Halifax runway show Moments in Culture tackles racism, gender and equality

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A local designer and a production company have partnered to launch a runway show called Moments in Culture to tackle racism and gender roles through art.

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The show also celebrates the diversity of beauty by showcasing models of different weight, skin colour and height.

Duane Jones, founder of the streetwear brand Art Pays Me, will be showcasing his newest designs at the show, which is produced by Solitha Shortte of Soli Productions.

Art Pays Me was launched in 2011 as a reaction to the lack of fair compensation in the creative industry. Jones uses the brand to express his concerns with issues around equality, hoping that it inspires self reflection and social change.

Challenging racism 

“Moments in Culture is a chance for me to be creative and go off on whatever that I felt was important to talk about,” said Jones, who was born in Bermuda but moved to Halifax at 19 to pursue a degree in communication design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

He says the show is coming out at a time when people seem to be more comfortable being honest about their racist ideas, globally and locally, and that before, racism wasn’t necessarily “in your face.”

“With the Trump administration in power and with Trump being out there, it seems like people who have held certain racist beliefs have now made it very clear that they hold these beliefs,” said Jones.

He hopes the show challenges that.

A preview of one of the looks that will be showcased. (Alex Pearson)

“Some of the messages would definitely be talking about gender roles, but you could interpret it in multiple ways,” said Jones.

One of his designs flips the word gender upside down and backwards.

“It’s basically me saying that I don’t necessarily believe in traditional gender roles, but I’m open to conversations about how we can reinvent that or keep them the same if that’s the right way,” he said.

Jones has created around 27 designs for the show, which is being directed and produced by Shortte, a model, runway coach and co-founder of Soli Productions.

Making the modelling scene more inclusive 

“I’ve been training models and preparing them to hit the runway. I’m also decorating and styling the room as well as the models wearing the designs,” said Shortte.

The runway will have plus-sized models and women of different ethnicities and sizes, she said.

“I’m also a model so I have seen a lot of discrimination when it comes to be the token black model in the group that is being showcased,” said Shortte, who’s working on making the local fashion and modelling scene more inclusive.

Model Nyallay Tommy showcases a garment by Art Pays Me. (Mitch Valcourt)

“I was happy when I partnered with Duane to do his first show because he also wanted to see diverse women on the runway.”

Shortte mentors women who are Caucasian, Asian, African-Nova Scotian, and many more representing different countries.

“Each of us have to play a part in the change we want to see in the industry we’re in, which goes back to Moments in Culture, showing that you need to create movements out of these moments,” Shortte said.

The show will take place May 19 at the Halifax Central Library, where people can buy tickets.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/halifax-runway-show-art-pays-me-soli-productions-diversity-social-change-1.4665716?cmp=rss