Before we head out to work each day, we all go through a similar series of motions. After breakfast, coffee, and social media check-ins comes the outfit. For some women, that also includes makeup, jewelry, and other accessories. The right pieces and parts can mean the difference between a confident glow and an apprehensive attitude. For a woman reentering the workforce after a crisis or incarceration, that’s a critical distinction.
“The power of fashion to make someone feel good has always rang true for me,” says Jon Copeland, Richmond-based stylist and Dress for Success of Central Virginia Boutique Manager. “I saw that when I found Dress for Success.”
Copeland has been working to elevate the profile of Dress for Success Central Virginia (DFSCVA) for the past four years. The nonprofit’s mission is to help women in poverty become financially independent, which they do in part by providing professional clothing to wear on job interviews and in the workplace. DFSCVA also provides a network of support, GED programming, career development tools, and more.
This weekend (March 16-18), Copeland will be bringing the organization’s message of women’s empowerment to the runway at the Southern Women’s Show at the Richmond Raceway Complex.
“The fashion show is a way we can explain our mission,” says Shantell J. Malachi, executive director of Dress for Success Central Virginia. “It’s how we explain the transformation that occurs with women in our program. We give women the confidence to face the workforce.”
The fashion show, sponsored by CEO Magazine, will take place Saturday, March 17 at 3 p.m. Copeland has crafted a lineup of looks that will highlight the nonprofit’s boutique items in addition to looks from local designers including Tangee Jones, Shareef Mosby, Earl Mack, Christian Crawford and Fanny Hickman. Models will also wear looks from Richmond-based boutiques Blue Bones, It’s a Man’s World, and Lex’s of Carytown. A DFSCVA client will also share a testimony during the fashion show.
“I see shows like this as opportunities for us to continue to make our presence stronger within our community,” says Copeland.
The DFSCVA Boutique Manager has produced other fashion shows and events to raise funds and awareness for the organization, including at RVA Fashion Week which will take place April 23-29 this year.
Dress for Success of Central Virginia has been growing “slow and steady” since Malachi started the local affiliate in 2012. She has lead the organization to serve more than 1,200 women since then. Copeland has been with her for much of the journey.
“I am not a fashionista,” says Malachi. “I am an entrepreneur with a workforce development background. So, I’m so glad I have Jon here with me.”
Outside the walls of the DFSCVA boutique and runway shows, Copeland is a visual merchandiser for Target, contributing stylist for Richmond Magazine, and Fashion Editor at CEO Magazine, while he also works with organizations including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Art180 and TEdxRVA.
Copeland has applied his styling expertise by developing guidelines for the types of items community members can donate to DFSCVA. Copeland explains that clients deserve to shop from a boutique other women would want to shop. While clients can shop the boutique at no cost, the public can shop items for a low-cost, too.
The boutique will host a pop-up all three days of the Southern Women’s Show. The nonprofit’s boutique typically only opens for public shopping four times a year. All profits from the boutique sales directly support the workforce development programs of DFSCVA. Malachi says the pop-up will feature many name-brand items new with tags. Nothing will cost more than $25.
Attendees can also support DFSCVA by using the special discount code DFSCVA18, which discounts tickets to $8 (normally $15) and contributes a $2 donation back to DFSCVA. You can purchase tickets to the Southern Women’s Show here: https://southernshows.com/wri/tickets/.
During a “cultural shift in women’s empowerment,” now is the perfect time to stand behind organizations like DFSCVA, says Copeland.
“Our mission is about helping women in general and there’s not better outlet than this weekend to help us be able to do that.”
Photo by Cheyenne Varner