Students Rock Runway for Charity
When Gabriela Graham, Elizabeth Eddy and Juliana Colangelo first came up with the idea to plan a fashion show that would benefit victims of domestic abuse for a class service project, their classmates at Montclair High School turned them down. “They said it was too much to do,” said Eddy, co-founder of Sisters on the Runway, and a senior at Parsons. “But the three of us were determined to accomplish this.” Though their classmates picked another service project, Eddy, Graham, and Colangelo went ahead with Sisters on the Runway anyway. When the three went to college, they decided to continue the project.
Now in its sixth year, Sisters on the Runway is currently in the process of organizing and producing two fashion shows within the next month. On October 15 the organization will host a show at the Theresa Lang Center, the entire proceeds of which will be donated to Safe Horizon, a local women’s shelter. The event will be followed two weeks later by a more formal runway show at Tenjune, a nightclub in the meatpacking district.
On September 22, The New School’s University Student Senate successfully passed a proposal that awarded $600 in funding to Sisters on the Runway. The money has been allocated for expenses ranging from refreshments to printing invitations and postcards that are distributed to current and potential sponsors, and keeping the Theresa Lang Center open for extended building hours.
As of last October, the student-run and produced show is sponsored in part by Parsons, in addition to being held at the design school.
Eddy described the choice to spread awareness about domestic abuse through fashion shows as an attempt to make it the most accessible to a wide variety of people. “It’s such a serious topic that we didn’t want to do something that was too serious that it might scare people off, or make them nervous.”
In an effort to remind attendees of the real reason for holding the event, Eddy said that each show is capped off by a speaker who talks to students about domestic abuse, and in particular, teen dating abuse. “It can be easy for some people when they get involved in the fashion show to get lost in the moment,” said Eddy. “It kind of brings us all back to what the real purpose of the event is.”
Meghan Spielman, a Parsons junior whose designs will be featured in the runway show for the second year in a row, said that the fact that her work will benefit women’s shelters was an added source of motivation for her and other designers. “I think people are very passionate about the cause. Liz is very passionate about it, and that’s one of the reasons she’s so amazing at organizing such a great show,” said Spielman. “It’s a fun show, but at the same time we’re all passionate about why we’re doing this: connecting our craft to action.”
Karla Fischer, a psychologist and expert legal witness specializing in domestic abuse, said that what happens at home is only one half of the equation. “The other part of the problem is a lack of awareness by our society, that translates into a lack of support for victims, a lack of resources in the community for themselves and their children, and a cultural zeitgeist of shame and fear surrounding domestic violence.
“Any event that promotes an understanding of domestic violence is going to be something that is positive for the struggle to end it,” Fischer said.