A fashion workshop held at the University of Colorado Boulder gave queer teens the opportunity to learn, design, and ultimately strut the runway in outfits of their own making.
The program creates a space for self-expression for youths like 14-year-old Aura Charnick.
“At the beginning of 2021, I started doing more research on punk fashion and like a bunch of punk subcultures and I really identified with it,” Charnick shared with Colorado Public Radio. “So I started dressing like that more and I figured this was a perfect opportunity to sort of make something inspired by that.”
Charnick was one of a number of teens to take part in the Slay The Runway program, an initiative organized by the Firehouse Art Center specifically for LGBTQ+ teenagers. During the workshop, participants had the opportunity to learn the fashion design fundamentals of sewing, shape, and color.
For the finale of the two-week program, the teens put on their own fashion show using clothing they designed. CPR notes that for Charnick, inspiration came from their punk idols. They found a black pleather skirt at a thrift store, sewed fabric from patterned shirts into the pleather, and then studded it with spikes.
Slay The Runway instructor LeeLee James told CPR that the workshop emphasizes fashion because that's where queer teens have always found comfort.
"Fashion is inherently queer. It's inherently bolder. It's inherently different from what you would see every day, and I would even argue that we wouldn't have a fashion industry without queer people," she said.
Workshop organizer Steven Frost noted that initiatives like Slay The Runway are particularly important in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ violence like the Club Q shooting and the flood of legislation targeting queer youth.
“There's so many weird ways in which people try to control us all," Frost shared, "and we want just this to be a place where everyone has freedom, where everybody's allowed to express who they are.”
The Slay The Runway fashion show took place Friday, June 23 at Boulder Public Library’s Canyon Theater, concluding the workshop. Participants were able to take their outfits home with them at the end of the night.