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South Salt Lake Journal

Teen fashion show helps cultivate confidence in style

Apr 12, 2024 01:26PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

A second portion of the walk for the audience. (Jesse M. Gonzalez/City Journals)

On March 1, teens of Promise South Salt Lake Best Buy Teen Tech Center after-school program were able to participate in and host the second annual Teen Tech Fashion Show. The event took place at the South Salt Lake Community Center auditorium in which teens (13-19 years old) were able to work with professional stylists, models, designers and photographers to become better acquainted with the fashion industry and to not only feel more confident on the runway, but to build confidence in their day-to-day lives. 

“It was all about youth expression, identity development, and giving students a creative way to express themselves through clothes, making clothes, styling them, walking in it, being photographed, photographing. It was really a dope experience to be a part of and really consider how essential the arts are for young people to develop their identity and figure out how they want to express themselves in this world,” said Daud Mumin, a young stylist and model who has been involved in the industry for the last six years, since he was a teen himself.

It was Mumin’s first time working with Promise South Salt Lake, and it was an experience he hopes to continue every year. 

“It was a really empowering experience, honestly. Something I was reflecting on was there weren’t spaces for me to do things like that when I was growing up. I think this program is doing really essential work,” Mumin said.

Over a three-day span leading up to the fashion show, the teens were given ample room and guidance from the professionals to craft their own clothing choices, with access to clothing customization, styling accessories, superb studio equipment, and other additional materials for craft and embellishment.

Another model, Naina Maile, assisted the teens, introducing them to the tools of the trade.  “A lot of the students customized different pieces and everything they made was super cool.  They had a lot of fun. We did a little workshop before the fashion show where we just went over how to walk and then posing and stuff. They had an opportunity to kind of practice a studio shoot,” said Maile, who has been modeling since 2022.  

Maile is also a former Promise South Salt Lake employee, having left the organization in August 2023 to pursue other interests, one of them including teaching, which made her a valuable asset in guiding the youth during the preparation and the day of the fashion show.  

“They were really excited about the whole thing. I was really impressed with what they were able to make on their own and customize stuff,” Maile said. 

“It was…it started off a little quiet, as it does with awkward teenagers, but I was happy that it was very much community based. It was a no-brainer for me to want to be helping out, especially in fashion because that is what I do,” said Nic Baca, a Salt Lake City model and native. “It was nice to just be in a community space to teach people about clothes and self-expression in fashion than just like something to wear, you know?

“Part of my role was just in modeling, so like fashion, the walk, and also shooting; helping them position their body, like what to do, how to think, help them to get into the mindset of modeling,” Baca said. “We all don’t like to be perceived by people as conscious humans, we feel like we’re being judged or criticized or something and it’s really uncomfortable. That’s what my role was—with another model friend—to get them comfortable with people staring at them, like you want people to stare at you, I know it seems really counterproductive.” 

In getting the teens more comfortable with being in front of cameras and crowds, local photographer Victoria Hills worked with the kids to ensure an exciting and memorable photographic experience.  

“I helped with the preliminary planning of the photography part of it—so kind of advised on what kind of backdrop to get, what kind of lighting equipment, maybe some other lenses that they could buy and then I brought a backdrop roll myself. Then I put together a presentation—it was definitely more information than they were looking for at the time,” Hills said.  

“There were about 30 kids that were involved in it, so I just kind of talked to them about the basics of photography and some of the meaning behind photography as an artist and how you need to have intention in the shots you are taking,” Hills said.

With Hills’ help, the fashion fueled teens built up their confidence, and within time, were all eager to get in front of the camera and display their own unique style. 

“Adults can get stuck in fashion. When we’re kids it’s so much more playful. Self-expression is a very huge part of it. The after-school program is helping uplift them and just support them. A lot of them are very shy, and I think that really helped them come out of their shells,” Baca said. 

Everyone on the team was impressed with the growth and poised certitude that the kids developed, as they took the stage at South Salt Lake’s community center. 

“It was really heartfelt, and I think that it was necessary, especially for communities of color, for poor communities, for disabled youth. It’s really important that they have spaces in which they can articulate and understand the world around them, and I think that the [Promise Teen Tech] center really helping cultivate that was really special to see,” Mumin said. 

“I consider myself an introvert too. Beginning to work with the kids I was also feeling shy about the experience, but I got to talk to them more and understand them more. I felt empowered to be able to encourage them. And to find that nerve and that boldness that is really special about young people and to really cultivate that as artists. I really felt that I learned a lot myself,” Mumin said.

Promise South Salt Lake continues to put kids first with their after-school programs. 

“It’s a great organization to support if you’re looking to support a nonprofit organization. If you have a skill, they love to host workshops and to share your skills with those teens and just kind of show them what’s out there and the possibilities for what they can do with their life. I think it’s something everyone should try out once in a while,” Hills said. 

“I really hope that the program gets more support, gets more funding, more resources so that it can continue doing this essential work for young people in the Salt Lake area,” Mumin said. “That’s definitely what I hope to get more involved in.” λ