The university’s International Students Association, the Japanese Student Association, Association for African Students and Webster University Chinese Association banded together to create Webster’s first International Fashion Show. What started off as an opportunity to delve into my cultural roots became something much more. The goal of the Nov. 15th fashion show was to showcase the cultures of Webster and display the beauty of other countries. The fashion show not only met its goal but exceeded it by giving everyone a chance for engagement and interaction.
I decided to model because I saw an opportunity to show people my culture. My heritage hails from the land of Punjab, which is a state in Northern India. I was raised with a strong sense of cultural identity. My mother and grandparents made it evident to me that my culture defines who I am and how I engage with the world. I was taught to remember the struggles of my people and to be proud of my family for making it so far.
I was not the only model in the show with this attachment to my culture. I met other models from across the world, and together we brought so many cultures to the table. I learned about the fabrics the models were wearing and how the clothing represented their ethnic background. Models like Brittany Garcia Cortez and Anoushka Anand understood the attachment to culture I have because they experienced it as well.
America has a very individualistic culture, which is evident in the way Americans dress. In America, everyone seems to strive to stick out with their clothing as an individual. All the countries represented, aside from the U.S., have collectivist cultures where people have a greater attachment to the culture. Collectivist cultures are represented by the clothing because, unlike individualistic cultures, clothing represents a bond to ethnic background. To be able to have an opportunity to express the beauty of this type of culture in a very individualistic country is a priceless experience.
The show opened with traditional African dances that represented the culture from West Africa. The dances previewed how beautiful African culture is, which I felt was vital to the way the show functioned. The music and choreography showed people dancing as a collective and working together to make something beautiful. Opening up the show with the dances reflected the cultural identity of Africa and prepared the audience for the collectivist cultures that were to be presented during the fashion show.
To understand just how deep our culture goes, my mother used to play me the song “My Culture” by One Giant Leap to remind me to be proud of where I come from. Throughout the entire show, the lyrics from the song consumed my head as I realized though we are all from different cultures, we experience the same draw to our culture. The song has a strong chorus that could explain our attachment better than I ever could, “I never want to shame the blood in my veins or bring pain to my sweet grandfather’s face in his resting place. I make haste to learn and not waste everything my forefathers earned in tears for my culture.”