Designers create masks for Rock the Runway’s Venetian Carnival



Emily Inverso

The theme for this year’s Rock the Runway show is Venetian Carnival. Each designer is required to incorporate at least one mask in the show. Rock the Runway is March 17 at 8 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom. Photo by Anthony Vence.

Decadence, gluttony, music and beauty. Violence, theft and gold.

An ancient Italian festival celebrates the luxurious, fantastic and bold.

Rock the Runway, Kent Student Center’s annual fashion show, will be reminiscent this year of the Venetian Carnival.

“This year’s theme is all about masks,” said Jennifer Gunnoe, KSC marketing coordinator. “Carnival is about role play. It’s about being someone you’re not. It’s pretty much about being bad, so very decadent, with food, drugs, sex and gambling.”

Each designer and design team that enters the competition must keep with this theme by creating at least one mask for its collection, she said. But before the masks, the decadence and the rich designs, planning for Rock the Runway begins with music.

The feel for this year encompasses the ethno-introspective ambient world and electric music inspired by the band Enigma, Gunnoe said — something she envisioned as European, dark and masked. But because that image is so specific, two men from the Marion area agreed to compose 11 original songs to perform at the show, she said.

“We kept the vision we got from the feel of this music, and we used it to come up with the Venetian Carnival theme,” Gunnoe said. “Rock the Runway isn’t just about fashion. It’s about the music; it’s about the production; it’s about having the stage presence.”

To set the scene, Emmalyn Rucker, junior fine arts major, will mask the Student Center Ballroom’s stage with 10 Venetian street graffiti backdrops.

“Last spring I was lucky enough to be in Venice for Carnival, so I based the design on a lot of pictures I took while I was there,” Rucker said. “(My designs are) really graffiti-esque looking and kind of dark and creepy.”

Those attending the show will not just enter the scene; they will enter the experience, each receiving a hand-made mask.

“Rock the Runway is such a big deal,” said Will Riddle, junior fashion design major. “It’s the coveted show, the big Kent production, so I’ve utilized the other smaller shows up until now to gain experience before finally taking this jump.”

The jump for each designer or design team means creating three complete looks, designing a mask, finding models and styling them for the show. Riddle, among the 27 designers in this year’s competition, said he needed special approval for the masks he wants his models to wear.

“I didn’t want it to look like I went and got feathers and just hot glued them to a mask,” Riddle said. “I’m having a tattoo artist paint my models’ faces and encrust them with rhinestones. Hopefully it doesn’t smear because backstage everything gets hot, and the girls start sweating, and they’re nervous, and the pressure’s on, so I just have this reoccurring nightmare of their faces sliding on their neck.”

As with every year, the show will be judged by a celebrity panel, Gunnoe said. This year’s panel includes Kristen Kaleal, a stylist who has dressed people for the Oscars and Golden Globes, Thomas McClure and Dont’e Young, co-founders of Columbus Fashion Week and Danyel Vasquez, an area drag queen performer who sews all of her own costumes.

“We have a good variety of perspectives this year,” Gunnoe said. “We really only require three judges, but we’re to the point now where people call us asking to be judges and committing for the following year when this one doesn’t work out.”

The judges will choose a top designer to receive $500 to Mood Fabric New York, a fabric store in the city, but Gunnoe said prizes won’t stop there. Audience members will have the opportunity to text in a vote for best collection, and their tally will reveal a second winner. That designer or design team wins a free photo shoot with Julie Stanley, a fashion photographer whose pictures have appeared in Vogue, InStyle and Elle.

“It’s really nerve-wracking to think about,” said Jillian Miranda, junior fashion design major. “(My design partner and I) have to make sure we can get our designs out. Trying to do something like this, which is so creative, we have to put all our time into it, but it will be rewarding in the end.”

Her designs are focused around the Roman sea goddess, Salacia, with ideas from Venetian Carnival clothing, Miranda said. All of her and her design partner’s garments are “draped off the body with invisible twine, so you can’t even see that it’s a piece of clothing on a person. It looks like what fabric would, floating under water.”

Rock the Runway’s Venetian Carnival will transform the Ballroom at 8 p.m., and Gunnoe said she expects the room to be filled to capacity, more than 1,000 people, like it has been the last few years. Until then, Riddle, who estimates he’s invested about $500 in this show, said nerves will continue to grow in everyone who is perfecting this unique performance.

“Hopefully people will get an insight of the madness that happens before this beautiful show,” Riddle said. “By the time I’m done, my models will be in headpieces with crazy tall shoes, so they’ll definitely have to work. Everyone plays a part in this show because it’s more than a show. It’s a theatrical performance.”

Contact Emily Inverso at [email protected].