Weekend fashion show in Germantown supports mentorship program, local designers

This weekend, Germantown hair-salon owner Yolanda Keels-Walker gave a group of young girls and boys their moment in the runway spotlight.

“We wanted to do something for the community, and we also wanted to take out some time to recognize all of our clients and their children, and build them up because they need positive outlets like this,” Keels-Walker said on Saturday.

Striking poses

Area youths, some as young as three, donned the latest fashions from local designers and walked the runway to tunes from Kanye West’s “808’s & Heartbreaks” at the Suite Extensions Hair Salon’s Fearless Fashion and Hair Showcase.

Among those featured was local designer Julia Bridges-Turner, creator of the J.Si’Monae clothing line. She saw the showcase as a great opportunity to introduce her fashions to the community while contributing to a good cause.

For a good cause

A portion of the proceeds was donated to the Melanie Marie Gems and Jewels Mentoring Program, an organization that promotes arts education, cultural exploration and public service among girls between the ages of 10 to 18.

“I wanted to start a program for young girls to give them access to people and activities and different events that they normally wouldn’t have access to,” program founder Melanie White said.

Keels-Walker explained the benefits.

“Here in Philadelphia, we do see a lot of children that if they had that little additional nudge or just a bit of positive reinforcement, it would really help, really make a big difference,” she said. “So, anything I can do to help with that type of mentorship, I want to do.”

White’s program is currently assisting a group from the School House Lane Group Home for Girls. Managed by the Baptist Children’s Services, the agency serves adjudicated dependent and neglected youth.

“We do activities with them. We teach them how to cook, or sew or bake,” White explained. “Some of them might want to be a cook, some might want to be a doctor, or a rapper or a basketball player.

“I have a lot of friends in different fields, so we might have a day where we bring them to the hair salon or I have a friend who has a nail salon, we might take them there. It gives them a chance to see what they could be or do. I’ve always been community centered and I love kids so this was a great opportunity to do what I love to do.”

Delay of no consequence

The love-themed event was originally scheduled to take place on Valentine’s Day weekend, but bad weather intervened. Despite the wait, Keels-Walker said she was proud of the end result.

“It was our first event like this and there were lots of things we’ve learned from it, lots of things we’ll make better,” she said. “But at the end of the day, the children had a great time and that’s all that matters.”

In addition to the fundraising benefits, Keels-Walker also saw the event as a way to support local entrepreneurs.

“I’m an entrepreneur, so I know how hard it is,” said Keels-Walker whose niche salon, located on Germantown Avenue near Chelten, specializes in extension services. “Anytime I can collaborate with people, I like to do that because we all need help; we all need exposure.”

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