Backstage at MIT Gala : Community and Creation

Arts, fashion, determination, and community culminate at an event by student-run Infinite Magazine

A gallery of art by independent creators, creations from classes on campus, and a runway where MIT models strut, displaying designers’ work, were all showcased at MIT Gala, which transformed the Burton Conner Porter Room into a vibrant event for the student arts community. Synths reverberated throughout the room, courtesy of MIT Laptop Ensemble. MIT’s E33 Productions lined the runway with red LEDs and filled the room with pink, purple, and blue hues. Stacks of glossy magazines filled a table located near the center of the room. On the magazine’s dark cover, a white font displayed the word “infinite.”

The sold-out fashion show in May 2023 sprouted from humble roots in MIT’s undergraduate student-run fashion publication: Infinite Magazine. MIT Gala, the release event for the magazine’s 11th issue, was crafted over the course of the school year and features ten different spreads.

Seniors and editors-in-chief (EIC) of Infinite, Sophia Chen and Alexandra Nwigwe, reminisce on the impact working on the magazine had on them during their time at MIT. “Before college … clothing was purely functional and not expressive,” Sophia, double major in Mechanical Engineering and Art and Design, recounts. “Since joining Infinite, I identified more with fashion and it’s a huge part of my life.” Both EICs discovered Infinite Magazine during their freshman fall semester. Alex, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major and Art and Design minor, says, “I learned about Infinite my freshman fall because I saw their release event. Since then, I’ve been involved in the editorial side of design.”

It is the hope that MIT Gala will have the same invigorating  effect on its guests. Several attendees were heard raving about the event, and wishing to join MIT Gala and the magazine next year.

April Cheng in Ella Berrey. MIT Gala 2023.

The scope of the Infinite Magazine release has blossomed

Before senior Mohammed Shafim worked as one of MIT Gala’s co-directors, he assumed the role of release director in his junior year. “A lot of things weren’t accomplished, although it was an accomplishment to have that release event [at all],” he admits about last year. The event followed the typical formula of Infinite releases: handing out magazines on a table by the Stratton Student Center. “I made a promise to myself to do something even bigger [next year].” It is safe to say he kept that promise, helming an event that boasted over 200 attendees, 20 featured designers, and 34 looks.

Cheers erupted as junior Sav Lawrence made their appearance on the runway — modeling the same pieces they wore on the cover of Infinite’s Issue 11. The pieces were fabricated by freshman Ariel McGee. Ariel modified a black sweater, distressing the garment with holes, cutting makeshift finger gloves, and looping black yarn through the holes. Over the black sweater is a bright, white netted piece they crocheted, with intricate looping patterns and holes of various sizes. The two items together create a stark contrast and a vibrant dimension on both the pages of Infinite and the runway.

Shua Cho, sophomore Mechanical Engineering and Design major, and co-director of MIT Gala, is no stranger to the dimensions of fashion. “There is so much potential in drawing from these very technical design principles, these understandings of space, understandings of physicality, understandings of movement, and that’s all fashion is…It’s the accumulation and the arrangement of matter,” Shua states. These engineering principles are reflected in her fabrication work.

Rila Shishido closed the fashion show wearing Shua’s pieces; another black and white set that is displayed in Infinite’s Issue 11. This one consists of a black leather corset top with white, grooved breast cups, and a dynamic black and white skirt. The skirt mimics a wave effect in its white hem, textured by scales and etching and adorned with wiring and string. Shua employed generative design to create these pieces, a technical skill she further details in her spread in the magazine. She remains intent on pursuing fashion after graduation and using engineering principles to revolutionize the fashion world.

The Voxel Lab was the hub for Shua’s production of these pieces — and many students affirm the fruitfulness of working in Voxel and other maker spaces on campus. Freshman Gloria Zhu, Director of Set Design for MIT Gala, commends “the really great maker space network. It’s really easy to get access to machines, photo shoot materials, [and] time in Voxel,” she says. “People are very experimental and creative with their fashion, making pieces on the daily, and spending late nights in maker spaces.”

Sav Lawrence in Ariel McGee. MIT Gala 2023.

The fashion community at MIT continues to grow and explore

Many students yearn for more visibility of the arts at MIT and a desire to find a community of artists, something that MIT Gala aims to do. Students at the event expressed that it is important that classes, grants, spaces for creating art, and other resources are visible, easily accessible, and easy for them to learn about early in their time at MIT. There is value in seeing art as well, EICs Alex and Sophia proclaim. “Seeing art around you makes you more inspired… [you realize you] can just create something… anything!” Alex says.

MIT Gala centralizes many sectors of student art on campus, and demonstrates the enthusiasm and demand for student involvement in the arts. For many attendees, MIT Gala is their introduction to Infinite and other art hubs on campus, and serves as a gateway to further engagement with arts and creativity during their time at MIT.

This idea resonates with Co-Director Shafim’s goals for the magazine and release event: “People can just flip through the pages [of Infinite Magazine], and find out their friend is in the club, or just be amazed by the wonderful work that is being done at MIT… [That is] a feeling I wanted to capture with MIT Gala.”

Written by Nnedimma Okoye, MIT undergraduate and Editorial Director at Infinite Magazine
This article is part of the Arts at MIT’s Student Voices series

Posted on May 30, 2023 by Arts at MIT