Walking the Runway at Equality Fashion Week

Origami Customs at Equality Fashion Week with 10 models wearing gender-affirming clothes

We just finished Equality Fashion Week in LA, and the whole team is tingling with sheer joy. How good this event was was honestly, unexpected. 

As a small fashion brand, we don’t often put out the energy to do fashion shows. Mainstream fashion events often lack the inclusivity and representation that are core to our values at Origami Customs. They’re not typically our market, and they rarely provide trans and body-inclusive models.

It’s not that we haven’t been approached by fashion weeks before; we have. We just don’t feel good about putting our clothes on bodies that don’t represent the majority of our community. So, when NiK Kacy reached out to us about participating in Equality Fashion Week (EFW) in LA, we were tentatively hopeful that it would be different. 

But It was more than just different. It was an experience of community and support that we’ve never seen in the fashion industry before. We not only got to showcase our clothes, but we left feeling seen, supported, and with so many new genuine friends. 

Rae Hill of Origami Custom and Nik Kacy of NiK Kacy Genderfree Footwear

Rae Hill of Origami Custom and Nik Kacy of NiK Kacy Genderfree Footwear

What is Equality Fashion Week?

Founded by NiK Kacy—executive producer, designer, and Queer activist—Equality Fashion Week was established to create opportunities and equity for Queer designers, models, brands, and small businesses that often lack access to mainstream fashion weeks. They had two events in 2018 and 2019 before taking a hiatus due to the pandemic years.

Rae Hill of Origami Customs working at Equality Fashion Week

While Equality Fashion Week is about fashion, the main goal is to create space for designers and models who are often left out of the mainstream fashion market. The mission is to enhance awareness, visibility, and support for the LGBTQIA+ community and to showcase Queer, Trans, Gender-expansive, and BIPOC fashion brands, models, performers, and designers.

The event's programming this year included a kick-off party, a day of panel discussions about queer issues, a karaoke night, a fashion show featuring 10 designers, an after-party, a day of vendors, and a daytime pool party. While all of these types of events are standard for most fashion weeks, every event we went to was cultivated with care and a genuine focus on the community. 

A clothes rack with designs from Origami Customs

Our Journey to the Runway

When NiK first approached us about EFW, we were honestly a little reticent. We’ve definitely struggled in the past with people reaching out just to fulfill a diversity or tokenism quota.

As a trans brand, it’s also a little scary to put yourself out into public spaces these days, and not all events know how to offer support and safety around that. It’s one thing to create an event that says that they want to support our community, it’s another thing actually to achieve it. 

Rae Hil and Partner Elo in LA for Equality Fashion Week

It was also a very big ask to travel to LA all the way from Montreal and to work with models and teams we had never met before. But after some team discussion, we decided it was worth it to give it a shot. The mission felt so aligned and our hearts told us that we had to be a part of it.

Preparing for EFW was both thrilling and nerve-wracking. It’s been a while since we’ve designed a collection for an event, and we had to plan every detail meticulously. And while we are a brand that specializes in custom clothing, there was definitely some concern that something wouldn’t fit one of our models and we’d need to make alterations on the other side of the continent from our incredible sewing team. But the team got it done and we hopped on a plane!

Rae Hill, owner of Origami Customs being interviewed for the Unique Voices Podcast with Iris Goldfeder

Rae being interviewed for the Unique Voices Podcast with Iris Goldfeder

Community and Connection

While the fashion show was very important to us, our goal for Equality Fashion Week was to immerse ourselves in the LA community as much as possible. We took every interview, we attended every event, and we met as many people as possible.

Initially, we expected the high-fashion feeling where everyone might be distant and focused solely on their work. However, we soon found that the reality was the opposite. Everyone wanted to be friends, to connect, and to support each other.

The Origami Customs Team at Opening Night

Part of The Origami Customs Team at Opening Night

The sense of community and support among designers, models, and attendees was incredible and the social events were a highlight of our experience. We’re all introverted people, but we put ourselves out there and found that everyone around us genuinely wanted to forge real connections and friendships. It wasn’t just about the fashion; it was about the people, the stories, and the shared experiences. 

Coming in from out of town meant that we didn’t have support teams or infrastructure that most other brands did, like clothing racks, steamers, hair and makeup teams, etc. When we made a call out to the other designers to see if anyone could help us out, almost every one of them responded that we could share what they had, we could have things shipped to their house, or that they could bring extra. 

The Summit Talks about queer issues at FanGirl Cafe

The Summit Talks about queer issues at FanGirl Cafe

Interacting with other designers and other business owners was particularly enriching, and it was such a good reminder that even though we’re a small brand we’re experiencing the same struggles. We built connections, exchanged ideas, and learned from each other's experiences.

We attended as many events as possible, and each one reinforced our sense of belonging and having a seat at the table. There were various times when each of us was brought to tears because of someone’s story or the genuineness of a connection. We felt a profound sense of safety and joy throughout the event.

One of the models of Origami Customs getting their makeup done

The Big Day: Walking the Runway

The day of the runway show was filled with a whirlwind of emotions. Arriving at the venue, the energy was electric. Backstage was a hive of activity, with designers, hair and makeup teams, models, and the production team all working to handle every problem.

The incredible production team at EFW was small but mighty and deserves immense credit for their professionalism and dedication. They made sure everything ran smoothly and created a supportive environment for all participants.

Origami Customs Models preparing to walk the runway at Equality Fashion Week

We were so nervous to meet our models in the hopes that everything would run okay, but we shouldn’t have worried for a second. Not only did we have NO alterations (thank you incredible sewing team at Origami Customs!) but all 10 models working for us were an absolute joy. 

Spotlight on Our Models

One of our biggest challenges as a brand is that we can’t often find models who represent the spirit of our brand. Our desire is to showcase trans and queer joy and to represent the beautiful diversity of bodies of our community. This group exemplified everything we’ve ever wanted in a group of models. 

Every single one had such a beautiful story of what they did with their lives and how they came to be working with us. We will absolutely be releasing features on Instagram about each of these models because each person’s story and gender journey are so inspiring. 

Origami Customs Models preparing to walk the runway at Equality Fashion Week

(Until then, feel free to look them up/ hire them for your own projects! We would work with each and every one of them again. In the order they walked for us- Minh Nguyen, Marquis, Crystal Cryduv, Justine Cross, Tanner Holley, Darien-James Kawayt, Lola Ramirez, Zoe Yale, Mallery Jenna Robinson, Hamzeh Daoud)

We spent so much of the day getting to know all of these incredible people, and although there was still the stress of organizing something that we wanted to be perfect, the day was so much fun. I feel like not only did we make friends with all our models, but they made friends with each other. 

Designer Rae Hill waiting to walk the runway with their models and collection and Equality Fashion Week

There were mini dance parties, group breathing exercises (thanks Darien-James 😀) fun photoshoots, deep conversations, pep talks when someone got a bit of stage fright,  and so much laughter as everyone kept each other calm and happy during the 11-hour day.

As the show began, we were all filled with a mix of excitement, pride, and a touch of nerves. Seeing our collection on the runway was an unforgettable experience. The reactions from the audience, the applause, and the cheers were overwhelming. (We even got a thumbs-up from Rosie O'Donnell!) It was a moment of validation for all the hard work and creativity that has gone into building this company.

Highlighting Other Designers

Equality Fashion Week featured ten designers in total, each bringing their unique vision and creativity to the event. Each company was vastly different from couture to suits to streetwear, and it was inspiring to see the variety of styles and themes represented. 

We were the only brand that showcased binders and gaffs (see the collection here!) and we paired our collection with jewelry from the incredible Lord Violet from Montreal who partnered with us during last year’s Montreal Fashion Week event. We were all the only international designers, and it was really empowering to have our work elevated in a show like this. 

Rae Hill of Origami Customs speaking about their fashion collection with NiK Kacy at Equality Fashion week. Photo by photos by XPOZD Photography

Photo by XPOZD Photography

One thing that was very unique about this event is that NiK Kacy brought out each designer to talk about their designs and company before their runway walk. Normally at a fashion event, you don’t hear much about the designers and the focus is just on the clothes. But it was a testament to the event that they wanted the audience to get to know and support the designers themselves. 

The other designers were all incredible, and every one of them is worth following:

Each designer was such a pleasure to get to know, and contributed so much passion and creativity to this rich creative collaborative event. to the rich tapestry of EFW, showcasing the diverse and inclusive nature of the event.

Origami Customs Models laughing and hugging

Reflections and Takeaways

Participating in Equality Fashion Week was a transformative experience for me as a designer and CEO. It reinforced the importance of events like EFW in providing a platform for underrepresented voices and fostering a sense of community. The impact on my personal and professional growth has been life-changing!profound.

I think one of the biggest reminders for me at this event is that I’m not alone in this career and that what I do matters. I built this company from scratch and began by sewing in my kitchen, so I often feel imposter syndrome and struggle not to compare myself to more established companies. It’s also often hard to be an online company because we don’t see the impacts of our products in person.

The Origami Customs team tired after their fashion show

Exhausted but happy the morning after our show 

But being a part of this event was so validating and inspiring. Watching our models put on their custom-made garments and feel amazing and confident in them reminded me just how impactful creating gender-affirming garments can be. And connecting with other designers and professionals in my field reminded me that I do have a seat at the table and that my experience and input are invaluable to my community. 

Selfie of the Origami Customs team in LA

Thank You for Having Us!

Our experience at Equality Fashion Week in LA was nothing short of amazing. It was an honor to be part of such an impactful event and to share our designs with an audience that truly appreciates and values diversity. The connections we made, the stories we heard, and the support we received will stay with us forever.

We encourage everyone to support LGBTQ+ events and initiatives like EFW. Representation and advocacy are crucial, and your involvement makes a difference. Even if you don’t buy products, just following and engaging online with queer companies and people who are trying to make a difference is such a support. You have no idea what it means to all of us to have that encouragement. 

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll continue releasing the massive amount of content we got from this event on Instagram and TikTok. We have so much more to share with you! Your support means the world to us, and this event has left us so encouraged and excited to continue creating beautiful, affirming pieces for all of you. Thank you, to each and every one of you. 

See the EFW collection here! 

10 models wearing the full Origami Customs collection from Equality Fashion Week


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.