Day three of Columbus Fashion Week took the guests on a journey with Passport 2 Fashion, an event that aims to explore the many possibilities of style. Aditi Bhatiya, FWC Marketing Director and Owner of Spice Age Digital Media, has led the event since its inception four years ago, with an emphasis on uplifting designers and models of all ages, races, sizes, and identities.

“Don’t just think of this as a fashion show,” says Bhatiya. “Think of it as an expression of individuality, because the message we want to convey and the impact we want to make is to say that everyone deserves to be fashionable.”

The show started with a vibrant set of designs by Felicia Dunson. Models danced down the catwalk wearing paint-splattered jeans and colorful, graffiti-inspired streetwear. According to a word from Bhatiya and other organizers, Krishna Garewal was on his feet. Her designs used elements of traditional North Indian fashion to create dazzling floor-length dresses and two-pieces that are full of embroidery, bright patterns, and rich colors. Third was Lex Neuenschwander, whose line brought its own take on blemished denim with bleach stains and tattered edges that complemented edgy and androgynous designs.

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Bhatiya says that while the event began to celebrate fashion from diverse ethnic backgrounds, it quickly recognized the need to expand its scope to other elements of diversity. This year’s show featured several designs aimed at those with a binary gender identity outside of gender, as well as people of all sizes.

With this in mind, the fourth designer, Karen Poirier, presented a line of activewear, casual wear and formal pieces that are meant to be worn without a bra. The sleek black designs emphasized comfort and support. After that, Xantha Ward brought the show back to its unofficial theme of distressed blue jeans. Ward’s designs used shredded denim to encompass every element of fashion from streetwear to suits to corset dresses.

Finally the evening ended with Shannon Dillman, a native of Columbus who flew out of New York City to show how old objects can be breathed new life. Her work focuses on transforming vintage and second hand clothing into wearable works of art through painting and reusing. Her pieces evoked a wide variety of artistic moods from avant-garde and psychedelic to classic masterpieces.

The catwalk is just one of the places Passport 2 Fashion wants to bring diversity to fashion. This year, Bhatiya and her partners turned the event into a year-round nonprofit that she hopes can provide grants and other resources to designers who would otherwise be left out of the conversation.

Krishna Garewal (right) walks with a model wearing one of her designs.

For Bhatiya, there are always new ways to make the world of design more accessible. “Diversity goes beyond simply choosing different models or putting up different collections on our catwalk. We want this diversity to be reflected in everything we do, ”she says.

It is a mission that is deeply personal to Bhatiya as well. As a woman of South Asian descent who has experienced firsthand colorism and negative body standards, she wants to leave the world more accepting than she found it.

“It’s really important to me because I have an 8-year-old daughter who is discovering herself and figuring out where she fits in the world,” she says. “I really want children – especially girls – to grow up with the idea that anyone of any size, any skin color, any look and any ethnicity can be beautiful and fashionable.”

For more information on Columbus Fashion Week and to purchase tickets or RSVP for the remaining events of the week, visit fashionweekcolumbus.org.