Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Fashion Show celebrates women empowerment and inclusivity

Ninth annual SOTR Fashion Show

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Fashion Show celebrates women empowerment and inclusivity

(Bonnie Chen/ Daily Collegian)

(Bonnie Chen/ Daily Collegian)

(Bonnie Chen/ Daily Collegian)

(Bonnie Chen/ Daily Collegian)

By Bonnie Chen, Collegian Staff

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The University of Massachusetts’ Sisters on the Runway delivered its ninth annual fashion show on Saturday, displaying women empowerment and inclusivity with feminine undertones, from the models who walked the runway to all-female campus group performances.

SOTR is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to raise awareness and funds for women and children who have experienced domestic violence and are currently residing in domestic violence shelters.

Over the past nine years, the SOTR division within UMass has raised over $32,000 for a local domestic violence shelter, Safe Passage, in Northampton. A representative from Safe Passage was the first guest speaker to speak about the organization and SOTR’s contributions.

“At Safe Passage we respond to the reality the survivors face in the aftermath of interpersonal violence. This includes domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence and relationship abuse,” Amber Abdella said. “It is also important to know that we are here for all survivors. Women, men, transgender, gender non-binary, gender non-conforming and people of all sexual orientations.”

Each year, SOTR holds a fashion show at the end of the spring semester. Along with proceeds from the ticket and raffle sales, proceeds from smaller fundraisers throughout the year like Krispy Kreme donut sales go to Safe Passage.

All the clothing that the models showcased were donated to the organization by sponsors like TJ Maxx, J.C. Penny, Suits by Sinclaire, ColourPop Cosmetics, Kosmios, the Boston Red Sox and more. Donations went towards the fashion show or raffle prizes. The clothing that were modeled went up for sale at the end of the show besides a few pieces that were on loan from TJ Maxx and Suits by Sinclare.

Following the guest speaker from Safe Passage, was another speaker Kene Chinenye, a UMass student and president of Alpha Chi Omega. Chinenye shared her own story of sexual assault and her struggle with the aftermath.

“It is not something you forget and it’s not something that ever stops following you. I’m not the same girl, if anything I’m stronger and more resilient. Everyday has become a battle reminding myself that I’m not broken,” said Chinenye. “I’m worth so much and capable of so much in this world and it’s empowered me to fight for that missing piece of me. I never thought it would be me. I never thought that I would be the ‘#MeToo’ and I never thought that I would be the one in grief. No one does. It’s not my fault and maybe one day I’ll believe that.”

After the speakers, there was a moment of silence “for all the domestic violence victims.”

Then there were performances from UMass’s all-female acapella group Sharp Attitude, UMass Dhadak Dance Team, a musical performance by Aleyana Noemi Ramos — who is a Sparkling Crowns Pageant Queen — and dance from UMass Indian Classical Arts Society.

The actual fashion show took place after a brief intermission. The show was DJed by DJ Matt Minnehan and hosted by the secretary and treasurer of SOTR Yamanoutchy Estimé.

The models were all UMass students and members of SOTR who epitomized racial and sexual orientation inclusivity. The clothing that was showcased ranged from prom dresses to pantsuits to casualwear.

Each model walked three outfits. While each walked, the host would encourage them with words of affirmation like “Okay Sis! I see you!” and “This is your runway tonight!”

“While doing all of this is to try to raise awareness to domestic violence, we also try our best to be representative (of all bodies, all races, all gender, all sizes, all religions and etc.) in order to promote positive body image and empowerment,” said President of SOTR, UMass division Claudlyne Bernaus in an email from SOTR.

The fashion show was a huge event with a red carpet entry, mocktails and finger food like sandwiches, cheese platters, cupcakes, cookies and cake pops. The majority of the food was purchased by the club from local establishments like Big Y and Sweets & More, and 100 cookies were donated by Insomnia Cookies.

Tickets could be bought online or at the door, $15 for those with a UMass ID and $20 for general admissions. Raffle tickets were also sold for $1 or 5 for $3.

Jemima Mascary, a sophomore at Hamilton College from Cambridge, Massachusetts, came to UMass to visit her friend on the SOTR executive board during her spring break.

“It was great. We had Sisters on the Runway in high school so I’m pretty familiar with the things that go on,” said Mascary. “I think that they did a really good job with decorating, like their raffles were really good and the models all looked really good and them putting the clothes up for sale after the show, I think was also a very good idea.”

Jordan Sweeney, junior UMass student, went to the event to support her roommate who is also on the executive board of SOTR.

“I thought it was awesome. I’ve never been to any of their events and I really liked it” said Sweeney. “I loved the diversity in the models, and I loved the energy of it. It was really awesome.”

Bonnie Chen can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @BonnieChenn.

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