NOiR show to benefit Detroit infant mortality program

Stephanie Steinberg
The Detroit News

A few more high heels will strut the University of Michigan campus next weekend, but they’re not strutting to frat parties.

The 17th annual NOiR Runway Fashion show will be held in a tent on Ingalls Mall, the area in front of the Burton Memorial Tower, on Saturday. The largest fashion show on campus is run by the student group NOiR, which means “black” in French.

“It’s is for students of color to celebrate positive body image,” says NOiR president Kendall Johnson, a first-year graduate student in the School of Social Work.

Johnson, a 22-year-old from Detroit, got involved after watching the show as an undergraduate student at UM. “I really love the fact that it combines fashion and philanthropy. This organization allows me to be involved in two things that I really care about,” she says.

As a fashion philanthropy organization, the 50 models in the show and executive board members are required to perform at least two hours of community service. The group also donates all ticket sales to a cause of their choice. In 2015, NOiR raised around $3,000 for the Children’s Literacy Network of Ann Arbor. This year, all proceeds go to the Women-Inspired Neighborhood Network, a program sponsored by Henry Ford Health System focused on reducing infant mortality in Detroit.

In 2012, Detroit’s infant mortality rate was roughly 15 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to the state average of seven deaths . Noticing the disparity, four Detroit health systems — the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford, St. John Providence and Oakwood Healthcare — formed the Detroit Regional Infant Mortality Reduction Task Force.

The WIN Network (formerly known as Sew Up the Safety Net for Women and Children) spun out of the task force and kicked off in 2012 to provide education and resources to 375 low-income pregnant women and over 1,200 non-pregnant women from Detroit enrolled in the program.

Jaye Clement, director of Henry Ford Health System’s community health program and strategies, oversees WIN. She says their efforts have led to fewer premature births, and there’s been zero infant deaths among the women who’ve given birth. Another bonus: The program instills “a sense of hope,” she says.

“More of these women are finishing high school or their GED requirement, or finding employment and finding stable housing and really transforming their lives,” Clement says.

NOiR partnered with WIN because there’s a closet connection — WIN often provides clothing for infants and mothers.

“We’ve had situations where the mother has a job interview coming up and needs clothes, and we’ve had situations where just having maternity clothes is a struggle,” Clement says.

NOiR hopes to raise at least $4,000 for the program, Johnson says. The models — who are “from all different backgrounds and races and body size,” she adds — will wear apparel from student designers and local retailers Windsor, Bivouac and Renaissance.

Celebrity stylist Dutch Davis, aka “Dutch The Omen,” (he’s dressed A-listers Nicki Minaj, Nelly and Ashanti) is returning for the third year to style models for the final NOiR scene.

Davis described his collection as “confused and mixed.”

“You might see a boy in a skirt, a girl in a pant suit. You might see a big gown. It will be a lot of black, a lot of militant looks,” he says during a telephone call from Chicago.

He’s not afraid to shake up the Wolverine fashion scene.

“I know the designers in Detroit and Michigan,” he says. “They bring it safe, and I’m not going to bring it safe. I’m going to bring something different.”

Southfield native Malaya Watson, “American Idol” Season 13 contestant, will be hosting the giveaway portion of the show. Items include a football signed by Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh and products from sponsors Steve Madden, Mary Kay and Hampton Creek.

Former Michigan football player Devin Funchess, now a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, also is on the attendance list.

The last scene may push fashion boundaries thanks to Davis, but we’re guessing Funchess won’t be arriving in heels.

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17th annual NOiR Runway Fashion

7 p.m.

VIP: $30 (includes food, drinks, front-row seating and after-party entrance); general admission: $15