by MIKE CHAIKEN
Fashion with a cause is coming to Connecticut on July 31, courtesy of Chasity Aniece Productions.
Chasity Aniece Kennedy, who is the owner and director of the production company, said the show is intended to bring awareness to mental health issues and drug abuse.
Through the production itself, Kennedy said, “I just wanted to give the audience that feeling of feeling of being out of place through the clothing, through the unconventional fashion, the dances, styles of walking.”
A portion of the proceeds from the event will go toward the nonprofit Greater Bridgeport Area Prevention Program.
“I chose (GBAPP) because it is a local organization and I feel like people in Bridgeport… and everywhere… need awareness to these disorders,” said Kennedy. And she said many people are unaware of the work that GBAPP does in helping those dealing with mental health and drug abuse issues.
Donetta Johnson, the fashion designer for Kultuur, will be presenting her clothes in the show. Johnson said she already had worked with Kennedy before, so she wanted to work with her again. But the cause itself also was appealing because of her own personal experiences.
“It really did hit home because I did just lose a nephew that was battling mental health issues,” said Johnson.
Latonya Graham, one of the models who is joining her daughter in the show, also said the topic was pertinent to her and was key to her participation. “I have some family issue history with substance abuse so it kind of hit home.”
Deandre, one of the makeup artists for the event, also found the cause appealing because of personal experience.
“As a person who deals with mental health issues, I thought it was important to be behind something like this,” said Deandre. “The show is bringing awareness to so many issues that not a lot of people talk about … (As) a makeup artist, I thought that I could tie my art into (the topic).”
To prepare her team for the show—and to give them guidance on how to use their art to express the the issues being spotlighted, Kennedy said she did some research beforehand about the disorders. This information was then disseminated to the artists.
“I basically told (the designers) to make garments that reflect the feelings of people who suffer from these disorders,” said Kennedy.
The other artists were given similar direction.
“Makeup to me is art and art is an expression. It helps you feel something and helps you get a visual into someone’s mind,” said Deandre when asked about how he would use his skillset to get the message across.
Jeffline St. Louis, one of dancers, said she will portray “mental illness through movements, to portray a different aspect of how it affects a person. It could be like angelic. It could be rough.”
Des’Tahnee Manick-Highsmith, another dancer, said “I feel as though it’s very important as someone who likes to express myself, anything that’s going on with you should be expressed creatively … whether it’s through dance or through fashion or writing or whatever it is.”
St. Louis said an event like BRK FRM NRML is needed not only in the fashion community but for the community in general. “We need events such as this where the focus is on mental health awareness. I feel like it’s not really spoken about in the (Black) community.”
“Mental health is a very big deal and plays a lot into suicide and things that happen within the minority community,” said Deandre.
“People don’t really so comfortable speaking about (their own mental health struggles) because they feel like they’re going to be shut out or told they’re weird,” said Kennedy. “I feel like we need to bring awareness and also show people who do suffer from this that they can get the help that they need.”
A local event like BRK FRM NRML is also beneficial for the fashion community in the state in terms of bringing awareness to the work being done within Connecticut, said Johnson.
“We’re right next to New York– and I do a lot of work in New York– so just to bring that cultural fashion to Connecticut, to give up-and-coming designers, models, a shot, it really pleases me. It does something to my soul,” said Johnson.
BRK FRM NRML will be held Sunday, July 31 at 40 Logan St., Bridgeport. A silent auction will be held 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The show itself begins at 4:30 p.m.
For information and tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN
Models rehearse on a recent Sunday for the BRK FRM NRML fashion show scheduled for July 31.