Condom couture combines fashion and AIDS awareness

At first glance, a fashion show featuring pieces made exclusively from condoms seems like a fun, albeit strange, way for people at Duke to embrace and normalize conversations about sex and sexuality. But beyond the fun, Condom Couture stands for bigger issues.

With its inaugural show three years ago in 2013, Condom Couture was hosted by FACE AIDS and is now hosted by Partners in Health Engage, a national organization devoted to building health care delivery systems and helping the poor that has a chapter at Duke. All proceeds from the event will go to benefit the national organization and help them accomplish their goal of helping increase the number of people on life-saving HIV medicine, eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission and expand programs to reduce new infections in young women and girls. 

The show will be hosted by Duke University Improv and will also include performances by a cappella groups Speak of the Devil and Deja Blue.

“The event originally aimed to de-stigmatize HIV/AIDS and promote the use of contraception, in addition to raising money for Partners in Health’s efforts to combat AIDS globally,” said senior Tahvi Frank, one of the fundraising chairs of Duke’s PIHE. “Since then, FACE AIDS has become Partners in Health Engage, but we hold the same goals in hosting the event.”

The Duke chapter of PIHE was the first chapter to host a Condom Couture event, and the fashion show has since grown and has been replicated by various PIHE chapters across the count.

Outfits showcased at the event in the past, although always made entirely of condoms, have been extremely diverse in their use of the materials.

“In past years, my favorite designs have always been the ones that used condoms in unexpected ways,” Frank said. “Last year, one designer made a skirt by laminating condom wrappers.”

Although none of the designs for this year’s couture have been released, we do know that this year’s list of designers represents a very eclectic mix including Duke students as well as non-Duke students, as student groups as well as individuals.

“Both Duke students and outside groups have designed [this year],” said senior Elsa Gunnarsdottir, president of PIHE. “We also have judges that include faculty members as well as representatives from North Carolina AIDS Action Network.”

Although the event is hosted at Duke, the whole community is getting involved to help PIHE reach its goal of bringing development, security and health to impoverished people in countries struggling with health crises. Some of the groups participating in this year’s show include Global Brigades and the Women’s Institute of Secondary Education and Research.

“I think the show provides a great opportunity for groups on campus with the similar mission of promoting access to healthcare to work together,” Frank said.

Condom Couture will be held on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in Keohane 4E Atrium.


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