April 1, 2023


It was a full house at Conestoga College’s Doon campus library on March 4 for the sixth annual “aWEARness” runway performance show. The event showcased the final products of months of labour by the second-year visual merchandising arts students at Conestoga.

The theme was “Paper with Purpose” and inspiration for their dresses ranged from Disney princesses to Vatican staircases and everything in between. Each dress was made solely out of paper, ranging from tissue paper and paper plates to napkins and card stock.

Each student took inspiration from a designer, painter or architect and painstakingly handcrafted their dresses to mimic their unique stylings. The event was half runway show and half fundraiser, with the charity of choice being the G. Magnotta Foundation for Vector-Borne Diseases. The goal of the foundation is to establish Canada’s first research facility to study Lyme disease and other vector-borne diseases.

“We were just thrilled overall – the whole thing was a huge success,” said Laura Harding, the co-ordinator of Conestoga’s visual merchandising arts program.

Each dress and designer were introduced by a unique video created by students from Conestoga’s broadcast television program. They ranged from upbeat, perky collages to emotional roller-coasters. Each video captured the essence of the dress and featured the designers talking about their inspirations, materials and the hard work they put in.

“There was so much hype leading up to it, so walking down the runway and seeing the months and months of work was kind of amazing,” said Samra Mushtaq, a second-year visual merchandising arts student.

After the runway show, attendees were invited back to the visual merchandising studio for refreshments and the chance to meet the designers and check out the dresses up close.
“Being able to talk to everyone about the costumes we took so long to make was very cool,” said Mushtaq.

Shauna Wiley, one of the students, designed her dress to be modelled by her sister, Mauryah Burattini, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease in December 2013, but struggled with symptoms for years before then. Her lowest point came around the summer of 2014, when she could no longer walk on her own.

“I felt emotionally dead. Drained. You lose hope a bit,” she said.

Since then, after travelling to the United States to receive proper treatment, Burattini has made leaps and bounds. As the final model in the show, Burattini received a standing ovation as she walked down the runway with her arms raised above her head.

“It was overwhelming. I was trying not to cry,” she said.

For her, the moment in the spotlight drove home just how much she’s accomplished since being confined to a wheelchair.

“It was very symbolic to me, to be able to physically walk out there. It brought back how far I’ve come and that was overwhelming too,” she said.
Wiley described it as the highlight of the night for her.

“When she came out I was really emotional – you could tell everyone else was too. It definitely pulled at some heartstrings,” she said.

After Burattini’s ovation, the models and designers took one last walk down the runway for the finale before the show came to an end.

“We expected greatness, we absolutely did,” said Harding. “They were the ones who had to present – it was their work and they really put themselves out there. They did a fantastic job.”

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