By Laura Latzko. Photos courtesy of designer Ashish Savchand.
Fashion can be used as a vehicle to not only make a statement but to share a community’s history. The Aunt Rita’s Foundation’s new event Project RED will tell the story of the decades impacted by HIV and AIDS through fashion.
The event will take place on July 20 at F.A.B.R.I.C., a Tempe-based fashion incubator for emerging local designers.
With VIP tickets, guests receive front-row seating, a special gift bag, and a brunch invitation. General admission seating and standing-room-only tickets are also available.
All tickets come with hors d’oeuvres. VIP and general admission tickets also include a complimentary cocktail.
The fundraiser allows Aunt Rita’s to continue its fundraising efforts during the summer.
Victor Avila, director of marketing and events for Aunt Rita’s, said one goal was to not just present a run-of-the-mill fashion show. "We wanted it to be educational as well as fun and glamorous," he says.
During the AIDS Epidemic, fashion shows helped to raise money for HIV and AIDS causes.
“That’s what we are trying to bring back, and we’re trying to reflect in this fundraiser,” Avila adds.
Aunt Rita’s also raises money through its annual AIDS Walk Arizona, Red Brunch gala, RED Is the Night entertainment fundraiser and SAVORlife DIY efforts.
Avila said that last year, the organization gave over $160,000 to its partner agencies.
Proceeds from the fashion show will be split amongst 13 partner agencies, which offer services, testing and preventative programs for people with HIV and AIDS.
“We really hope and expect that this will be a successful year for us in helping them to achieve their mission and goals,” Avila tells Echo.
Along with ticket sales from the fashion show, Aunt Rita’s will raise money through donations and through a silent auction with runway designs and items donated by local businesses.
Before the fashion show, Aunt Rita’s will play a short video on the history of HIV and AIDS, from the 80s through today. Avila said this video is meant to educate attendees, especially younger ones.
“A lot of the younger generation might not be very familiar with the history of HIV and AIDS. That is something we’re trying to bring awareness to. Yes, now we have amazing medicine that allows people to lead long, healthy lives, but we can’t forget the people who died and how this epidemic started. We also can’t forget our long-term survivors who have been living with this disease since the ‘80s,” Avila says.
The fashion show will spotlight local designers Ashish Savchand and Claire Cohan and stylist Lauren Lambert.
During the show, Aunt Rita’s will debut custom-made, mismatched socks from Voyce Threads.
The event will also have entertainment from local performers.
Attendees are encouraged to dress in couture or themed fashions inspired by the ‘80s, ‘90s, or present day.
Local models and community leaders, including Phoenix Mayor Candidate Daniel Valenzuela and Mister Phoenix Pride Gray Matter, will walk the runway in the designs.
Former Miss Phoenix Pride Eva Angelica Stratton will host the fashion show.
Savchand, the designer coordinating the show, is an ASU student but already has his own brand, Ashprin Couture — one of his gowns recently appeared at the Billboard Latin Music Awards.
For Savchand, the Aunt Rita’s show will be a challenge because he usually designs runway gowns that are more colorful. His designs for this show will be darker in nature.
Savchand said the pieces will reflect themes such as transparency and expression of sexuality during the different decades.
He plans to create overalls for the first time for his ‘90s-themed looks.
During the show, viewers will also get a chance to see avant-garde looks with feathers and embellished shoes.
The fashions are inspired by trends from the ‘80s through the present day and influenced by trendsetters such as Madonna and Lady Gaga and brands such as Versace.
Savchand is drawing from the Madonna videos “Vogue” and “Like a Prayer,” especially in presenting the opposition of religion to society and LGBTQ culture.
“I’m trying to mix the dominatrix stuff, the studs, the spikes and the leather, with the cross symbol,” Savchand said.
Savchand said the event will make a statement about the history of HIV and AIDS in a way that will get viewers’ attention.
“With this show, they are telling you a story. They are informing you of a very important issue. At the same time, they are doing it with the help of fashion, visually where it’s really going to make an impact on people,” Savchand said.
The designer grew up in Tanzania and moved to the United States about five years ago. He mentions that in his home country, HIV and AIDS often aren’t discussed.
“Sex, in general, is a taboo topic in Africa, and anything related to sex, especially HIV, is even more taboo,” Savchand says.
Project RED takes place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 20 at F.A.B.R.I.C., 132 East Sixth St., in Tempe. Admission is $35 for Ready-to-Wear standing-room-only tickets, $50 for Avant-Garde general admission tickets, and $90 for Haute Couture VIP seating. Call 602-882-8675 or visit auntritas.org for more information.