Elegantees: Fighting Sex Trafficking with Fashion

By Rebekah
Savage

In Nepal,
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) estimate that 10,000-15,000 Nepali women
and girls are forced into sex trafficking and a lifetime of involuntary
servitude.

The members of
International Justice Mission (IJM) at William Woods University make it their
mission to combat such violations of another’s rights. They plan to raise funds
for their cause with an Elegantees Fashion Show at 7 p.m. Feb. 4 in Dulany
Auditorium.  The event is free and open
to the public.
 
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Martin Luther King Jr. once said.


Katie Martinez, fashion
designer and founder of Elegantees, is giving Nepalese women rescued from
trafficking a second chance. The women sew the clothing, and the profits from
the sales go toward income for the women and “to good-hearted people and charities who fight for freedom,”
she said.
 
Fashions modeled at the
show will be available for purchase afterward. All profits will go toward
helping trafficking victims.
 
“We want to make this
fashion show BIG—with photographers and music and lights,” Kristen Withrow,
president of IJM at William Woods, said.
 
WWU students will fill
the roles of models, photographers, stage hands, disc jockeys, salespersons and
greeters.
 
Martinez traveled to
Nepal in January to work with the women sewing her new designs for the
spring/summer tops. While in Nepal, she created a video of the women sewing the
clothes. The video will be played at the fashion show.
 
After growing up on a
beef farm in Iowa, Martinez moved to New York City at 18 and attended the
Fashion Institute of Technology. In college, she took a class that introduced
her to human trafficking. Distraught by what she learned, Martinez felt a
desire to make a difference.
 
While working in the
New York garment district, Martinez found it difficult to locate modest,
affordable clothing. She became inspired to design fashion that she herself
would choose to wear.  In 2010,
Elegantees was born.
 
“My aim was to use my
talents to give hope and dignity to sex-trafficked victims,” she said.
 
Elegantees, which
Martinez describes as “elegant designs as easy to wear as a tee-shirt,” has
come a long way since.  Her 2013
collection is in development, being sewn 
in Nepal.
 
“I am living out my
dream. As each Elegantee is purchased, one tee or one dress at a time, I
rejoice knowing this business is for fighting evil and restoring dignity,” she
said. “It’s all for things bigger than my own dream.”
                                                           
CUTLINE:
Elegantees fashions will be modeled at a fashion show
sponsored by International Justice Mission at William Woods University.
 
A Nepalese woman rescued from trafficking sews fashions for
Elegantees.