Christian Siriano may best be known for “fierce” designs that won him the coveted Project Runway prize in 2008 and made him a fixture at New York Fashion Week.
But this week, the young fashion designer and Maryland native is coming home to Washington to promote another passion: breast cancer awareness.
Friday night, Siriano will headline Pink Rocks the Runway, an annual fundraising event that combines fashion and music in an effort to drum up awareness among women and men under 40, a group that, organizers say, may dismiss cancer as an older woman’s disease.
“Everyone that I know has had someone in their life affected by breast cancer. What surprised me is how many young women are getting it,” says Siriano, noting that his older sister, who is 30, and many of his fans fall into the under-40 age group. “This lets me raise awareness for people I love.”
Siriano, 25, will show his Spring/Summer 2012 Ready to Wear line that debuted at New York Fashion Week last month.
Joining him are 14 local fashion designers, who will feature local celebrities (including players from the Washington Redskins and D.C. United) and young breast cancer survivors (some of whom were diagnosed as early as 21 years old) as runway models.
“Over the last few years I’ve been asked to do different breast cancer awareness events. What’s different about this is it’s showing our craft” as fashion designers, he says.
“Going to an event is one thing, but I feel like I’m contributing more somehow,” he says. Like, wow, this is special.”
Siriano was born and raised in Annapolis, an experience that influenced his sense of style and design by “making me want to rebel,” he says with a laugh.
He attended the Baltimore School for the Arts and worked with design legends Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen before scoring big on Project Runway with seemingly larger-than-life creations.
Today he has an eponymous luxury clothing line that he describes as “dramatic” but “really wearable” as well as a collaboration with discount shoe store Payless.
“A lot of designer collaborations are a one-time thing. But that’s not how women shop,” Siriano, who has done 11 collections with Payless, says. “What we did is bring an ongoing designer feel.”
Siriano, who says he is influenced as much by avant garde couture designers as the street style of women he meets while traveling, says that he is excited to bring fashion home to the Washington area for the Pink Rocks the Runway cause.
According to event organizers, women in Washington are being diagnosed with breast cancer at twice the national rate and have one of the highest death rates in the country.
Siriano says the stats are scary, but that they’re no reason to get down, give up or think it can’t impact you.
“It’s not somber at all,” Siriano says. “We’re trying to make [the event] fun so people feel good. That’s what clothes are supposed to do — to make you feel happy and make you feel special.”
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