OKC female entrepreneurs host benefit fashion show for Peace Through Business program

21c Museum Hotel hosted the standing-room-only event July 18, featuring live painting by Oklahoma artist DG Smalling, a silent art auction and a showing of handcrafted jewelry and clothing items.

Proceeds from the show benefited the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women and its Peace Through Business program that pairs entrepreneurs with women business owners in the United States who provide mentoring and classroom training in basic business education.

Several women from Rwanda attended the show as part of the Peace Through Business program and shared fashions from Rwandan designer Uwamahoro Aimee Claudine.

Other highlights included lines from Afghani designer Shadia Muhamedi, Native American designer Leslie Deer, textile and apparel designer Lori Bacigalupi and designs from students at Oklahoma State University’s department of design, housing and merchandising.

Designing for peace

Rich color, embellishments and feminine structure are signatures of Afghani designer Shadia Muhamedi’s line.

“I have a mix of Afghani and Western designs,” she said. “Afghani designs are more colorful, so that’s why I try to mix the Afghani colorful hand embroidery with Western designs. It’s something different.

Muhamedi said fusing cultures is a way of sharing cultures. If people can understand another’s culture, there can be more peace, she said.

“What I am doing is for peace. We were raised in a country where there is always war, always fighting. You hear a lot of explosions, noises, voices, so … in our generation, everything is just thinking about peace.”

Every garment tells story

Designer Leslie Deer also brings cultural notes into her creations. A member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma, Deer uses tribal symbols to tell stories that are woven into her apparel. Symbols are appliqued onto the fabric or laser engraved.

“We are descendants of the mound builder culture from the southeast — from Georgia and Alabama — So these designs are not something that should be left in the past forever … that it’s part of my responsibility to reach back and pull them forward: Bring them into the present day and to modernize them.”

Soft, wearable

An Oklahoma favorite, Norman-based Kiss of the Wolf by Lori Bacigalupi features soft, wearable designs that are created from hand-painted materials using batik, shibori or screen printing.

“It’s primarily asymmetry. We always do very comfortable, wearable things. Sometimes they’re layered. Sometimes they have a neck or an extended sleeve,” she said. You can mix and match with vests and skirts and pants. Everything integrates together.”

Bacigalupi’s clients include Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner in Literature Toni Morrison, Buntzie Ellis Churchill, author and renown authority on Islam and the Middle East, and actor the late Bea Arthur.

Eye toward sustainability

Designers from OSU’s department of design, housing and merchandising brought their own global sensibilities into their designs through upcycling and sustainability.

Bingyue Wei introduced a line composed of four upcycled denim pieces, each featuring adaptations that transform the original into a completely different piece of clothing, such as a dress into a skirt or a sleeved to sleeveless top.

Re-CLEM, a line designed by the OSU DHM research team used upcycled T-shirts to form designs featuring open latticing around the midriff and neckline and bold, fashion-forward patterns.

Meanwhile, Chandler Craven, also from OSU, balanced a bright, candy-colored palette with soft, unstructured silk velvet for a look that is both playful and chic.

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