Colors of the World

The Fabric of Humanity

Story by Jenn Janusz ❧ Photography by Brad Kugler

The Colors of the World Fashion Show, in Tampa's Ybor Square, showcased an amazingly diverse collection of people, products, and passion. Vibrant hues of every color adorned the items on display. Chocolate fountains, drizzled over fluffy marshmallows and ripe strawberries, were among the abundant treats. People of various ages and cultures poured in to enjoy the day's events. Fashions from youth to adult rocked the runway...for a cause. This day was dedicated to raising awareness about human rights violations. Many organizations and talents came together to take a stand. At the forefront, Youth for Human Rights Florida and the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking (FCAHT) made it their mission to support Fair Trade, in a creative forum.

QRubini, from St. Petersburg, and their beautifully handcrafted little girl's dresses were some of the first to grace the stage. Each piece had its own individual design, stitching, and pastel shade. The models were just as darling and stole everyone's heart. Maureen "Mo" Quinlan's QRubini collection began as an idea for her own little girl and the other neighborhood children.

"I am passionate about handwork," she says. "It is my goal in life to be with handwork forever. I dig creating pieces by hand, without use of any fossil fuels or energy. Our work is done in natural light with human hands. Our straight stitch machines are powered by foot, not electricity. I call myself the 'voice of handwork'."

This philosophy soon blossomed into a successful business, which in turn created more job opportunities in Latin American countries. With every purchase, a percentage is donated to causes in the country of origin as well as in the U.S. such as the National Marrow Foundation and the Suncoast Waldorf School in Palm Harbor.

Another local designer, Luisella Mazzone Tamayo with Urban Inca, brought boots and textiles just as colorful as the personalities of the children wearing them.

"Traditionally, all of these textiles belonged on women's wool skirts," Luisella explains. "They would make their own patterns according to their village. Use of color is common in Latin American culture. Every single color here is derived from different plants."

Looking at her creations I couldn't help but feel a connection to the culture and care crafted into every item. Urban Inca believes that in every pair of boots, you begin to write your own story.

"I'm walking in the footsteps of my family. All the things they've taught me about nature, environment, family, and holding onto your culture."

Any purchase from the line supports the women in the Asociacion Civil Apu Salkantay Huarmicuana de Mollepata who create the handmade textiles, and the shoe cobbler Julio, who creates the beautiful boots in Cusco, Peru.

Other remarkable fashions in line with the human rights movement paraded down the runway on local models. Still, behind the beautiful fashions on display, the breathtaking vocals of singers Hana-li and Jessy Leros, and various guest speakers, was a very powerful message: "Do something," says Dustin McGahee, President of Youth for Human Rights Florida. "There are so many people not doing their part. Learn your human rights. Once you know them you can take action."

Youth for Human Rights Florida is dedicated to educating younger generations and getting them on board as advocates. They paired up with FCAHT, which specifically addresses human trafficking. They also provide shelters, treatment, and other necessities to those who have already fallen victim. The show featured only ethical, fair trade, and eco-fashion. The proceeds from the tickets and a percentage of the fashions sold benefit the struggle to end human trafficking. We are all different colors, shapes, and sizes. Like the colors of the rainbow we come together to create something beautiful.

The Colors of the World Fashion Show was a reflection of that, and a success story showing what happens when creativity meets kindness.

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