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Power of 2: The Founders Of Dare To Wear Love

In 2009, Hoax Couture designers and real-life couple, Chris Tyrell and Jim Searle, founded Dare to Wear Love, a Toronto fashion event that raises funds and awareness for the Stephen Lewis Foundation and its fight to turn the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

On May 12, 2017, top Canadian designers will participate in the always-fabulous Dare to Wear Love Fashion Show and Gala. Before the event, each designer receives six yards of African fabric, which they transform into a one-of-a-kind frock to be modeled on the Dare to Wear Love runway. Also this year, Greta Constantine will debut their Fall/Winter 2017 collection in Canada at the event.

Here, Chris and Jim dish on their fashion-forward fundraising initiative.

Why did you choose to partner with the Stephen Lewis Foundation for this initiative?

Chris Tyrell & Jim Searle: “We were bowled over by the devastation caused to millions of people by the AIDS crisis in Africa and the overwhelming need to help. For Chris it became personal when he found out that the foundation mainly helps grandmothers and orphans affected by the AIDS pandemic. He was an orphan and was raised by his grandmother. We were also impressed with the way the foundation operated. The fact that they only support grassroots projects that come from the African communities means that, unlike other foundations, they are supporting initiatives that are coming directly from the people themselves.”

What projects will the funds raised by DTWL 6 be used for?

CT & JS: “This year the money will go towards the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s new urgent LGBTQ initiative. LGBTQ communities in Africa are under attack — they are persecuted, discriminated against, beaten, jailed, and their very lives are criminalized. This new fund will provide support for HIV/AIDS prevention, counselling, treatment, support, as well as healthcare outreach, and vital anti-stigma work.”

How do you choose the fabric and where does it come from?

CT & JS: “The fabrics are called Dutch wax prints and they can be found in most markets in Africa. They are the everyday fabrics that people all over the continent wear. Traditionally, Dutch traders brought the fabrics to Africa and traded the fabrics for gold and other African commodities. We choose the ones that we love from the patterns available at that time.”

The DTWL Challenge encourages people to raise funds by wearing Canadian labels. Why is it an important part of your campaign? 

CT & JS: “It’s incredibly important because it engages the public and is infinite in its outreach. You don’t have to be in Toronto to participate and support Canadian design and help people in less fortunate countries who are simply victims of being born where they were. Our slogan ‘Show Love Here, Bring Hope There’ just about sums it up.”

How has working together strengthened or changed your relationship?

CT & JS: “DTWL has been a real journey for the two of us. It is a lot of work to put on an annual event like this, and it has been truly rewarding to do it. We have strengthened our own relationship by knowing that together we have worked at creating something that has helped alleviate some of the suffering in the world. We are humbled every day by the generosity and commitment of the dozens of people who help us to create the event. It is remarkable how people respond when asked [to participate]. No one has ever said no. It makes us realize that most people want to do something and, if given the chance, will jump right on!”

What motivates you to continue what you’ve started? 

CT & JS: “Thoughts of how courageous the people are who are on the ground dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic—they just can’t give up; also the grandmothers who bury their children and are then faced with the task of raising kids in their old age, and the orphans who have no one; Ilana Landsberg Lewis—the Executive Director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation—and the way she turns every obstacle into an opportunity; the fact that we are privileged to live in Canada and therefore have a responsibility to help others who are not so fortunate; the pictures and videos we took last time we were in Africa, and the promise we made to people there that we would not abandon them; all of the DTWL supporters who give freely of their time, expertise, knowledge and creativity… these are some of the things that motivate us.”

Follow @daretowearlove and #dtwl on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates and event coverage.

Want to help make a difference? Get your tickets for Dare to Wear Love 6 on May 12 at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto or make a donation to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. 

Image(s): Kareen Mallon for Fajo Magazine