Friday, September 14th marked the date of a new kind of fashion show in the Greater Detroit area: an event showcasing traditional garb from a variety of towns during 19th century Armenia. The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Mid-Council of Greater Detroit was the primary sponsor of the show. This chapter was established in 1943, and is made up of representatives from the five sister chapters of the Major Detroit Community: the "Maro," "Zabel," "Shakeh," "Tsolig," and "Sybille." All proceeds from the event directly benefit the Zavarian Armenian School for kids ages 5-16.
"Rediscovering Armenian Heritage through Regional Folk Costumes" was the title of the production, which offered a dazzling display of 20 reproductions of both daily and formal attire. The models were members of the community who sported an array of elaborate and simple creations, complete with accessories such as head and footwear that would typically be worn by a 19th century Armenian. The Hamazkayin Cultural and Educational Association of Montreal supplied the collection of garments for the ARS occasion, which was held at the Arakelian Hall of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Dearborn.
The head of the ARS Mid-Council Sirvart Telbelian was pleased to welcome 200 guests. She emphasized that the ARS has helped meet the needs of Armenian people through educational, humanitarian, and medical aid for the last 102 years; and the Mid-Council of Detroit has operated the Zavarian Armenian School in Detroit for the last 69 years. She added that the foundation continues to promote Armenian heritage and language through events similar to this one.
Hourig Jacobs, head professor of the ARS Zavarian School, followed with his announcements. Essay contests for all day and one-day schools sponsored by the ARS regional board take place yearly. Jacobs recognized five outstanding entries which were selected from the initial pool of 200.
Guests then enjoyed a rendition of the ARS anthem before dinner. A table blessing was given by Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian, followed by a medley of hot and cold homemade Armenian dishes made by members of the church. Armenian music provided by violinist Harry Hovakimian made the meal complete.
Following dinner was the much-anticipated fashion show, narrated in both Armenian by Tamitza Dakessian, and English by Annette Cholakian. Pieces were intricately explained as each model took a 24-foot walk down the runway with spirit and poise, wearing the collections with pride as they displayed traces of their culture. Similar to a modern Western show, all the models entered the stage together at the end for one final flaunt of the beautiful garments. The lively spirit of the show was amplified when they began to dance, moving from the runway to the main floor and around the tables, enabling the audience to view the models' attire up close.
The night commenced with many thanks to all who participated as well as a raffle drawing. Perhaps the most coveted prize was a stunning handmade prayer rug, with the Lord's Prayer stitched in Armenian. The event was truly a successful celebration of Armenian heritage.