By Charise Wallace, Special to the AFRO

Tennis scholars at Southeast Tennis and Learning Center (SETLC) in Washington, D.C. are not just beasts on the court but on the runway too. Each year the organization holds a fashion showcase to give young girls and boys a chance to strut the runway in their own designs. The 2018  theme, Fashion for Our Lives,  is a nod to this year’s student led, March for Our Lives.

Through the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Sew N Know is an afterschool program at more than a dozen facilities including at SETLC. The program teaches thousands of grade school students in the District about the art, science and design techniques in the fashion industry.

Youth participants in the ‘Fashion for Our Lives’ Showcase dressed for the “Polk a Dots Explosion” theme. (Photo courtesy of photographer Christopher Calloway)

“I give them life, I give them part of me, and they’re not going to misuse that,” said Program Director of Sew N Know, Janice Rankins, during the event.

This year on June 9, young women and men showed off their fun and vibrant summer designs.

The event stuck to their title as the show opened with the students walking the runway carrying picket signs reading “Fashion is Everything,” “Fashion Strikes Back,” “Boys Do Fashion Too,“ and “We Are The Future, We Are Fashion,” to name a few, while wearing “Fashion For Our Lives” graphic t-shirts.

“When they say ’March for Our Lives‘ I did ‘Fashion For Our Lives’ because fashion is very important and this is keeping them out of the streets,” Rankins to the AFRO.

Each segment during the two-hour fashion show presented a different style: “Polk a Dots Explosion,” “Scuba Doo,” and “Glitz Glam and Feathers.”

“Being an artist, a lot of my concepts come at night in my dreams,” said Rankins.

The polka dotted looks consisted of black and white hues and blonde ‘70s afros, while the “Scuba Doo” designs were bold and screamed summertime fun, and finally “Glitz Glam and Feathers” was a glimpse of the modern day Great Gatsby, as their designs were filled with shimmery fabrics and accessorized with glamorous boas, flappers and more.

“Once they make something they’re hooked,” said Rankins. “Who doesn’t want to make something? Fashion is different now; the kids are interested in it. When I first started it wasn’t that easy especially with the boys, but now boys are interested.”

Other talents, from hip hop artist Yusha Assad and spoken word artist Kwamé Mcintosh, shared with the audience their insights on personal and real-world issues

Community public figures like Ward 8 Council member Trayon White, Dr. Lawrence Clayton of LEAP, the Metropolitan Police Department, and more were in attendance.

To learn more about Sew N Know visit the program’s Instagram @rwlc_setlc.