Wave a pamphlet listing depressing statistics about sex trafficking, and it will most likely end up in the trash. But blow out a full head of curls and strut in breezy satin, and heads will turn.
That’s the simple theory behind Freedom and Fashion (FnF), which operates out of an office in Little Tokyo here: Why not spread awareness of sex trafficking by speaking the language of fashion? The 50-member team works alongside other nonprofit organizations like CAST and Not for Sale to fight the sexual exploitation of women and children. But the team also debates the latest handbags and fall styles-all while rocking pink shorts or spunky belts. FnF serves as a bridge between human-rights organizations and the public. During FnF’s annual fashion show, a local DJ blasts music as models strut the runway before 1,300-plus onlookers, and guest speakers along with video clips provide information about human trafficking. FnF also blogs and publishes a glossy fashion magazine each year, splashed with beautiful graphics of rain boots and dresses. The magazine could pass for any other fashion publication, except the text profiles human-rights-conscious designers and projects.
FnF is also novel because its explicit goal is “to render Christian service and share the message of Jesus.” (The website notes that “learning about the Christian faith is a voluntary exercise.”) A weekly staff meeting this summer featured a mountain of spaghetti and a pot of tomato sauce, but it started with prayer. Human resources manager Chris Baltodono, a dapper 21-year-old dressed in navy ankle-length slacks and boat shoes, talked about the prevalence of sexual addiction in society-even churches. He explained that the roots of it are trauma, dysfunctional families, and an addictive society, and the solution is Christ. He said, “I, too, come from a dysfunctional family.”