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- 2/18/2010            
On the heels of a series of successful and ground-breaking music, visual arts, and film festivals in 2009, Rock for Rights, Purdah, and I VIEW, respectively, Engendered heats up the winter season with its annual fashion, art, and activism extravaganza. The arts and human rights organization, which focuses on creating awareness around gender and sexuality issues at the intersection of ritual and religion in South Asia and its Diaspora, is hosting Fashion Conscience 09 on Saturday, December 19, 2009, at 6 p.m. at NYC's prestigious Asia Society.

"Fashion Conscience 09 will use fashion as an artistic medium to create social change, shining a spotlight on issues affecting under-served communities," says Executive Director Myna Mukherjee. "This year, three designers will create patterns and unearth fabrics focused on three distinct, yet inter-connected, issues - women who have survived violence, people affected with HIV/AIDS, and communities that celebrate diversity through non-conforming gender identity and desire. Each of these fashion lines will be introduced by a performance art piece and borrow from the Sufi, Christian, Tantric, and Buddhist spiritual traditions of South Asia, all in an effort to foster dialogue and promote education around gender, sexuality, and religion."

· Manish Arora - named one of the top 10 designers at Paris Fashion Week 09. Regarded by many as the "John Galliano of India," Arora's line for Engendered will pay tribute to the spirit & resilience of AIDS victims, in order to raise awareness about the importance of safe sex and the complacency surrounding HIV/AIDS even decades after the origin of the virus. An alumnus of the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, Arora started his eponymous label in 1997. Today, he is known for a rich palette of psychedelic colors and kitsch motifs in garments that combine traditional Indian crafts like embroidery, appliqué, and beading with Western silhouettes. Arora is the only South Asian designer who has been invited to collaborate with international brands like Reebok and cosmetic giant MAC to produce a line, and his label is available in 84 stores worldwide.

· Zolaykha Sherzad - recently profiled in Time Magazine as one of the only women in luxury who has built a cultural bridge between Afghanistan and the rest of the world. Focused on reviving the role of Afghani arts and culture, Sherzad offers up a collection for Engendered that borrows from Sufi traditions and represents prayers for women who have survived violence and displacement in their lives. Though an architect and later trained at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Sherzad knows a thing or two about displacement. In 1978, she fled her native Afghanistan in the wake of the communist coup. In 2002, after the fall of the Taliban, Sherzad was finally able to go home. The return was bittersweet because nearly 25 years of war had devastated the country. In an effort to rebuild the lives of women affected by war, Sherzad began training them in basic tailoring skills - such as design, patternmaking, and sewing - to launch Zarif, which means precious in Dari. A year later, in 2005, she had her first fashion show. For Afghanistan, it was the first fashion show in 30 years.

· Asher Jay - a Parsons designer, who has worked with reputed fashion names such as Maggie Norris Couture, Anna Sui, Anne Klein, and Ralph Lauren, makes her fashion debut with the androgynous line titled "Intromission," presented in a four part series: Filling, Form, Function and Freedom with four looks per quadrant. The overall Eastern aesthetic sensibilities for this line are inspired by the indo-Tibetan goddess Kurukulla, who symbolizes the transformation of dualistic desire into non-dualistic desire and is deemed bewitching by both sexes.

· Amrita Singh - NY's leading South Asian accesories designer, will showcase from her line of intriguing and complex jewelry for the modern woman. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the prestigious executive training program at Bergdorf Goodman, Amrita has worked with world-renowned designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Christian Lacroix. She has been nominated by Fashion Group International for the Rising Star award in three successive years from 2006 to 2008.

· Celina Jaitley - Miss India Universe 2001 and one of Bollywood's leading ladies will walk the runway in support of Engendered, as the official Indian Event Ambassador for Fashion Conscience 09. Jaitley is a strong advocate for LGBT rights in India and was Bollywood's most vocal celebrity on the recent Delhi High Court ruling decriminalizing homosexuality. In an industry that rarely addresses issues of gender and sexuality, Jaitley makes it her mission to utilize her celebrity status to serve as a mouthpiece for the under-served and under-represented LGBT community in India. Jaitley is about to make her Hollywood debut in a film starring Se

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