Style » Fashion

Rainbow Fashion Week Brings Eco-Friendly Runway to Pride Month

by Kelsy Chauvin
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jun 8, 2017

Fashion has always been a unifying force and common language for the LGBT community. While social-political issues like marriage equality and gays in the military still incite opposition, fashion's biggest debates are typically (and refreshingly) about basic aesthetic opinions.

So when E. Jaguar "Jag" Beckford launched
Rainbow Fashion Week (RFW) in 2013, it was a perfect addition to New York's June Pride month -- bringing glamour and fresh designs to an underserved, diverse audience, and giving all of us some beauty to behold.

This year, RFW will sashay its way to locations around the city from June 16 through 23, as a proud, official NYC-sanctioned pre-Pride event.

Beckford is founder and CEO of RFW, a role she's cherished not only because she is herself a designer. She's also a devoted leader, whose top concerns are to maintain the production's integrity and inclusiveness, and to grow its New York audience on the way to domestic and international expansion.

Fashion Foremost

With more than two-dozen designers debuting their latest work at this year's RFW, fashion innovations are core to the mission. Beckford declares, "LGBT fashionistas will serve up a dazzling platter of colors, patterns, prints, and styles...setting the tone to the lead fashion, not follow it."

Among 2017's themed runway shows are Drag Stars, Urban Knight, BoHo Supreme, Hair du Soleil, and Alternative Apparrell. Some, like Beckford's own JagandCo label, create styles that cater to a particular niche. In the case of JagandCo, it's male-styled clothes made for women.

Beckford considers LGBT-geared fashions inherent to each show, but with it comes an even more significant byproduct, which she proclaims as RFWs advocacy motto: "One Nation Under the Rainbow."

"The goal of RFW is not only to support the business of queer style, but also to foster a social responsibility," Beckford explains on her RFW mission statement. "Each fashion installment becomes a platform for activism and the promotion of sustainability, and providing awareness to causes and issues still facing the LGBTQ community."

She and her ever-growing team cast a wide net for talent, for designers and their associates, as well as for volunteers, production assistance, photography and videography, catering, hair and make-up pros, and "whatever, you have to offer -- there is nothing too small," she says.

"We manage to connect via word of mouth," says Beckford. "I believe that we all have untapped resources. The key is helping our team, family, and friends exploit their resources and bring them to RFW. They begin to speak about RFW and our mission, and opportunities offered to the LGBT community -- and people naturally gravitate towards our mission."

RFW's recruitment strategy has been wildly successful, and also includes building a wide audience of attendees and online fans. In its first three years, the eight-day event has attracted more than 25,000 queer and gay friendly attendees and more than five million impressions.

Where Fashion Meets Community

Beyond the baseline mission of being queer-chic and open to all forms of gender and orientation, another central element of RFW 2017 is being eco-savvy and carbon-neutral. Beckford calls it an "endeavor to create a morally accountable fashion week." Each show takes steps to reduce its carbon footprint with steps like recycling, re-purposing and re-using clothing in designs; composting; reducing energy consumption with solar panels; and using environmentally sustainable products.

The event partners with several non-profits to help raise fund and awareness, including the Trevor Project, James Baldwin School, True Colors Fund, Etsy: GOL Outreach, Brooklyn Artistry, Water Aid America, and other charities that work for positive change for LGBT communities, children's welfare, and clean-water initiatives.

"RFW has created safe and creative spaces for our entire LGBTQ+ community," says Beckford. "The aim of RFW is not only to support the business of queer style, the notion of daring to be different while just being yourself -- but also fosters anti-bulling, anti-domestic violence, body positivity, trans justice, immigration justice, teen homelessness, trafficking, environmental awareness, among other larger issues facing the community."

Look for a RFW to keep developing its support for artists, producers, and designers across the United States, and through global partners -- already it has collaborations in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, France, Honduras, and Haiti. Soon, Beckford plans to launch the RFW Dream Academy to open creative opportunities for artists around the world.

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBT interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.


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