Runway ASIA celebrates the diverse styles of the Asian diaspora and raises $1000 for humanitarian relief in Gaza

January 3, 2024

Snehidhi Sridhar (CAS ’26) struts the runway. Photo by Miranda Xiong

Georgetown University’s Asian American Student Association (AASA) hosted their third annual Runway ASIA on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in the Copley Formal Lounge.

Coordinated by AASA’s Politics and Advocacy Committee (PAC) co-chairs Dhruv Shah (SFS ’26) and Amal Sharfi (CAS ’26), Runway ASIA—an acronym standing for Asian Style Inspires Activism—is an annual student fashion show that combines celebrating the diverse cultures and styles of the Asian diaspora with charity fundraising. With the purchase of a $10 ticket, attendees were treated to a cultural clothing showcase of epic proportions, complete with an a cappella performance by Georgetown Superfood and catering courtesy of Falafel Inc.

Photo by Zifei Zhao AASA’s Politics and Advocacy Committee (PAC) co-chairs Dhruv Shah (SFS ’26) and Amal Sharfi (CAS ’26) introduce the show.Photo by Zifei Zhao

In previous semesters, Runway ASIA has raised hundreds of dollars for philanthropic causes such as supporting Asian survivors of sexual violence (Spring 2022) and providing earthquake relief in Turkey and Syria (Spring 2023). This year, Runway ASIA chose to fundraise for Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), a humanitarian organization dedicated to providing medical supplies and services for Palestinians in Gaza.

“This event was already going to happen before the recent events in Gaza, but after everything happened, we really wanted to find a way for us to bring the community together to make a big impact there,” Shah said. “Humanitarian aid in Gaza is so important, and we wanted our money to go towards helping people on the ground rather than administrative costs. Everyone in the PAC committee did a lot of research to figure out which specific organization to donate to in order to achieve this goal, and that is how we found PCRF.”

According to Shah and Sharfi, when AASA reached out to Palestinian-owned local business Falafel Inc. to cater the event, the company was so moved by Runway ASIA’s choice to fundraise towards relief efforts in Gaza that they decided to cater the event free of charge.

Photo by Zifei Zhao Runway ASIA models enjoy catering from Falafel Inc after the show.Photo by Zifei Zhao

Through a combination of ticket sales and supplementary donations, Runway ASIA raised over $1000 for PCRF, completely shattering previous years’ fundraising records. The announcement of surpassing the fundraising goal prompted thunderous applause from the audience.  

During the fashion show, student models had the opportunity to strut the runway while showcasing pieces of cultural clothing which were particularly meaningful to them. 

“A majority of the models wore their own clothing or clothing they got from a family member or a friend. We purposefully put the event after Thanksgiving break because we know a lot of people go home over Thanksgiving, and they would have time to go and get an outfit they maybe didn’t bring to college,” said Sharfi. “We did have some models who were really interested in modeling but didn’t have access to any cultural clothing, and in those cases the community really came together to make arrangements for people to lend their clothing.”

Photo by Zifei Zhao Runway ASIA models and attendees enjoy an a cappella performance from Superfood.Photo by Zifei Zhao

After all of the models hit the runway to a variety of vibrant musical selections, Superfood performed two songs, including a wonderful a cappella rendition of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. This is Runway ASIA’s first year incorporating a performance from another on-campus organization in addition to the central fashion show.

“We were trying to innovate on the show itself and add something entertaining in the middle,” Shah said. “We understand that $10 is a lot of money, so we wanted to make sure the event was worth people’s while so students felt encouraged to come and support a good cause like PCRF.”

Once Superfood’s set concluded, a handful of models had the opportunity to share a few words about their outfit’s larger historical context and personal significance.

Photo by Miranda Xiong Amy Lum (CAS ’26) shares about the history of her qipao.Photo by Miranda Xiong

One Georgetown student who modeled for Runway ASIA this year was AASA Treasurer Amy Lum (CAS ’26). Lum dazzled the audience in a stunning silk qipao, a traditional Chinese garment usually worn on special occasions. As she explained to the audience, Lum’s mother purchased this particular qipao while studying abroad in Beijing in the 1990s. Fitted with a classic silhouette and adorned with intricate floral embroidery, this dress was modeled to perfection by Lum. According to her, its red and gold coloration symbolizes good fortune and happiness. 

“Runway ASIA means a lot to me, because I didn’t have as many opportunities to showcase my culture like this in high school,” Lum said. “I love that we were able to share the background and the history of our clothing. Being able to see all of the different models and all of the different cultural wear all at once—I’m just really grateful to Amal and Dhruv and all of the other people who organized this.”  

Photo by Miranda Xiong Julie Meneses (CAS ’25) models a traditional Filipiniana dress.Photo by Miranda Xiong

Other students provided context behind their outfits as well, including Anisha Kumar (CAS ’26), Lucas Lin (SFS ’24), Lex Njomin (SFS ’27), and Julie Meneses (CAS ’25). Kumar briefly chronicled the history of her South Indian saree, Lin shared a few words about his Chinese hanfu, and Njomin elaborated on the cultural significance of his hand-dyed, Indonesian batik. Finally, Meneses shared the history of her golden, butterfly-sleeved Filipiniana dress, a garment which blends indigenous Filipino and Spanish cultural influences. As Meneses explained, the dress is also commonly referred to as the Maria Clara dress after the heroine of Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere.

Photo by Miranda Xiong The models of Runway ASIA 2023 take to the runway one last time.Photo by Miranda Xiong

Once these five speeches concluded, all of the models paraded down the catwalk one last time together to the iconic pop anthem “Gimme More” by Britney Spears. Models arranged themselves into two single-file lines spanning the runway’s length and struck their final poses—some fierce, some smiley. This impactful final moment was the perfect bookend to Runway ASIA: a lasting image representative of the rich diversity of glamorous Asian outfits showcased over the course of the evening and the strength of the Asian community here on campus. 

Afterwards, models and attendees alike had the opportunity to grab a bite to eat and socialize in the Copley Formal Lounge, allowing students to unwind and enjoy each other’s company before the hectic trials and tribulations of finals season. While conversing, feasting, and snapping photos together, the strong sense of community felt palpable within the space. Runway ASIA’s warmth and intimacy, derived from students’ personal connections to the cultural clothing, brought people together—a powerful, unifying sentiment not lost on any of the guests or event coordinators.

“I think it’s really special for me to see Runway Asia specifically because of the diversity of outfits that we have. We have South Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian, West Asian, Central Asian—just so many different outfits all across Asia. I’m the first South Asian president of AASA, and it’s really monumental for us to have a show showcasing the diversity of Asian fashion,” Akshadha Lagisetti (SFS ’25) said.

Photo by Miranda Xiong AASA co-presidents Akshadha Lagisetti (SFS ’25) and Rachel Tao (CAS ’25) dazzle the crowd.Photo by Miranda Xiong

A love letter to Asian fashion and community, Runway ASIA is a treasured space for Asian students at Georgetown to honor, celebrate, and share their cultural heritage while simultaneously making a philanthropic impact. With three wildly successful iterations in the books thus far, Runway ASIA has become a beloved tradition here at Georgetown—one with no plans to slow down any time soon. 

Click here to read Eileen Chen’s spectacular feature piece for The Georgetown Voice on the second annual Runway ASIA from earlier this year.

Hailey Wharram
Hailey is a senior from Richmond, Virginia studying English, journalism, and film and media studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. When she isn’t writing for The Voice, she loves songwriting, reading, scrupulously updating her Letterboxd profile, and romanticizing her life one Spotify playlist at a time.

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