1:54 p.m., April 23, 2009----When the University of Delaware's violin virtuoso, Xiang Gao, was planning his popular iMusic II: Xiang Gao and Friends family concerts, one of his goals was to introduce a new generation of students to the beauty of European classical music from the 18th and 19th centuries.
In turn, the students in Belinda Orzada's Fashion Apparel Collection Development (FASH 424) class were to design and make a series of fashion creations for Gao's violin multimedia concerts, which were held Friday and Saturday, April 17-18, in Mitchell Hall.
“In Chinese, love is pronounced ai. I wanted to show why we love music and how music makes us love more,” Gao, associate professor in the UD Department of Music, said. “I also wanted to show the connection between art and classical music, and that includes fashion design.”
Gao said the collaboration between fashion design and music also is part of a larger effort to allow non-music collaborators, including playwrights, actors, philosophers, historians and scientists, to come on stage and interact with the performers of classical music.
The concert also featured the involvement of the Professional Theatre Training Program and the departments of English and Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“The fashion students studied classic music, with their assignment being to create fashion designs inspired by music they do not always listen to,” Gao said. “The students said that they found depth and artistic communication and a true connection with music.”
Music also contains colors, layers, forms, dynamics, style and pitch, with the most important them of all being love, Gao said.
“In fashion, when a person designs something, he or she is also sending a message or sharing an idea or passion,” Gao said. “Like music, fashion design is really the same as any of the other art form.”
Because the future of classical music involves getting young people interested in the genre, Gao said he believes it also is important to continue the collaboration with students who participate in the events as non-musician performers.
“Because the series is funded by the University of Delaware and donors, I always like to display the special talents of our students,” Gao said. “The students were really excited about the project because it had a fresh new angle, and because they had never been approached to make the connection between fashion design and classical music.”
Gao also noted that the concert series is very much education driven, and gives students the chance to get out of their comfort zone and learn something new.
“We also try to involve high school and other students,” Gao said. “We also hope that the concerts and the music will inspire the students to have courage during these difficult economic times and to feel more confident about their future.”
Orzada, professor of fashion and apparel studies in the College of Human Services, Education and Public Policy, said that although the students studied the biographies of the composers, the fashions they created are anything but period pieces.
“The mood of the musical pieces inspired them and helped shaped the design of the garments,” Orzada said. “The creations are actually meant to be the very next thing in fashion.”
“Fabrics used in the ensembles, gowns and fashion designs featured in the concert included a wide variety of fabrics and fibers, including silk, wool, and an alpaca-wool blend,” Orzada said. “Based on their design concept, the students selected a range of colors to convey what they considered to be the mood and theme of the music that inspired each of them.”
Introduced on stage by narrator Alan Fox, professor of philosophy and director of the UD Honors Program, models from Barbizon Modeling Agency of Delaware wore creations with titles such as “Haunted,” inspired by the mysteries surrounding the world famous Paris Opera House; “Sonata,” inspired by the structural elements of that classical music form; and “Fairy Tales of Never Never Land,” inspired by Vivaldi's Winter, from his Four Seasons composition.
The 15 final creations that were modeled during the concert represent a portion the students' completed fashion collections. Student research and design concept development evolve into three completed ensembles (garments worn together). Each ensemble represents at least three weeks and about 100 hours of work for each student, Orzada said.
As for the students, they said that listening to the music had a calming effect and that they now have a classical music playlist on their computers.
“This was something the students had never done before, and they were inspired by the music,” Orzada said. “I really enjoyed seeing how they blossomed, bringing all their knowledge and skills from their previous courses and making a statement through this course and the designs they created.”
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Ambre Alexander and Tyler Jacobson