Queer fashion and social consciousness will take to the runway to kick off Pride in New York City.
Rainbow Fashion Week, now in its third year, will take place June 17-24, in conjunction with NYC Pride, which runs June 21-26.
The annual event, which launched in 2014, is an eight-day celebration of queer fashion that includes several unique events highlighting queer designers, photographers, models, make-up artists, stylists, merchants and retail buyers.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, proclaimed Rainbow Fashion Week as "an official New York City pre-Pride fashion event" during its inaugural year.
It's been a well-received event, drawing 25,000 queer and gay friendly attendees throughout the week.
E. Jaguard ( Jag ) Beckford is the founder and producer of Rainbow Fashion Week. She is a clothing designer and a former entertainment industry attorney.
"I actually supported myself through law school making clothes for women who look like me and like to dress like me, which was more male identified," Beckford said.
When she launched her fashion brand, Jaguar and Company Clothier, Beckford was struck by all of the creative people who had a hand in helping her make her first fashion show a success.
"Wow, look at all these creative people behind the scenes," Beckford said of her reflection on her brand launch. "What I did would never really have come into fruition in the manner in which it did [without them]."
She noted being impressed with how the hair stylists and makeup artists were able to breath life into her designs through their own creativity.
"Wouldn't it be great if the public could see the art of fashion, all of the creatives contributing to a fashion event, the artistry and all of their work?," she asked. "Wouldn't it be great if we had a fashion week that took the time to actually highlight that, not just the designer, but all those other creatives who are also artists. Sometimes it's the big hairdo along with the fashion that we enjoy just as much."
Beckford said that is how Rainbow Fashion Week was born. She set out to create a series of fashion shows around a variety of behind-the-scenes artists whose work she admired.
"So, Eric Santiago, who happened to be the MC for my show, he was a celebrity stylist, and I was like wow, I'm going to create a show for you called Inside the Celebrity Closet," Beckford explained. "You go into the closets of designers, into the showrooms, into your clients' closets, and style them for a night out on the town. People need to see what that is as part of a fashion event."
"He is with us for the third year now," she added.
Rainbow Fashion Week also includes a pet fashion show, which will highlight the couture designs of pet designer Anthony Rubio. The pets will hit the runway in an Alice in Wonderland themed fashion show being held at 36 W. 39th St.
Beckford said last year's pet fashion show was held at pet friendly West Elm in Chelsea.
"That is a very dog friendly venue for the queer community," she said. "Chelsea is probably one of the largest demographics for our LGBT community, the customers are already accustomed to bringing in their pets, so it was a treat to be able to see a dog show."
Beckford said she works hard to pair the fashion shows with venues that make sense.
"We try to find really great venues that help create a really good atmosphere and experience for our audience," she said.
There will also be a drag fashion event, "Star Studd'ed Kings and Queens," showing off designs to the tunes of Broadway, pop and hip-hop, as well as "Fashion for the Cure," which is a mobile fashion event where the Rainbow fashion team "glams" up LGBT elders for a night on the town.
Rainbow Fashion Week will also include opportunities for young people to get involved through "Kids Who Tech: FIT Meets MIT," which is described as a hackathon competition for fashion and technology students competing for prizes of The Best Technology Design of Fashion Wearable's harnessing solar energy.
Beckford said it has been important to her to not only create an event focused on highlighting queer fashion, but that Rainbow Fashion Week also be focused on social consciousness.
"All of our events have social responsibilities connected to them," she said.
In addition to the Kids Who Tech event's focus on solar energy, the event "Urban K'Nights: Designer Dumpster Divers" will focus on recycling through fashion.
Beckford said Viridian, Delta Airlines and Bravo TV Star Andre Sorriano are teaming up for this event, which includes a dumpster diving challenge that will utilize leather from airline seats in the creation of new garments.
"It is dealing with recycled, repurposed and redesigning products and clothing," Beckford said. "Because there is so much clothing out there and so many things we could create from what already exists instead of constantly looking out for what is new in the store. We are trying to make designers take a second look at what it means to be a responsible designer."
Rainbow Fashion Week 2016 will also be the first carbon neutral fashion event, according to Beckford.
"We are going to be utilizing solar generators and solar panels to source energy for lighting, etc.," she said. "We are looking to reduce the normal energy consumption it takes to do an event like this."
Beckford said being environmentally conscious as a fashion event producer is particularly important to her because the textile industry is one of the largest polluters of the global water supply.
"We feel it's extremely important to take advantage of the audience we have and utilize the opportunity to deliver important messaging," she said.
Beckford said she's tagged Rainbow Fashion Week as "not your average fashion event," because of its unique focus on queer fashion and its social consciousness mission.
To learn more about Rainbow Fashion Week and for tickets, visit www.rainbowfashionweek.com .