Photos by Kiera Franks.
Far from the fashion shows you’ve seen elsewhere, Unchained OSU brings back its annual visual arts performance for the fourth year in a row. Mark your calendars for March 28, when the student organization will present its anti-trafficking fashion show in Curl Marketplace’s Viewpoint.
Unchained OSU is the collegiate version of the trafficking awareness nonprofit organization, Unchained, that was founded here in Columbus. The show accepts donations but is free for anyone to attend. 100% of donations and raffle ticket sales will go toward the scholarship fund, “Strategies for Success.” I sat down with Co-Presidents of the student organization, Serena Kaul and Rebecca Kuhr, to learn more about their mission.
“That scholarship assists survivors in pursuing higher education to help them escape the cycle of being trafficked,” said Kaul. “This helps them move forward and progress with their lives after they get out, so then they can get jobs.”
This scholarship is now housed under the local anti-trafficking nonprofit, She Has A Name. Previous scholarship recipients have gone on to pursue degrees at schools like Columbus State and Ohio State.
Through the fashion show, Unchained OSU aims to raise money for the scholarship fund, educate people about human trafficking, and shine a light on the lives and experiences of overcomers. By including these experiences, the issue becomes more “real.” At Ohio State, most of us live in our own bubbles of security and are blind to a reality that isn’t ours. Unchained OSU seamlessly puts human trafficking into a perspective that’s easier to understand.
“There’s a script that’s read, like a poetic narration,” Kuhr explained. “That story’s based on an actual person’s story, but it’s kind of like the general journey of someone who’s been through trafficking, and we have speakers to tell their specific story so there’s a face to it.”
She added that, “People who are being trafficked don’t always know it.” As a result, educating the audience on what trafficking is and what the signs of it look like are important goals of the show.
The audience also gains an understanding of the three stages of a trafficking survivor’s story: innocence, violation, and restoration.
“The dresses, the hair, and the makeup looks reflect each of those stages,” Kaul explained. “So for example, the ‘Innocence’ dresses are usually more feminine and young-looking. ‘Violation’ dresses are darker and ripped, and then ‘Restoration’ is usually bright and colorful.”
Along with the fundraising aspect, the show also serves as an opportunity to showcase local Ohio fashion designers and artists. Two student designers, Dani Kaiser and Hannah Ferguson, are in the University of Cincinnati design program. Columbus-based fashion designers, Ferret Campos and DaiRita Luckett, will also contribute designs. 614 Beauty and Le Rêve Makeup & Hair will be in charge of hair and makeup.
But as Kaul explained, “It’s a bigger event than just a fashion show.”
Each year, the event has musical performances, guest speakers, informational booths and raffle prizes. A new addition to the show this year is free food for attendees.
Along with big names like Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Sushi Avenue, and Ohio State Dining Services, the social enterprise, Freedom a la Cart, will also provide refreshments. Their mission closely aligns with Unchained OSU because they’re a catering business that hires people who were previously trafficked.
As in years past, the local musical duo Of Dust and Light will perform songs from their album that highlights an introspective look on the life of a trafficking survivor. This year’s emcee is recent Ohio State graduate and former Miss Franklin County, Mara Mason because of her passion for women’s issues and advocacy.
Guest speakers for this year will include local anti-trafficking advocate Jessica Graham, Hollie Daniels from the addiction, homelessness, and sex trafficking victims’ nonprofit “Reaching for the Shining Starz,” and Ohio Senator Teresa Fedor, who fights for issues such as human trafficking and education.
Before and after the event, booths will be set up by local, Columbus-based anti-trafficking organizations with information on how attendees can get involved, whether it be by going to training, mentoring, or doing street outreach through their programs. This year’s organizations include She Has A Name, Reaching for the Shining Starz, Gracehaven and Eleventh Candle Company, while Wild Tiger Tees will sponsor the whole event.
If you’ve got a fire lit and are looking for ways to make a difference outside of attending the show, Kaul has recommendations.
“Supporting these social enterprises and connecting people to these organizations…and even just donating to the scholarship, that’s an easy way to help.”
By having these booths and sponsors at the fashion show, both co-presidents hope that attendees will learn about organizations in their communities and get involved with them, or with Unchained OSU. Students can become general body members, attend meetings, or help at the annual show.
“Be models, be in our club, help backstage! Photography, videography, helping with decorations, help design dresses, anything like that,” Kaul shared. “There’s a place for everyone. And you don’t have to be into fashion to be in the club.”
General body members have a diverse range of majors, backgrounds, and interests. Kuhr is a Fashion & Retails Studies major, while Kaul majors in Neuroscience. As long as you’re passionate about making a change, they’re confident you will make a change.
Along with having guest speakers and repurposing crafts for sustainable fashion, Unchained OSU throughout the year also involves fundraisers and documentaries about labor trafficking and how fashion affects the environment.
Ohio had between 400 and 500 reported cases of sex or labor trafficking in 2018, according to Kaul and Kuhr’s recommended human trafficking data-center, the Polaris Project. Not only are they using data to fight trafficking, but they also run the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888 or 233733 to text).
“Prevalence, how to identify trafficking, and what to do when you see signs of trafficking,” Kuhr stated. “They’re all important for people to know.”
Unchained OSU Fashion Show 2020 is on March 28 at 7 p.m. in the Curl Viewpoint. RSVP for a free ticket to the show and learn more about donatable products by searching for “Unchained OSU Fashion Show 2020” at eventbrite.com. You can learn more about Unchained OSU by following them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, @unchainedosu.