Atlanta designers come together to support Planned Parenthood

Condom Couture Atlanta challenges local fashion designers to create couture looks out of condoms as a benefit for Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates

by Megan Volpert
October 23, 2019

Designs from Condom Couture Charlotte: “Mongolia Imagined” by Designer Teddy Manywounds, Model Jamaal A’Millian Milledge. “Ecuador Imagined” by Designer Rocio Llusca, Model Paola Montoya. “Nigeria Imagined” by Designer Moniquea Renee, Model Akon Adichol (Images courtesy the artists/Condom Couture Charlotte)

Creating fabulous designs out of ordinary condoms is the central challenge behind Condom Couture Atlanta, a November 9 runway event at Westside Cultural Arts Center. The event, modeled after the popular Condom Couture held for the past five years in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a benefit for Planned Parenthood, with 100% of ticket sales and auction proceeds donated to Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates.

Having worked with condoms before, fashion designer Mark Doepker says it doesn’t get any easier. “Fastening them together can be difficult,” he says. “The size of the individual condoms adds to the difficulty as far as putting enough of them together.” Doepker, a veteran of the Charlotte event for three of its five years, says he’s curious to see how Atlantans respond. “Atlanta is a much larger place, so the potential is there to exceed Charlotte,” he says.

Felicia Julien is an Atlanta-based designer and founder of Condom Couture Atlanta. Originally from Ontario, Julien says she started Condom Couture Atlanta to raise awareness and funds for something she strongly believes in. “I previously participated as a designer for Condom Couture Charlotte, and expect the event in Atlanta to hold a different cultural foundation as Atlanta’s beautiful residents are from such diverse backgrounds,” she says.

As far as the difficulty of using condoms for her designs, Julien says, “The material may be tricky, but it always teaches me how to open my mind to think sculpturally and investigate innovative techniques I’d never thought of before.” 

Atlanta-based designer Diego Serna works on sketches of his designs (Photo courtesy the artist)

Participating designers for the Atlanta show come from a wide range of backgrounds and are taking different approaches to the show’s main challenge:

Designer Charve Chavis says she’s “truly excited to try something so out of the box for such an important cause.” As a self-taught designer, she started making things at a very young age. “My designs covered anything from clothes to accessories to furniture,” she says. Chavis says she reacted to the masquerade theme as “daunting,” and says her designs will focus on “going for texture, androgyny, culture, and color.”

Designer D. Streeter, who frequently volunteers her work for charities, says, “I’m used to working with wood and resin primarily.” The challenge of the condoms involves “making something so flexible…stiff (no pun intended).”

Freelance graphic designer Sarah Lawrence’s projects have ranged from creating interactive public art to making pasta to sewing embroidery. “I ‘majored’ in fashion design in high school,” she says. “It was a two-year program, and at the end of the two years, seven other senior designers and I conceptualized, created, and put together a fashion show with over a thousand people in attendance.” Of Lawrence’s two designs for Condom Couture Atlanta, “one is based in a 60s mod style, and one is a play on a full Victorian silhouette.”

Nigeria Imagined by designer Moniquea Renee, Model Akon Adichol

Jordan Echols also got her start in a high school fashion program: “I’ve been using my sewing machine almost religiously since I was about sixteen years old. As a Senior Designer in the Grady High School Fashion Program, I created a line of ready-to-wear, equestrian-themed clothing that folks still rave about.” Echols says that even though the theme “has the connotation of extravagance, I like to keep things simple. I want to display the condoms in an elegant fashion. I want people to want to wear this dress every day. Ready-to-wear. Simple, with flair.”

Lawrence concurs with Echols that the results should work to “create size-inclusive pieces that could theoretically be worn off the runway by anyone, using as little extraneous material as possible.” But her main objective is simply to keep boosting one of her favorite causes: “Planned Parenthood and women’s access to reproductive care is one of my top issues—I have immense respect and gratitude for the work that Planned Parenthood does, and I want to give back as much as I can.” 

Diego Serna got his start in high school, working on costuming for theater productions, but went further with some unusual design experience making clothes for circus performers. The theme of the event is “Masquerade,” so Serna’s background may give him a leg up, but he is also pushing himself to think outside the box, in a classical direction. “I recently took a trip to Montreal and visited their Notre Dame Cathedral,” he says. “As I was walking through, I became extremely inspired by the artwork that adorns every inch of the building. The intricate detail filled my head with ideas and concepts, and therefore, I want to create my own twist on the idea of ‘Heavenly Bodies’ and ‘God is a Woman’.”

Julien herself is drawing inspiration from David Bowie’s character from the film Labyrinth. “Bowie has led me into the art and dance world through his music and interesting mind,” she says. “I always considered him and this film an integral part of my being and growing.” 

In the end, Doepker says that the real mission behind all the work is to “have fun, raise money, and pave the way for future Condom Couture shows that will continue to champion the mission of Planned Parenthood, to educate and propel the human race forward.”

Megan Volpert’s newest work is Boss Broad (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019). She is a Georgia Author of the Year finalist and an American Library Association honoree.

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