Lexington fashion designer to speak at Community Arts Center
By PAUL STANSBURY
On Wednesday, May 16, the Community Arts Center invites the public to meet Soreyda Benedit Begley, a Lexington-based fashion designer, public speaker and community activist. She will be discussing how she combines her passion for fashion with her mission to empower women and minorities.
Originally from Honduras, Begley got her start in the fashion industry as a teenager working in sweatshops for $30 a week.
“My life in the sweatshops explains why I am so passionate about my work,” she says. “I worked in sweatshops during my high school years and a little bit after. Ever since I was 14 years old, I would work three months a year. During these three months, I worked almost every day. I worked an average of 70 hours a week. All of the horror stories that you may have heard about sweatshops are real. I was there at the young age of 14 with many other girls in my home town of Puerto Cortes, Honduras.”
From those humble beginnings, Begley has used her talent for fashion as a springboard to become an avid community organizer, motivational speaker and supporter of many causes. She travels all around the United States and abroad, speaking on issues of fair trade, women’s and minorities’ rights and sustainable development.
Begley describes how fashion led to her activism. “Art, for me, represents not only a creative outlet but also a social act, an act of empowerment, for me and for others. Clothing, appearance and certainly standards of beauty and fashion are not neutral and trivial, and I design clothing as an attempt to take control of these standards. I want my clothing to serve as one more way to empower women and create agency and choice. By rejecting some ways of presenting ourselves and embracing others, I hope to create pieces that make women feel powerful, and by extension, be powerful. I also insist that my clothing is produced in a fair and sustainable way, as I know firsthand the conditions in which most of the clothing in the world is produced from my time working in sweatshops in Honduras.”
Some of the many accolades Begley has received for her fashion design, as well for her work as a community organizer and activist, are: Latina Business Woman of the Year, by the Latin Woman’s Day Organization; Scassi Inspired Design Award, by the Headley Whitney Museum; and the Coretta Scott King Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, 2013.
Begley has been active in many organizations. She is a co-founder of the Lexington Fashion Collaborative, founder and coordinator of the Future of Fashion Lexington, founder and coordinator of the Future of Fashion Honduras. She has served as board director of the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, and coordinator of the Festival Latino de Lexington. She has served on the Make Lexington a Fair Trade Town Committee and The Martin Luther King Jr. Kentucky State Commission.
Begley has lived in the United States for over 18 years. She currently lives in Lexington with her husband Chris and their three children, Isabella, William and Aaron.
IF YOU GO
Lunch with the Arts
Featuring: Soreyda Benedit Begley
Noon – 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, at CAC $5 at the door
Soreyda Benedit Begley will be leading the Community Arts Center’s Project Runway summer art camp the week of June 4 -8. During this hands-on fashion camp, students will learn basic sewing techniques and will create wearable pieces using recycled and re-purposed materials. Portions of camp will be collaborative, with students working in teams to exchange ideas and create beautiful wearable art. Special guest Laura Sioux Kirkpatrick, former participant on America’s Top Model, will help students present their work in an end-of-camp fashion show for friends and family. Camp is open to rising fourth- through eighth-graders. Complete information and registration is online at www.communityartscenter.net/camp