Photo and story by Genesis Rodriguez / Contributing Writer
Tennessee’s very own fashion designer JoAnn “Jae” Edwards hosted her second annual “A Touch of Paris Fashion Show” (ATOP), also known as the Fashion Show for a Purpose, Saturday night in the Marriott Hotel of Cool Springs.
Just as she did last year, Edwards collaborated with Thistle Farms, a Nashville-based nonprofit organization comprised of female survivors of trafficking, addiction and prostitution who specialize in handmade home and body products, to host the fashion show. In doing so, Edwards shed light on the importance of bringing awareness to sex and drug trafficking in women.
“I think this an amazing cause that Ms. Jae is collaborating with,” said Jalesa Webster, winner of Miss Black TN USA 2017. “It brings awareness to sex trafficking in women which is something that a lot of people don’t recognize.”
Before the night would officially begin, models were given the chance to walk the Red Carpet, which was hosted by Webster.
ATOP was organized and separated into five varying categories: “Strolling ‘20s,” “Unforgettable Red,” “Reminisce,” “I Love Myself” and “The Model Walk,” where models graced the stage in showcasing unique designs by Edwards.
The night’s model and host lineup deemed worthy of notice with featured names like Cheryl Brehm, Mrs. TN America 2015, who hosted the fashion show and Lyndsay Stafford, Mrs. Williamson TN International 2018. Renowned casting director Cynthia Fritts Stillwell also made an appearance at ATOP as she participated in the fashion show as a celebrity model.
Edwards’ mission through this one-of-a-kind fashion show was to have fun and celebrate fashion with a purpose rather than presenting an audience with yet another ordinary night of catwalks. To her, fashion is more than just runways and pretty clothing.
“I want to empower women to love (themselves) through fashion,” Edwards said.
Activities such as listening to live music from local band The Rhythm City Connection and shopping the various vendors were provided by the fashion show’s schedule of events.
Full of guests eager to shop, each vendor, in support of ATOP, attempted to sell their unique product to the customers grazing the pathway.
Charity organization Love Heals Everybody, a product line under Thistle Farms, was one of many in the mix of plentiful vendors.
“All of the products are handmade by women that have been victims of drugs and sex trafficking,” said Millicent Lawrence of Thistle Farms. “We try to empower people by selling the products to love yourself, and that love heals everybody no matter what.”
In between the trend-setting fashion fun and the shop ‘til you drop mentality carried by each guest, people visiting the event could also enjoy delicious Hors D’oeuvres and other goodies, along with giveaways rallied by shopping vendors.
Due to its goal to assist a great cause and the high level of support it continues to earn from the community, “A Touch of Paris Fashion Show” plans to continue bringing fashion with a purpose to Franklin for years to come.
“I have never been a trendy person, but I like a classy, elegant beautiful woman, and that’s what fashion means to me.” Edwards said.
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