Last Friday, over a hundred fashion enthusiasts flocked to Upper Tarble for Swarthmore’s first-ever fashion show and auction to benefit the Trevor Project, America’s leading suicide prevention and crisis intervention network aimed at LGBT youth. Hosted by the Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA), Fashion Forward 2011 saw thirty models take to the runway sporting the finest items on the fashion scene today. The event involved the actual construction of a fifty-foot-platform in Upper Tarble flanked by rows of chairs on either side, evoking images of the famed runways of New York and Paris.
Ian Perkins-Taylor ‘13, treasurer for QSA, noted that the scene backstage during the event was chaotic as ever. Whether the dozens of models and backstage hands would be able to pull everything off was in doubt. “When the models started to walk and the crowd started cheering,” Perkins-Taylor reflected, “that’s when I realized, ‘Wow, it all actually came together!’”
The actual show lasted about twenty minutes, during which the models elicited laughter and applause from the audience with their enthusiastic and swaggering walks. Many also wore glittering face makeup or blew kisses at the audience. The final model on the runway, clad in nothing but boxer briefs and a pair of high heels, closed out the show with an especially raucous round of applause.
In all, about forty clothing-producing entities agreed to contribute their merchandise to the auction. Maya Marzouk ‘13, the QSA Events Coordinator, was in charge of sending out a multitude of emails to designers and retailers worldwide asking for donations to the auction. Items received included merchandise from several renowned names such as American Eagle and Levi’s.
After the show, audience members had the opportunity to purchase the donated articles, as well as a collection of other items. Some items carried a flat price and could be purchased on the spot, while others were sold at silent auction. All of the prices were significantly reduced from retail, making them available to parsimonious fashionistas.
Perkins-Taylor estimates that the sale of clothing brought in around $1,300. The final numbers are yet to be determined, as some items have not been sold. QSA also received several donations from clothing designers and retailers that didn’t make it in time to be showcased in the auction. Marzouk says that in the coming days QSA will set up a website so people still interested in purchasing designer clothes at reduced prices can do so.
Funds from the auction and subsequent sale of clothing will benefit the Trevor Project, which QSA describes as “the leading national organization focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQyouth.” It was founded in 1998 by the makers of the short film “Trevor,” which follows the struggles of a gay 13-year-old boy. The Trevor Project hosts many programs to help LGBT youth, including a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline and many online resources. The institution also holds workshops and seminars at schools and colleges to further understanding of diversity and crisis prevention.
“Planning for [the Fashion Forward event] started right around when Tyler Clementi killed himself,” Marzouk said. Clementi was a student at Rutgers who committed suicide in September 2010 after a video of him having a sexual encounter with another man was made public.
“We started talking about how lucky we are at Swarthmore where you can be really open about your sexuality,” Marzouk explained, adding that that is not the case in most of America.
Perkins-Taylor added that Fashion Forward also commemorated the death of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy who took his own life because of bullying due to his sexuality. “[Events such as that] kind of prove the need for organizations like the Trevor Project,” Marzouk said.
Asked about whether Fashion Forward will recur year after year, QSA leaders agreed that it was certainly a likely possibility. “This event was a really fun way to effectively raise money for charity,” said Perkins-Taylor. “So we are considering doing another.”
Marzouk echoed Perkins-Taylor’s sentiments. “We weren’t originally planning for this to be an annual event,” she said. “But then Friday happened, and now we are.”