When Emily Pennington put on her first fashion show the summer after graduating from Carnegie Vanguard High School, she was looking for a way to give young designers opportunities to show off their work and to give back to her community.
Now she’s tending to last-minute details for her second show to be held Saturday at Evelyn Park in Bellaire. Her beneficiaries are some area schools, courtesy of the nonprofit she’s established called STRUT HTX.
“I read a tearjerker article about a janitor who was doing hygiene closets for a school and got the idea to do it here,” Pennington said. “The care closets are inexpensive to do and to maintain and they have a big impact.”
Pennington said the closets are filled with personal hygiene products, which are free of charge for all students in need. STRUT HTX purchases all supplies and delivers them to schools. There is a set list of products for elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. In middle and high schools, the students can select what they need. In the elementary schools, parents are invited to “shop.”
“We hope that by doing this we can take a bit of stress off the children’s lives, hopefully helping them thrive academically and socially,” she said.
Pennington called her shows “fashion-forward fundraisers” and sees a connection between fashion and personal hygiene.
STRUT HTX funds closets at Wainwright Elementary, Frank Black Middle School, Waltrip High School and Sam Houston High School – where a recent drive stocked the school with 1,000 sanitary pads. The schools were selected after Pennington reached out on social media asking about the needs of schools and connecting with some of Houston ISD’s wraparound specialists.
With funds raised from Saturday’s show and other donations, Pennington hopes to expand into 35 more area schools over time.
Pennington said it costs about $250 to start up a closet and so far she’s been getting supplies from dollar stores. But as more schools are added, she hopes to start using other suppliers to stock up in bulk. Pennington has been helped in the endeavor by friend Katie Craig and also by her family. She has plans to expand the brand to include more helpers.
She’s making sure everything is lined up for this weekend and checking weather reports. Even though the show is an outdoor event, she’s ready for inclement weather with tent walls and heaters. This is Pennington’s first show where she’s selling the tickets herself through Eventbrite and says the process has been easy.
The show includes a kid’s fashion component and designs from local boutiques before a student designer fashion show, where Pennington will debut 10 gowns of her own. There also will be performances from students at local schools who benefit from the care closets.
Pennington procured designers and models through contacts at the Art Institute, Texas State, word of mouth and social media outreach.
Next up for Pennington is college in the fall at Southern Methodist University. She plans to keep growing the care closets in Houston and maybe start some in Dallas once she settles in.
For more information about the show and how to support STRUT HTX, visit https://www.struthtx.com/.