Models sport fashions they designed and made during the 12th annual Sew-N-Know fashion show "Woke to Fashion" at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center in D.C. on June 8. (Brigette Squire/The Washington Informer)

Months after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s creative plan and the #DontMuteDC movement pivoted attention to the city’s cultural economy, the Sew N Know Fashion Show continues to position itself as a meaningful platform for budding designers seeking to showcase — and eventually monetize — their passion.

“Woke to Fashion,” the theme of the most recent Sew N Know Fashion Show, alluded to ongoing efforts to connect youth to the fashion industry.

On Saturday, shortly before introducing the sharply dressed toddlers and preteens that would take to the stage at the Southeast Tennis & Learning Center (SETLC) in originally made clothing, Raji Rankins drove home that point, as he had done in years past.

“Fashion is a multi-million dollar business and young people have the possibility of having a successful fashion brand,” said Rankins, master of ceremonies for the 12th annual Sew N Know Fashion Show and director of Sewing Opportunity Never Ending (SONE), a partner organization of the Sew-N-Know program.

“There are some hurdles to overcome in forming meaningful experiences [for youth] in this city and other cities that are changing,” Rankins said. “Being in this environment gives them the discipline to strategize and prioritize [fashion] as an asset.”

For more than 15 years, SONE has provided tutoring, training and skills development for youth in D.C.’s economically disadvantaged communities, all of which thousands of young people have showcased through the Sew N Know Fashion Show. Saturday’s event culminated a lengthy creative process and hours of practice.

Under the guidance of adult advisers and former Sew N Know participants, several youth hit confident strides down an outdoor walkway on the grounds of SETLC as Cora Masters Barry, Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter, and a bevy of family and friends watched in awe.

During scenes titled “SNK Woke to Fashion,” “Put a Bow on It,” “Neon” and “Futuristic,” models showcased original designs, comprised of neon colors, bows and other materials that hinted at their unique personalities.

This year, DC SCORES served as a partner organization; youth from Maret School and the Duke Ellington School of Arts, both located in Northwest, regaled the audience with their spoken-word pieces. North Carolina-born artist Yusha Assad also displayed his wordplay and artistic ability.

For Kayla Wiggins, a Delaware State University student and Sew N Know participant-turned-modeling instructor, Saturday’s program allowed her to pass on knowledge she gained while frequenting SETLC since elementary school.

Wiggins thanked the program for exposing her to new opportunities, such as the chance to study accounting on a college campus.

“I like fashion, nails, hair, and makeup because it’s a part of life,” said Wiggins, 19. “I like to show people to think outside of the box. I’ve been in this program for nearly nine years and it’s helped me. I didn’t want to do it at first, but by the time I got to the sixth grade, I was in it every day, sewing more and helping other kids.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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