rejoice (and break a harp string or two).

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