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Interim President Jeff Ettinger inside Morrill Hall on Sept. 20, 2023. Ettinger gets deep with the Daily: “It’s bittersweet.”
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Published April 22, 2024

Episode 96: Student celebrates Indian culture through fashion

University student Sony Lane showed designs at Coalesce, a Twin Cities AAPI fashion show. Lane pulls inspiration from her Indian culture and identity.

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SAM MOSER: Hi everyone, my name is Sam Moser and you’re listening to “In The Know,” a podcast by The Minnesota Daily. Together, we’ll be exploring the University of Minnesota’s students and communities with each episode.

In this episode, we will be highlighting the fourth-year University of Minnesota student Sonu Lane, and her journey to becoming one of the nine fashion designers that featured their collection at Coalesce, a Premiere AAPI fashion show. The Minnesota Fashion Week event took place on April 30 at Allianz Field in St. Paul. Lane is being recognized in this way as she wraps up her senior year at the U. We will hear from Lane herself as well as her models, former apparel design professor and the event organizer as they describe what makes her fashion line individualistic and unique. 

Before the event, The Daily sat down with Lane to explain what an attendee can expect to see at Coalesce.

SONU LANE: This fashion show really showcases all the AAPI designers and each designer is so unique, they also have their own references about their own culture. So I’m really excited for it.

MOSER: According to the fashion event producer, Moa Xiong, Coalesce is an Asian American and Pacific Islander event conceptualized in the fall of 2021 to highlight creativity in the Asian American community, and it is not limited to apparel design.

MOA XIONG: We’re just super super excited because we have such an amazing cast of creatives. And it goes from everywhere, from designers, to artists to DJs, to our photographers, videographers, everybody that’s a part of this. They’re just so amazingly talented. And they’re all from our AAPI community here in the Twin Cities.

MOSER: According to Lane, networking is vital in the world of fashion, and she says it’s nice for creators to be recognized by the entire community for that reason.

LANE: This is a premiere AAPI fashion show. So it’s all new designers, it’s a whole new community. They’re going to take a lot away, just simply like, through the designs that they see, or the designers that they talk to, or even the food that they eat at this event.

MOSER: Lane defined her line as a collection of interchangeable garments.

LANE: Within these garments, I’ve incorporated textiles that are really really known in India. So the fabric that I’m using is called bandhani, which is a tie dye technique used in India. And it’s intricate work, but the turnout is beautiful.

MOSER: She placed an emphasis on creating modern silhouettes for her line as well.

LANE: It’s not just for Indian people, it’s for the people who are interested in Indian fashion, who want to, you know, wear it proudly, but also want to know more about it. So again, using those modern silhouettes, but mixing that culture in through textiles.

MOSER: Coalesce is Lane’s first fashion show, and according to Lane, she knows little about the process. Lane sees Coalesce as a great learning opportunity.

And she wasn’t going through the process alone. According to one of her models, third-year apparel design student Cindy Leewood, Lane often bounces her ideas off of her peers. 

CINDY LEEWOOD: When I had a fashion show, she was also helping me do that. And so for this, like a fashion show if she has some questions or like, has some like fit issues, we would talk about it and I would help her.

MOSER: Another of Lane’s models, fourth-year apparel design student Summer Vue, is happy to be involved in this event for Lane as well.

SUMMER VUE: She had asked if I wanted to model for her because she did want to keep it to friends or people that she knew really well rather than looking for, like professional models, which I thought was really nice. And I think it’s just like a really exciting opportunity for the both of us in terms of her designing. And then also for all of us to be able to walk for her and to also to show her designs off as well.

MOSER: Lane was pleasantly surprised when a Fashion Week ambassador took note of her work during her senior thesis showcase in the fall of 2021.

LANE: I was just shocked, because they had recognized it, and the fact that they ended up, you know, networking with other people, and they’re like, hey, this designer is really cool. She has a really unique line. And it ties with her culture and her background.

MOSER: Lane welcomed the opportunity to showcase her line, but she recognized the level of commitment it would take. 

LANE: I was like, wow, I just finished one thing, do I really start another thing? But I think it was just really exciting. Because this was my, you know, again, my way to show what my designs are.

MOSER: One of Lane’s favorite outfits from her collection included a teal top with a cropped-up square neck made of raw silk coupled with a patterned miniskirt. 

LANE: Somehow in the light, there’s like some reflection on just, it reflects as if it’s a different color, like green or even a little tint of gold. And then within that top, I also sewed on a small leaf embellishments to create, you know, add a little bit of texture to the top. And then to match with it was the mini skirt that I created with the bandhani textile, which was also embroidered with gold thread.

MOSER: Lane also described some of the details on the miniskirt.

LANE: And it had little mirrors on it. And again, that, you know, the mirror work was so beautiful. And this miniskirt also had a little like thigh slit. So when the model was walking, you know, she felt more comfortable and able to move.

MOSER: Expression of Lane’s individuality and Indian identity is extremely important to her methodology. 

LANE: This collection is really inspired by my culture, and just influences of my background and who I am.

MOSER: Lane was able to speak with the Daily once more after the event to further discuss how her Indian culture played a role in the conception of her fashion line. Lane is from the city Pune in the state of Maharashtra, but she likes to draw influences from across India for her work.

LANE: A lot of my ties are through just learning about it through history books, and doing my own research on India, and it’s textiles. But I think that’s just again, like a start for me to connect and network and create those ties, even with actual people, even professors who have more knowledge on the Indian culture and fashion.

MOSER: Lane views fashion as an opportunity to empower oneself through embracing their culture.

LANE: It’s often not taught in school. We’re all from different communities, or countries and different areas on the Earth. And I feel like, often it’s either misinterpreted, or it’s not even mentioned. And so this is a way for me, myself, to present it in a really cool way too. Because who doesn’t like fashion?

MOSER: She said that every culture offers its own unique interpretation of textile design, and it’s something that she gives great consideration while creating her line.

LANE: It’s super important to me that we just talk about it. I’m open to having even people come up and ask me what is this design? Or what is this fabric? And why did you choose it this way, instead of you know the Western way?

MOSER: According to Xiong, Lane’s emphasis on and dedication to her Indian identity made her an appealing candidate to be selected as a designer. Lane said that she was directly inspired by the colors of India.

LANE: Their colors are super, super vibrant, they’re often inspired by, you know, the natural environment within India or like, just a lot of the art, even the architecture too. So, wherever I create something I often love the colors, I often try to make it as vibrant as I can. 

MOSER: Lane’s connection to India also influenced her choice of textiles.

LANE: In my collection, I did use some bandhani textile with embroidered work on it, and again bandhani tie dye technique that they use within textiles. So, you know, again, with my style, I am curating more toward modern because it’s, it’s kind of, you know, I’m in that environment and people like more than modern fashion, but how do you like, you know, teach about culture within that?

MOSER: Vue also appreciates Lane’s culturally influenced approach to fashion.

VUE: I also admired that she pulls her Indian culture into her work as well because I think that’s really important to showcase as a person of color, especially in this industry because It’s not necessarily the most diverse.

MOSER: Her peers definitely appreciate her ability to create one-of-a-kind pieces, and Xiong expressed high praise for Lane’s work and individuality.

XIONG: As a student designer, you’re coming in with some veteran designers who have been doing this for years. And like you still stayed really true to your designs. You’re not easily influenced, which I feel like in this industry can happen really easily as like a young designer or just anybody who’s coming in as a young creative. 

MOSER: According to Xiong, it is the fit that makes her garments stand out.

XIONG: She also has a great eye of making her garments fit, you know, really nicely. And it’s, that’s, that’s, I think, like one of the big things, I love fashion and I’m really short. And so I’m constantly looking for things that you know, will fit my body and my height and everything like that. And I felt like everything that she made for her models, like they were just like, so perfectly done.

MOSER: Leewood claims she wouldn’t mind wearing Lane’s line for everyday life.

LEEWOOD: I could relate to what they have to say about Sonu’s garments, like, she makes them fit very well. You feel very confident in your outfits. That’s how I feel about my outfit. Like, I feel very confident about it, because I, I just know I look good in it.

MOSER: Vue often works alongside Lane in and outside of class, and finds her work ethic contagious.

VUE: She is an extremely, extremely hardworking person. And like, that’s not even in terms of like school just outside of school as well. Like, I feel like she’s always doing work. And it’s really inspiring, because it’s like, ah, like, you kind of see her do stuff and you’re like, Man, I feel like I should be doing stuff. You know, it’s kind of like that kind of energy. And she’s also very giving and caring. She always wants to help other people, which is really nice. And I admire that a lot about her.

MOSER: One of Lane’s apparel design professors at the U, Lindsey Strange, also had this to say about Lane.

LINDSEY STRANGE: She’s really eager to always push herself, which really stands out about her. She’s always looking for feedback and wanting to improve and I’ve always really appreciated that about her as a student.

MOSER: According to Lane, she sees no value in following the footsteps of somebody else. Lane said she initially wanted to emulate her classmates and peers, but eventually began to embrace her own individuality which has led to greater happiness, a deeper sense of pride and better creative output overall.

LANE: When I started incorporating more and more of what I loved and what I liked, that’s when I got better. So just like sticking to your guts, and just, being different.

MOSER: She hopes that this event can inspire and empower local creatives to manifest their own sense of confidence. According to Lane, seeing her work presented in such a professional way had  an inspiring impact.

LANE: I think, you know, just seeing it, just seeing that, like, oh, my gosh, I made this. I think that’s probably just the most rewarding part.

MOSER: Lane was able to briefly summarize what this opportunity means to her.

LANE: Overall, I’m excited about the show, I’m excited about representing the Indian community through fashion. It’s new, it’s different, but it’s an exciting way to present who I am. 

MOSER: As we come to a close, The Daily would like to thank Mao Xiong, Cindy Leewood, Summer Vue, Lindsey Strange and Sonu Lane for taking the time to share their thoughts with us. 

And to all listeners, thank you for tuning in. We’ll see you next time. I’m Sam Moser and this, is In The Know.

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