Passport 2 Fashion Event Explores the Diverse Possibilities of Style

Third day of Fashion Week Columbus took guests on a journey with Passport 2 Fashion, an event intended to explore the diverse possibilities of style.

Nicholas Youngblood
Aditi Bhatiya

Day three of Fashion Week Columbus brought guests on a journey with Passport 2 Fashion, an event intended to explore the diverse possibilities of style. Aditi Bhatiya, FWC Marketing director and owner of Spice Age Digital Media, has led the event since its inception four years ago with a focus on uplifting designers and models of all ages, ethnicities, sizes and identities.

“Don't think of this as just a fashion show.” Bhatiya says. “Think of it as an expression of individuality, because the message that we're trying to get across, and the impact that we're trying to make, is to say everyone deserves to be fashionable.” 

The show kicked off with a lively set of designs by Felicia Dunson. Models danced down the runway sporting paint-splattered denim and colorful, graffiti-inspired streetwear. After a word from Bhatiya and other organizers, Krishna Garewal was up. Her designs used elements of traditional northern Indian fashion to create dazzling floor-length gowns and two-pieces, replete with embroidery, loud patterns and rich colors. Third was Lex Neuenschwander, whose line brought its own take on defaced denim, with bleach stains and tattered edges that complemented edgy and androgynous designs. 

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Bhatiya says that although the event began as a way to celebrate fashion from diverse ethnic backgrounds, she quickly realized the need to expand its scope to encompass other elements of diversity. This year’s show featured several designs catered to those of outside gender binary, as well as for people of all sizes. 

Designs by Karen Poirier

In that vein, the fourth designer, Karen Poirier, presented a line of activewear, casual clothes and formal pieces meant to be worn without a bra. The stark black designs emphasized comfort and support. Afterward, Xantha Ward brought the show back to its unofficial theme of distressed blue jeans. Ward’s designs used tattered denim to encompass every element of fashion from streetwear to suits to corseted gowns.  

Finally, the evening ended with Shannon Dillman, a Columbus native who flew out from New York City to show how old items can be given new life. Her work focuses on turning vintage and secondhand clothing into wearable works of art through painting and repurposing. Her pieces evoked a variety of artistic moods from the avant garde and psychedelic to the classic masterworks. 

The runway is just one of the places where Passport 2 Fashion seeks to bring diversity to fashion. This year, Bhatiya and her partners have turned the event into a year-round nonprofit which she hopes can provide grants and other resources to designers who might otherwise be left out of the conversation. 

Krishna Garewal (right) walks with a model wearing one of her designs.

To Bhatiya, there are always new ways to make the world of design more accessible. “Diversity goes beyond just picking diverse models or just putting diverse collections on our runway. We want that diversity to be reflected in everything we're doing,” she says. 

It’s a mission that is also deeply personal for Bhatiya. As a woman of South Asian heritage who has seen colorism and negative body standards enforced firsthand, she wants to leave the world more accepting than she found it. 

“It really is important for me because I have an 8-year-old daughter who is discovering herself and figuring out where she fits into the world,” she says. “I really want children—especially girls— to grow up with the idea that anybody can be beautiful and fashionable at any size, any skin color, any look, any ethnicity.” 

For more information on Columbus Fashion Week and to purchase tickets or RSVP for the week’s remaining events, visit fashionweekcolumbus.org