Stella Nolasco turned the catwalk into a political protest at her New York Fashion Week show on Thursday. The famed Puerto Rican designer, who was deeply impacted by Hurricane Maria’s vicious winds and the White House’s substandard relief, dedicated the event to her island.
Before models took to the strip, the room fell pitched-black, as a recording of Oprah Winfrey’s powerful speech at the Golden Globes proclaiming a “new day” for girls and women played and a promotional video inspiring the audience to visit Puerto Rico to help revive its tourist industry hit the screens.
When the models, including some of the island’s biggest beauty names, hit the runway, the scene turned political. Former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, 43, headlined the show, proudly waving a Puerto Rican flag. Behind her, Monic Perez, 28, who was Miss Universe Puerto Rico, walked down with a sign that read, “Can’t Say American Without the Rican” while others held banners that said, “We Are US Citizens.”
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The message was clear: Nolasco, like millions of others on her island, isn’t happy with the current administration’s treatment of Puerto Ricans as second-class citizens, especially at a time of great need.
While Nolasco, known for her laced and beaded hand-stitched garbs, wasn’t in the Caribbean when Hurricane Maria hit, her home was flooded, her atelier was left without power and her seamstresses lost everything.
“It was a month of heavy depression, until I decided to make this collection and give it a purpose to help my country,” Nolasco told AFP backstage after her show at Chelsea Piers late Thursday.
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Up until last week, Nolasco’s studio, where she worked on the designs for the show, was running on a generator. “It was a huge sacrifice,” she added.
At a time when the people of Puerto Rico, many out of work and without power, water or nutritional food for months, feel helpless, the show made Nolasco “feel useful.”
According to the designer, proceeds from the collection will be donated to the Foundation for Puerto Rico to raise money for better infrastructure and sustainability.