A local designer is using her hand-sewn fashion collection to raise awareness for victims of sexual exploitation.
Carla Coultas, a clothing designer and the founder of Fashion for Freedom, is holding the fourth annual Fashion for Freedom runway event, which will take place at Loosey’s in downtown Gainesville on Friday at 9 p.m. The event is for those 18 and older.
Models from the community will be showcasing Coultas’ handmade outfits and clothing from Sandy’s Savvy Chic Resale Boutique. Gainesville natives Shawn Manley and Estelle Miller will perform live music.
All of the proceeds from the $7 entry fee will go to Created Gainesville, a local organization that provides support for victims of sexual slavery.
In past years, Coultas has given the proceeds to Project Rescue, an organization that works in East India.
“I’m just really excited to be working with an organization that’s actually here in Gainesville because each year I send a check, and I am not able to hear back from them how the money exactly is used,” Coultas said.
Coultas said she holds the event to show the community what they can be doing here to help victims.
“Sexual slavery, it’s not talked about as much as a lot of other causes in America, and I think a lot of U.S. Americans don’t see it as a problem here at home,” she said.
Gators Against Human Trafficking is working with Coultas to promote and put on the event.
“It’s an amazing idea to have a fashion show in a bar downtown where we can get information across in a more relaxed environment,” said Ana Oliveira-Beuses, a 25-year-old UF psychology senior and president of the UF organization.
This year, Coultas said she, along with the help of GAHT, has been spending time on campus and downtown advertising for the show on foot rather than asking businesses for donations.
Coultas said she hopes this will bring in a larger student crowd.
These events allow activists to be a voice for those who have been silenced, Oliveira-Beuses said.
“Women are the biggest target and consumers of fashion, so it’s only fair that this industry help those women that cannot help themselves,” Oliveira-Beuses said.
Coultas said she hopes to grow the event in the future by adding more designers to the show.
“This has always been a cause that has been close to my heart since I was a teenager,” Coultas said. “So I was just really excited to be able to do something more than just donating small amounts that I can on my own.”