Winter Savage found a way to combine the two things she is most passionate about: mental health and fashion.
As a social worker and fashion stylist, she wanted to be able to bring consciousness to people about certain topics through fashion. Thus, Fashion for Awareness was born.
Fashion for Awareness was created in 2015 as “a nonprofit organisation that uses fashion and beautification as a way to convey information to people about certain topics and so forth, in hopes of creating a better understanding”, according to the website.
Savage utilises her organisation to raise awareness for mental health issues that people do not often discuss or understand.
One of her primary focuses is postpartum depression. She teamed up with a mother who was in her fourth trimester and did a photo shoot to foster dialogue. They created a vlog featuring mental health professionals and Postpartum Support Virginia, Inc. In the video, she uses colour therapy with her collection because studies have shown that certain colours such as yellow can put a person in a happier mood.
Crystal Bland is a licensed professional counsellor with the National Counseling Group in Newport News, Virginia, the United States. She works with a lot of people with depression and says that using nonconventional practices such as Savage’s can often be beneficial.
“It normalises the mental health issue and raises awareness, ” Bland says. “It also creates support in a sense for other people who are going through the same thing.”
Depression can look different for a lot of people, Bland says. Symptoms of depression can include excessive crying, hopelessness, eating a lot or not eating at all, lack of interest in activities, and much more.
Fashion for Awareness had a postpartum event in October as part of the Virginia Bridal and Prom Expo. Savage says she chose postpartum because it is a very complex topic, and a lot of people do not understand it or know where to get help for it.
“My goal is to use fashion as a tool to convey a language and educate people on a topic, anything people can get more information on, ” Savage says.
She believes that fashion can be used to mentor students and let them know that it is OK to ask for help and get the resources they need. Her high school guidance counsellor helped her attend prom, so she wanted to turn around and help students at her alma mater. Fashion for Awareness hosted the Pre-Prom Pop Up in September as its first event for students of
Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake. The pop-up allows students to be connected with prom resources, as well as get questions answered regarding their prom concerns.
Savage wanted to start with prom because she grew up in foster care herself and says that clothing helped her feel great and not realise her environment.
“Clothing creates an element, ” Savage says. “When you look good, you feel good.”
Vinchelle Sullivan is a licensed nail tech and does her part in helping the students look good for prom. She helps connect students with other services like barbers and makeup artists, and will sometimes provide discounts for her own nail services. She gives to the girls because she can see who needs what, Sullivan says.
Savage uses the prom planning not only to get students prepared for prom, but as a way to help get them ready for their future. She wants them to understand the importance of being proactive, rather than panicking at the last minute.
Savage does the work by herself for the most part, but she has a board of directors to help with community projects. She predicts that as the organisation gets more publicity, the team will grow and become busier.
Lynne Savoy is the graduation coach at Oscar Smith, and has known Savage for four years. She helps support in terms of making announcements, getting kids to meet with Savage, and following up with whatever is needed. She describes Savage as a genuine, thoughtful person who is trying to help as many kids as she can.
“Our school population is one that has a lot of needs, ” Savoy says. “She enjoys being a mentor and helping students get to the next level.”
Operating her nonprofit has taught Savage the importance of task management and the essence of being an entrepreneur, she says. She talks about how once upon a time women didn’t have the right to vote, or even wear pants.
To be able to express oneself through clothing is what she considers almost an obligation.
“I feel like entrepreneurship is learned, ” she says. “Once you learn to master that ability and do what you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Although the nonprofit is still growing, the success of the programmes can be seen as students come back to volunteer or donate clothes.
Fashion for Awareness recently got the opportunity to do a programme at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk. Savage believes that her success is due in part to her faith.
“When you’re doing the right thing, your provisions are provided for you. I know God will provide for me.” – Tribune News Service / The Virginian-Pilot / Kennedi Jackson
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