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Monday, June 28, 2010

FASHION - Fashion With Compassion- The Black and Blue Fair runs until July 4th and a new fair called ‘The Summer of Love’ opens on July 18th- Persia Bravin Reporting...

Staff Reporter
• Monday, June 28, 2010
Fashion with Compassion

For most of us, fashion offers us a chance for self expression-and a little fun. Clothes reflect our mood, attitude to life and how we want to be perceived by others and there’s no greater thrill than a lengthy shopping spree to lift the spirits and make the day seem just that little bit brighter. Even in Second Life, ask any woman how she likes to spend her free time and well earned Linden Dollars and chances are, her answer will be a full on assault of the grids finest boutiques. But for one woman, Second Life fashion provides more than a fun diversion; for her it is a vehicle of positive change and a tool to highlight awareness of some very real life issues that can affect any of us at any time in our lives. 

Keira Seerose is a self confessed fashion lover, but a debilitating health problem means that in real life, she doesn’t get many opportunities to indulge in her passion. Keira suffers from acute social anxiety disorder, a condition which leaves people anxious in social situations and can strike without warning in either childhood or as an adult. While most people in her situation would hide away, Kiera decided to use the fashion world of Second Life as a platform to highlight mental and emotional illness-a subject that even now, can be taboo despite an estimated 450 million people suffering from some form of mental health issue worldwide. Moved by these statistics, Keira decided to launch ‘The Black and Blue Fair’ a fashion event organised in partnership with some of the grids top designers to help raise awareness-not funds-and to encourage SL residents to think about mental health issues in a new light.

“I felt that this issue would be great to raise awareness about because in my experience a lot of people in SL have issues in real life” says Keira as she shows me the impressive event venue. “SL is an escape for most of us, from unhappiness or illness - from a whole range of things, and having an understanding of what our SL friends are going through can help us support them, and make SL friendships matter even more than they do.” Throughout the specially designed store, posters adorn the walls revealing the latest facts and figures on mental illness, yet they are positioned in such a way that the visitor absorbs the information easily. But it’s the clothes-the huge range of exclusive items not found anywhere else- that is the real draw for the thousands of visitors that have already passed through the large doors at this month long event. Over 110 of Second Life’s most talented clothes, hair, skin and shoe designers have all lent their creative talents and provided items exclusively for this fair. Organising such a mammoth event must surely have taken a lot of effort and its testament to Keira’s determination to ‘make a difference’ that this event has been a resounding success.

“Originally I took a great big deep breath and sent invitations out to my favourite stores” responds Keira when I ask her about the planning involved behind such a huge event. “It was a complete risk - no one knew me, no one had a reason to, but I didn’t want to let stores of a lower standard in just so I’d have a base to start from - I wanted to be ambitious... I was very lucky in that three of my closest friends own fashion business, Sabina Gully (Magika hair), Bijoux Lefavre (Heart & Sole shoes) and Chikane Kaligawa (Cobrahive accessories and hair). They agreed to be involved - because I wasn’t charging designers and they knew I had good intentions I imagine they figured why not... Sabina specifically said to me - 'if you have to name drop Magika to get other brands on board, do it’ and while that was awkward - it did help.”
Help it most certainly did. The custom built store used to host this Fair is full to the brim with the latest trends and covetable pieces from top brands. You can easily spend hours here perusing the racks of exquisite designer dresses, shoes and accessories and its very touching to see how equally passionate some of SL’s biggest fashion houses are about raising awareness on mental health. Sofia Diage is just one of the many designers who have contributed unique pieces for this event. Designer and co-owner behind two of SL’s fastest growing brands ‘SOHO Urban Living’ and ‘Wicked Gear’ Sofia is considered to be a fashion star in the ascendant (and definitely a designer to watch in 2010) and was compelled to participate through her own very personal reasons.“Several reasons inspired me to contribute to this fair, including, of course, store awareness” she confirms. “But the main thing that caught my attention was the theme. Trying to erase stigmas attached to mental illness is a noble cause. I myself was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following an abusive marriage. It can happen to anyone, anytime. Second Life is a perfect platform to raise awareness of mental health issues because the demographics of the population are so diverse. There are people who you can reach in SL that you can't normally. In addition, in my conversations with people in SL, I have found that many deal with physical or mental issues of their own or those of a loved one. Helping them overcome feelings of solitude through an event like this is a win-win for all involved.”

There’s no doubt that Keira is an extremely thoughtful and socially motivated woman and the success of ‘The Black and Blue Fair’ and its underlying message, will surely impact on many of the visitors. So what has this event been like for her personally?“Emotional!” she says smiling. “Of course there have been LOADS of people streaming through for the fashion, but the messages I get aren’t about that, they’re all about the awareness. People facing up to their symptoms or limitations or learning to fight against them, it’s been amazing.” After months of planning and all the energy she has poured into making this event happen, Keira would be forgiven for taking a few weeks off to sit and reflect on all the hard work both she and her dedicated team of assistants have given to this event. But this is not a lady who rests on her laurels and she already has another fashion based, awareness raising event lined up for July. “There will be a second fair in July, from July 18th to August 8th, focusing on love, relationships and the effects they have on mental health. Specifically there will be a lot of information about bereavement, on a personal level it will be a tribute to my grandmother, but there will be other issues covered at that event as well. Plus loads more designers, lots of new up and coming designers and a brand new venue.”
Exciting news for fashion lovers from an unstoppable woman!

The Black and Blue Fair runs until July 4th and a new fair called ‘The Summer of Love’ opens on July 18th

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