Fashion show, performances to benefit youth, victims of abuse

Fashion show, performances to benefit youth, victims of abuse

Tina Melo, left, shows Francis Ogunnubi, of Providence, the next steps to take while working on a jacket design at Melo Project Runway for Youth in Lincoln. Melo began teaching children’s sewing and pattern making classes around 2014, and continues to instruct children as young as 5 years old. (Breeze photos by Brittany Ballantyne)
International Fashion Designers & Music Artists Masquerade Ball fundraiser showcases work of young artists

LINCOLN – This isn’t the average fashion show, designer Tina Melo says.

Children of The Melo Project Runway for Youth, based in Lincoln, are launching their creations at a show this Saturday that combines theatrical and musical performances with fashion, and an overall mission that serves a larger purpose than teaching children how to sew and create their own patterns.

The International Fashion Designers & Music Artists Masquerade Ball fundraiser, Melo said, benefits the Indigo Justice Project, an initiative Melo said is about raising awareness of child abuse, particularly sexual abuse.

Since Melo started the Indigo Justice Project over a year ago, she’s taught several students, as young as 5 years old, how to create and model their own fashion designs, but also said she’s heard countless stories about children and young adults who have been victims of abuse or placed in unsafe homes while in foster care.

Those stories continue to be a driving force for Melo, a Cumberland native, who said she aims to give a voice to the voiceless and lift up victims, hence the theme of the fashion show, “warriors.”

The show, which will take over Skyline at Waterplace restaurant in Providence on Saturday, Oct. 21, includes the talents of child musicians, such as a 9-year-old harpist, young pianists, dancers, singers and designers, as well as youth models – the youngest being 3 years old.

Melo’s studio, which has moved above RYCO’s fabric and trim shop at 25 Carrington St., now has an international following, she said, and complete strangers have reached out to her sharing their own personal stories, and informed her of their own projects starting sewing classes in villages as far away as countries in Africa.

“When I started it (Project Runway for Youth) as an idea for kids learning pattern making, they thought I was out of my mind,” said Melo, who worked as a clothing designer and graduated from Rhode Island School of Design.

Now, she said, Project Runway for Youth is “a revolution.”

At the fundraiser, 15 young designers’ works will be on display. Many Rhode Island communities will be represented during the show, Melo said, including North Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Smithfield, Cumberland, Scituate and Foster, to name a few.

For some of the children modeling, Melo said, it will be their first time experiencing the rush of walking the runway, part of which will be located outside on the patio area.

“They’re all working like the real world does,” Melo said of the young designers.

Students from the Do Re Mi School in Smithfield, directed by Nana Gazaryan, who have won multiple awards for their performances, will perform between sets, as will other musicians from the east coast.

The event is hosted by Nathalia Jmag, who starred on Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” Gazaryan, Araz Khajarian of TEDX Salve Regina, Josh Steele of Dirty Water Media, Gabriela Taveras, Miss Boston, Olga Konstanzia, Miss Massachusetts Globe and June Kessler, president and CEO of Coastal Reserve Corp.

Coastal Reserve Corp., Melo said, aims to restore life in the ocean and on coastal shores polluted by the textile industry.

In addition to the children’s collections, fashions will be on display by Angel Ricci, Nina Bublick and Benrus, a company run by former Alex and Ani CEO, Giovanni Feroce.

Some pieces in the show represent victims of child abuse, Melo said, like the clothing made of different colors and patches of denim, sewn together to symbolize several victims of abuse.

Sponsors include Benrus, Skyline, and J Gray’s Family Tavern in Cumberland, whose owner will serve food unique to the restaurant’s menu, Melo said. Hair and makeup will be done by Lily Spencer, and photography and video work will be done by ATBPhotography Studio in Woonsocket, Melo said. Vendors at the fundraiser include Steve Carpenter, owner of Wispa Flutes, Cozy Hood products by Melo and venetian masks designed by Nina Bublick.

VIP ticket holders, Melo said, can arrive at Skyline at 5 p.m., where they’ll be served a five-course meal with music entertainment, front-row seats to the show and sponsorship information in the event brochure for $99.

General admission tickets, $60 each, include entertainment, hors d’oeuvres and a meet-and-greet with designers and hosts that begins at 6 p.m., Melo said, and youth and college students from ages 16 to 23 can purchase tickets for $20. Seniors and parents of young designers can buy tickets for $35, and children 15 and under are free Melo said.

“Mothers of lost children,” she said, including parents dealing with the Department of Children, Youth and Families or parents who have lost children to allegedly abusive guardians in family court, pay no fee.

“They also need to be able to go out and feel like a human being. They need to know that there’s support out there,” she said.

The family-oriented fashion show and performances will begin at 7 p.m. at the restaurant at 1 Finance Way, Melo said.

Melo said a Go Fund Me page, www.gofundme.com/mzhtgutk , has been set up for donations, and said those who cannot afford to purchase tickets but donate to the cause will also receive a spot on the fashion show guest list.

More information about Project Runway for the Youth and the fundraiser can be found at www.meloprojectrunway.com .

Of the masquerade ball fundraiser and the Project Runway for Youth cause, Melo said, she hopes attendees are inspired by the work they see, and that those who have been victimized by abuse know they are not alone.

“Our youth is our future. If we don’t take care of them … then our humanity is going to be lost,” she said.

Francis Ogunnubi, of Providence, an intern at Melo Project Runway for Youth, works on a jacket at the studio facility in Lincoln. Ogunnubi is one of several young designers whose work will be displayed in the upcoming fashion show to benefit the Indigo Justice Project.
Nana Gazaryan, who runs Do Re Mi in Smithfield, poses with Gillian Johnston during a photoshoot representing “warriors,” where the two wear clothing from one of Tina Melo’s collections. These fashions, in addition to designs created by young children, will be displayed during the fundraiser fashion show this Saturday at Skyline Waterplace to benefit the Indigo Justice Collection, an initiative that aims to raise awareness about child abuse.