The looks at one particular fashion show last week appeared in stark contrast to the typical fare of foreign, hard-to-pronounce fashion houses one might expect on a runway.
To celebrate International Condom Day on February 13, Impulse Group—an organization of volunteers around the world committed to promoting healthy sexual lifestyles among gay men—hosted fashion shows around the country, including one here. As Impulse Group's newest chapter, the Houston team put on an event with not one but two red carpets to sway, sashay, and strut for safe sex awareness.
In recent years, Impulse Group has strategically chosen local leaders to bring out the LGBTQ community to events like this, Houston chapter vice president Ian Haddock said. Haddock believes Impulse Group can mobilize the gay community and provide resources to those who need them most.
What guests didn't need last Tuesday night, though, was fashion advice. Attendees were dressed to impress in all the studs, velvet, and fur you could ever want—and then some. The main textile on display, though, was rubber: Literal buckets of condoms were for the taking. And though condoms were sprinkled like confetti across the floor, tables, and chairs, it was the need for representation that took center stage.
"There weren't too many people in those videos that actually look like me or represent me," Impulse Group Houston president Deondre Moore said in reference to Impulse United.
"We know that black, queer people of color, and Latinx people of color are hardest hit by HIV. That's part of our focus. But our focus is anyone in the community who's willing to be educated about HIV in a fun, engaging way," Haddock added. "As a black man, as a black queer man, [and] as people of color in Houston, we don't have a place. We don't have a club to socialize in. We don't have many places as far as education."
Impulse Group, Haddock says, is meant to be that place.
But the place to be that night was in the front row of the fashion show. All eyes were on the red carpet-worthy looks from Baanou, the River Oaks District boutique. Founder and owner Maryam Afshari designs and creates all of her pieces in Houston, and Baanou's production team caters to the needs—including custom-made pieces—of the LGTBQ community.
"We make it work," Afshari said. And to make it werk, Baanou will donate 10 percent of customers' purchases if they mention Tuesday night's fashion show.
There, an assortment of dresses, bedazzled bodysuits and flowing gowns were just some of the designs that took a turn down the runway. Perhaps the most stunning piece was the custom-tailored look Afshari specifically designed for stylist Joshua Johnson, who stole the show with his closing look, including Baanou's silver sequin bell-bottom pants and navy duster.
Both male and female topless models were clad in images of stilettos, condoms, and a big set of lips. They shuffled between the U-shaped runway to the sounds of 93.7 The Beat's DJ Shanté. None other than Trinity K. Bonet of RuPaul's Drag Race was on-hand to lip sync the house down, and other notable guests included former Destiny's Child member LaTavia Robinson and Theresa Roemer, dubbed "the ultimate Real Housewife of Houston" by Texas Monthly.
"Look forward to more fabulous events from us," Haddock said. "We're going to be engaging our communities and getting people to come out and party with a purpose."