New York Fashion Week show brings attention to child trafficking

/ Source: TODAY

New York Fashion Week is all about exposing new designers and fashion trends, but one company will put the spotlight on something far more important this season: child trafficking.

Amid the models, the parties and the incredible couture, some designers are using fashion week as a forum to raise awareness or funds for a particular cause. Among them are "Project Runway" winner Irina Shabayeva, who's part of a show benefiting Freedom Ladder, a nonprofit that aims to get people talking about human trafficking.

Freedom Ladder also hosted a Fashion Week fundraiser in February.Leigh Archangel Productions

"It turns out there are a lot of fashion designers who really care about this issue," Thomas Estler, CEO of Freedom Ladder, told TODAY.com.

His nonprofit teamed up with the production company The Set NYC to put on three shows in New York this month featuring dozens of up-and-coming jewelry and fashion designers including Alex Vinash and Demi Jing Yang. Ticket sales and donations will benefit his organization.

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Freedom Ladder partnered with the FBI to make a comic book that teaches young people about the dangers of human trafficking, which it distributes at churches, schools, libraries and homeless shelters.

"All the money raised will go toward putting these comic books in the hands of kids," Estler said.

The connection between fashion and his cause makes sense, he added.

A look from Freedom Ladder's Spring/Summer 2015 show last September in New York.

"One of the the things we want to do is create the idea that inside all of us is this thing of beauty that needs to be protected," Estler said. "I think that at a fashion show, we really highlight that. It's an industry that celebrates human beings, especially women, and human trafficking is heavily a women's issue. Probably 70 percent of the victims are women and children."

While the shows aren't part of the official IMG-produced Fashion Week, the annual festivities are the perfect opportunity to get people together for a good cause, Pim Shih of The Set NYC said.

"Fashion Week is a good time to get the word out about trafficking," he told TODAY.com. "It's a dark industry and we just want to shed light on this issue. Everyone loves fashion — it's a way to raise awareness, it's fun, and hopefully more people will get involved."

The three shows, on Sept. 12, Sept. 16 and Sept. 17, all feature different designers and will be held at the Holy Apostles Ballroom in Manhattan. Shavayeva, who won season 6 of "Project Runway," will present at the final show. Tickets are available here.