Empowerment at the International Fashion Show


Sarah Damhof ('22) Chips

Amrita Khadka (’21) and Vanalika Nagarwalla (’21) perform a traditional Indian dance.

The International Students and Allies Association hosted their annual fashion show on Oct. 26 to showcase the various cultures of the international students on campus. This year’s fashion show was a culmination of the participants’ different core values and heritage, expressed through attire, dance, and poetry.

The theme of the show this year was empowerment, and students were challenged to embody what empowers them; for some it was wearing traditional or casual clothing of their countries, while others took a more artistic approach with spoken word and movement.

The ISAA at Luther was formed in 1994 to bring students together to share their cultures with each other and the broader community.

“In ISAA, we talk about issues that are happening around the world,” ISAASecretary Viola Niyizigama (‘20) said. “We try to focus on issues in countries where students are from. By examining what is happening in the home countries of students at Luther and the norms within that country, we can better understand their culture and create a community of understanding. The fashion show is an extension of that belief.”

The ISAA Fashion Show has been an annual

way to promote greater cultural awareness and acceptance on campus. As the event rapidly grew in popularity, ISAA decided to introduce themes to create a sense of unity within their show, and moved from the Center for the Arts to the North Gym in Regents Center.

In addition to showcasing regional dress, many students take the opportunity to present their own designs and creative expression.

“It’s not every day that you see international students dressed in their country attire, so it’s really nice to finally get to do that and to showcase it to the domestic community,” Niyizigama said. “That in itself is empowering to them. It’s a good time to see diversity on Luther campus, and witness the beauty of culture and talent.”

The show consisted of three separate events. The first was a parade of national dress from 15 different countries.

This part of the program was divided into two segments, broken up by the spoken word poem “I Hear You”, written and performed by Nya Ruach (‘23). The poem detailed the struggles and challenges of being in an environment one is unaccustomed to, and the support that others can offer. The show also featured dances that were inspired by Bollywood and K-pop.

“My good friend Anita is from Nepal,” Olivia

Helland (‘22) said. “She had asked me if I would wear some of her traditional Nepalese clothing in the fashion show. I was really excited and touched that she had asked me to represent her country, especially because I am from the U.S. I hope that the show was able to demonstrate to all others that we are allowed to express ourselves in anyway that we feel, whether that is in clothes that represent where an individual is from, their culture, or just what makes them feel empowered.”

The second half of the program provided exposure for several international students who have designed their own clothes, as well as groups and individuals who wanted to give a brief presentation about how and why they feel empowered in their daily lives.

The empowerment pieces were performed by Zeta Tau Psi, Beta Theta Omega, and Iris Johnson (‘20) and Sarah Jennings (‘20). The two student designers were Ruach and Alice Odame (‘22).

Odame is from Ghana, but was born and raised in Swaziland. She was an officer last year in ISAA and was an emcee at the fashion show this year.

Odame believes that clothes can empower people who might otherwise be marginalized by society. She started her own clothing line called “Alima,” through which she hopes to empower

young Africans to express who they are through clothing.

“I grew up in a foreign country, and I always found it difficult to express who you are and where you come from without wearing a full traditional outfit, which is just too much for everyday use,” Odame said. “So I wanted to start with rare, more innovative, subtle, regular clothing that has aspects of my culture. What one wears is one of the most overt and foundational forms of self-expression. The fashion show was a way to share an aspect of [international student’s] culture. By sharing who we are with the world, we can be more confident with ourselves.”

The show this year sponsored The Cup Effect, a non-governmental organization based in the United Kingdom. The Cup Effect provides menstrual cups to women and girls in low- income communities in Malawi and Kenya, as well as education on their anatomy and how to use the menstrual cup.

These cups empower women who were previously disadvantaged by their periods or were unable to afford sanitation products. All students who attended the event were charged an entry fee of $5 at the door or $3 pre show. One hundered percent of the proceeds raised throughout the evening will be donated to The Cup Effect.

Sarah Damhof (’22) Chips
Michael Musa (’23) walks the runway.
Sarah Damhof (’22) Chips
Rida Naz (’21) models a design by Alice Odame (’22)
Sarah Damhof (’22) Chips
Lily Juma (’22) wears a traditional dress from Nigeria.
Sarah Damhof (’22) Chips
Darya Davidouskaya (’22) in Belarus clothing.
Sarah Damhof (’22) Chips
Sharayu Phanse (’22) wears a traditional sari.
Sarah Damhof (’22) Chips
Sarah Jennings (’20) struts on the catwalk.
Sarah Damhof (’22) Chips
Olivia Helland (’22), wearing her friend’s outfit.
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