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The World's Cleanest, Queerest Catwalks Are at Rainbow Fashion Week

The World's Cleanest, Queerest Catwalks Are at Rainbow Fashion Week

Rainbow Fashion Week

The founder of the world's first queer fashion week tells us why sustainability is her favorite look this year.

Over the last two years, I've heard the same questions over and over: "Why do we need another fashion week?" My first response is "We're Rainbow Fashion Week and we do not produce your average fashion shows."

Then I hear "Isn't the fashion world primarily queer anyway?" My response is that Rainbow Fashion Week is eight days of queer fashion, which places the spotlight on behind-the-scenes creativity, i.e., the artistry of hair, makeup, and styling, as well as the designer. Their eyes perk up and they're eager to learn more.

This opens the door for me to talk about how anyone -- who wants to -- can put on a fashion event, but Rainbow Fashion Week is the first carbon-neutral fashion week. Hearing recently about the deterioration of the Himalayan Mountains due to global warming was our wake-up call. Rainbow Fashion Week took this as our call to action.

First we rewrote our mission statement to commit to being as eco-friendly as possible. Then we went about educating. We wanted to teach our audience about the textile industry's destructive habits. We collected a brain trust of strategic partners like Gem Pawn Brokers to dress our models and celebrities in r-purposed pawn items; Andre Soriano creating magic designs from Delta Airline seating; and Viridian teaching us about solar energy. We also put our ear to the global streets and listened to world leaders such as Tibetan Buddhist Gyalwa Dokhampa, who we heard speak passionately about his country's water crisis.

During a Q&A with Dokhampa, a gentleman asked, "We learned a lot about what each of you are doing about the crisis, but what can the average person like myself do?"

His eminence answered, "Don't go and create something new; don't go and jump into an area outside of what you do best. Start with yourself and then with what you do best to bring about a change."

We then spoke to the crowd, describing how large fashion weeks in New York, Milan, and Spain set up shop in outside venues and utilize thousands of kilowatt generators that burn diesel fuel and cause noise pollution. There are other sources or alternatives available to them, so why not use solar panels and generators set right on top of those large tents? Why not source the sun, the most natural energy available in these urban settings? I'm not sure what is taking the fashion industry so long to stand up and become accountable to these global issues.

This year, Rainbow Fashion Week's goal is to reduce our electric energy consumption by one-third through the usage of specially designed solar generators and solar panels. At the end of speaking about our own Rainbow Fashion Week initiatives, we were invited to bring them to Nepal.

Dokhampa loved the idea of our Rainbow Pets Fashion Show -- with doggies, designers, and handsome queer models -- that includes the first petition for the City of New York to roll out a dog waste composting law. We also have a Drag Stars event shedding light on anti-trans violence, all while treating our audience to a fabulous drag fashion and performance show, and a Queer Kids Next Door Sneaker Fashion Show that highlights creative sneaker designers making something new out of something old, all while addressing LGBTQ+ teen homelessness. There's a Top New Media Moguls Fashion/Award Show, which allows our LGBT pioneers to strut their thing on the runway in queer designer wares while shedding light on the isolation and depression that plagues our community. You won't see events like these at typical fashion weeks.

I believe that the entire LGBTQ+ community must stand up for a cause -- we owe it to the planet to look beyond our immediate needs and address the global needs of others. Each of us can look into our daily lives and spend a few extra minutes considering our effect on the planet. Rainbow Fashion Week doesn't feel that we are in any position to teach an entire industry or community what to do. But what we do know is that although we are small fish in a big sea of Goliaths, our sights are on the social good of us all.

The industry will see us. New York will hear us. The fashion world will know that change is imminent. Hopefully, they will awaken and realize that it will take all of us to make the necessary changes to reduce our carbon footprints within this industry. So please help us spread the word, while enjoying New York City Pride in fashion, style, and consciousness.

E JAGUAR BECKFORDE. JAGUAR BECKFORD is the founder of Rainbow Fashion Week, which occurs June 17-24 in New York. Check out for more information.

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