Orlando International Fashion Week (OIFW) is more than just a showcase of the latest trends and styles. It is also a platform for supporting aspiring cosmetologists who need financial assistance to pursue their dreams. On Sunday, November 5, 2023, OIFW held its final event at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Orlando, where members of the local fashion industry walked down the runway for a good cause. The event was hosted by Channel 9 anchor Kirstin Delgado and featured live music, vendors, and a silent auction.
The proceeds from the event went to the Fashion Week Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships to cosmetology students in Central Florida. The foundation was founded by Andres Aquino, the CEO and producer of OIFW, who said he wanted to give back to the community and help young talents achieve their goals.
“We have a lot of talented people here in Orlando, and we want to help them get the education they need to succeed in the fashion industry,” Aquino said. “We believe that fashion is a form of art and expression, and we want to support that.”
A diverse and inclusive fashion show
The fashion show featured a variety of designers, models, and styles, reflecting the diversity and inclusivity of Orlando’s fashion scene. Some of the designers who participated in the show were:
- Luis Aponte, a Puerto Rican designer who specializes in evening gowns and cocktail dresses. His collection was inspired by the colors and culture of his homeland.
- Tatiana McConnico, a Haitian-American designer who creates sustainable and ethical clothing from recycled materials. Her collection was influenced by her heritage and her passion for environmentalism.
- Natalia Garcia, a Colombian designer who focuses on swimwear and resort wear. Her collection was based on the tropical and exotic vibes of her native country.
- Renee Bigelow, an American designer who designs casual and chic clothing for women of all sizes. Her collection was motivated by her own experience as a plus-size woman and her desire to empower others.
The models who walked the runway were also diverse and inclusive, representing different ages, races, genders, and body types. Some of the models were:
- Jasmine Jones, a 19-year-old African-American model who has been modeling since she was 14. She said she loves fashion and wants to inspire other young girls to pursue their dreams.
- Carlos Rodriguez, a 25-year-old Hispanic model who is also a singer and actor. He said he enjoys modeling because it allows him to express himself and his personality.
- Linda Smith, a 45-year-old Caucasian model who is also a mother of three. She said she started modeling after her divorce and found it to be a therapeutic and rewarding experience.
- Alex Lee, a 21-year-old Asian-American model who is also a student at the University of Central Florida. He said he likes modeling because it challenges him to step out of his comfort zone and try new things.
A positive impact on the community
The fashion show was not only a fun and glamorous event, but also a meaningful and impactful one. The Fashion Week Foundation awarded four scholarships to cosmetology students who demonstrated academic excellence, financial need, and passion for the industry. The recipients were:
- Maria Gonzalez, a 20-year-old student at the Paul Mitchell School. She said she wants to become a hairstylist and open her own salon someday.
- Kevin Johnson, a 22-year-old student at the Aveda Institute. He said he wants to become a makeup artist and work in the film and television industry.
- Sofia Perez, a 18-year-old student at the Orlando Technical College. She said she wants to become a nail technician and create her own nail art designs.
- Lisa Nguyen, a 23-year-old student at the Florida College of Natural Health. She said she wants to become a massage therapist and help people relax and heal.
The scholarship recipients expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the Fashion Week Foundation and OIFW for their support and opportunity. They said they are looking forward to pursuing their careers and making a positive impact on the community.