Tucked away in NUU Group's studio space in East Downtown on Saturday night was FREESET, an exclusive evening of fall fashion from the creative minds behind Houston-based fashion brand Flora + Mia and boutique talent and production agency BEAZ Talent to benefit Free the Captives, an organization fighting the exploitation of Houston’s youth through human trafficking.
Calling the event an “honest collaboration,” Flora + Mia creative directors Lori Inman and Luisa Babarczy say they were inspired by the faith-based, anti-human trafficking organization.
“At Flora + Mia, we are very, very, very for women feeling free; free to be who they are, free to have their own style, free to express themselves, and with FREESET, we wanted to bring in Free the Captives just because we are very passionate about what’s going on in the city of Houston right now,” Inman said.
“We wanted something reflective of the heart behind the event,” added Babarczy.
BEAZ Talent owner Rebecca Beazley, who co-produced the event, opened the show with a moment of silence for the recent attacks in Paris before Free the Captives executive director and founder Julie Waters shared a few words with guests about the non-profit organization and how they help victims of human trafficking restore and rebuild their lives.
“Free the Captives was founded in 2009 specifically to work with teenage sex trafficking victims here in Houston because back then the focus was really on international and adult [trafficking] and no one was really focusing on the American teenage girls that were being trafficked here in the city ... there were just so many of them, but they were falling through the cracks,” said Waters.
AWOLNATION’s ‘Sail’ stirred up a buzz amongst the guests as Houston METdance members Danielle Snyder and Risa D’Souza were bound together by a piece of rope, staged in a way that let imaginations wander to a theatrical place. Snyder played the role of a pimp and D’Souza was being trafficked.
“The rope was symbolic of being bound to someone or something, not in necessarily a good way,” Snyder said, “and then being freed by fashion.”
On display and for sale at the event were hand-poured soy candles and jewelry made by girls who escaped trafficking through Free the Captives. The program also helps them learn life skills including how to write a résumé, how to behave in an interview and how to make a budget.
“It’s not just a candle, it’s about giving them hope,” Waters said. “[We teach them that] their past doesn’t define them.”
Several pieces shown at the event were from Flora + Mia’s Blaque Label line. Oversize sweaters paired with lace pencil skirts and slip-on sneakers to sculpted and quilted outerwear, worn by BEAZ Talent models, are perfect for Houstonians to sport well until the spring.
“We wanted to show girls being empowered and how fashion is just way more than just trends and having the latest thing, but how you can dress up or down an outfit with what you have in your closet. That’s what we’re passionate about; showing women how to find their own style and feel comfortable in their own skin,” said Babarczy.
Babarczy hopes this fashion show will not be the last.
“We’re hoping this will be an annual event; where we can support them even more every year and bring awareness to the city of Houston because it’s a big issue here.”