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A Fashion Show and Sweatshop Simulation
March 22, 2006

The Fashion Advisory Board (FAB) at Calvin College will pair a fashion show with a sweatshop simulation to raise awareness of fashion as both an art form and a legitimate interest for Christians.

"Fools and Bobbins: Spring Collection 2006" is the name the FAB has given to the show it will sponsor on Saturday, April 1 at 8 pm in the Calvin Fine Arts Center.

Organizers say the event is a logical follow-up to FAB’s January 2006 show, which drew an unexpected crowd of 500 people to the Fine Arts Center.

"There was so much interest and motivation and excitement from the last show," says Rachael Koeson of Calvin's student activities office. "People were coming to my office the Monday after the Saturday show and saying, 'When are we going to do another one?' So I wanted to foster that excitement."

The sweatshop simulation will be sponsored by Calvin's Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and will take place from 9 am to 9 pm on Thursday, March 30.

Participants will sign up for shifts of one to six hours, producing canvas bags.

"We're going to have a production line where we're going to have cutters and sewers, and it will be monotonous production," says sophomore Ruth Ribeiro, a member of both the FAB and the SJC and coordinator for the upcoming simulation.

She hopes the sweatshop exercise (deliberately planned to fall on the day before Cesar Chavez Day) will be an eye-opening experience for the students who participate.

"I don't think people realize that so many of our clothes are made in sweatshops," she says. "When you pay a few dollars for a product, one of the reasons it's so cheap is that a lot of times people who are producing it get a fraction of the money they deserve."

The April 1 fashion show will feature eclectic clothing in a variety of design categories, everything from Urban Wear to Rainy Day to Bush Rave (which references the Australian Outback, not the current American president).

"And then there's the beach section, which hopefully will involve some mermaids and pirates," says Koeson.

Student designers will also present clothes in the "Rubbish" category, which showcases clothing made from trash and the FABwear category, which features clothing purchased at Goodwill and spray painted with the FAB logo.

But behind the zany categories and the amped production values is a serious thesis about fashion, organizers emphasize.

"It's the same principle that guided the previous show," says Koeson, "which is a recognition that the way we decide to present ourselves is indeed an art form that should be celebrated."

Underlining that point is a documentary produced by Karen Abad, a junior film studies and psychology major who interviewed a number of Calvin students about their opinions on fashion.

"Basically, people think about fashion as a pretty materialistic thing," Abad says. "“And it's interesting to hear what Calvin students say and get an opinion on fashion from a Christian point of view."

The documentary will be screened as part of the show.

As invested as she is in the larger message of the show, Koeson also is enjoying seeing the creative enterprise come together.

"I think," she says, "there will be some very cool entries in the 'Rubbish' category. Someone is planning to make a dress out of bread bags and bread tags and also out of old records. We also have a young man who's entered a few outfits that reference time travel."

All told about 30 student designers and 55 models are expected to participate in the event, along with a large hair and makeup crew and a technical crew.

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson