Two models appear in the entrance of the room. One is wearing all black and sports a vest with a row of plastic buckles down the front. The other, wears all white and has a plush blindingly white sweater on. Heels click in unison on the old hardwood floor of the Interior Design Building. The models walk hand in hand. Their expressions are hard. Unaffected. Stoic.

STOIC was the name and theme of Thursday night’s runway show and photo exhibit hosted by the School of Fashion. The event showcased the work of third-year fashion design and fashion communications students.

“Stoicism is a school of philosophy from 300 B.C. that portrayed people to be emotionless,” explained Cathy Nguyen, producer of the show. “That’s the most powerful thing you can do—show no emotion.”

Initially, STOIC was supposed to be an all menswear show.

“Stoicism is generally considered a masculine term,” said Nguyen. “We thought it would be much more powerful to explore stoicism and use a mixture of male and female models and unisex garments.”

Third-year fashion design student Willis Chan addressed the theme of stoicism by contradicting it with garments that exhibited both pain and pleasure.

He gestures to the model standing beside him:  “There’s pleasure—it’s beautiful, aesthetically,” he said.  She’s wearing a white, neoprene dress with intricate cut outs of clear plastic that reveal her bare skin underneath. “But the pain of the dress is that you can’t wear it in an everyday setting. You can’t sit in it. It’s restricting.”

Luxe sportswear, monochromatic colours and androgyny were all recurring themes in the show. Despite featuring work by seven different designers, the show looked like it came from one collection. Models wore dark smoky eyes and slicked back wet-look hair. When they walked down the runway, spectators saw that all models had their hands tied behind their backs with twine.

“The twining [of the hands] is a theatrical component of stoicism used to emphasize [the idea of being] in pain but showing no emotion,” Nguyen said.

She likens this to the lives of models in the industry.

“Models every day are under scrutiny by their media, their friends, and their peers,” she said. “[They face criticisms like] ‘Are you too skinny? Are you too fat?’ and they endure it and are still powerful people who choose that career. They are stoic in their way as well.

[P]hotos by Sam Yohannes