Puerto Rican designer gets political on NY catwalk

Hurricane Maria left her atelier without power. Her seamstresses lost everything and her house flooded. But Puerto Rican designer Stella Nolasco put tragedy behind her to bring a color and optimism to New York Fashion Week, laced with a clear political message. She was just starting to prepare for her fall/winter 2018 collection when the monster storm tore through the island on September 20, devastating the US territory and leaving Puerto Rico without power or telecommunications for months. President Donald Trump’s government was widely criticized over its response to the tragedy in the US territory. Authorities are still struggling to restore power and clean drinking water to all citizens, and total cost of damages has been estimated at $90 billion.

“My atelier was running on a generator until last week,” Nolasco told AFP backstage after her show at Chelsea Piers late Thursday. “It was a huge sacrifice.” She was not on the island when the hurricane hit, but members of her immediate family were. “It was a month of heavy depression, until I decided to make this collection and give it a purpose to help my country,” she said. “It helped me feel useful.” The runway was a whirlwind of Puerto Rican modeling talent, headlined by former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, 43, and Monic Perez, 28, who was Miss Universe Puerto Rico, along with Agueda Lopez, wife of “Despacito” singer Luis Fonsi.

Actresses from the Netflix hit series “Orange Is The New Black” sat front row.  Models waved Puerto Rican flags and “We Are US Citizens” banners to protest the federal government’s response to the disaster. Furthermore, Nolasco says proceeds from the collection will be donated to the Foundation for Puerto Rico to raise funds for better infrastructure and sustainability.— AFP