Charlotte never expected to headline the national news as a city facing civil unrest and inequality. 2016 had seemed to catapult overnight from normal growth strains and economic uncertainty coming out of the recession, to underlying unease over gentrification and yet another officer-involved shooting. It was far from the view most Charlotteans had of their home and not at all aligned with the hopes of the 8,000+ new residents arriving every month.
So, just how does a business choose Charlotte again after such a tumultuous year? This is a story about how art and fashion and technology influenced a commitment to people. Charlotte people. UNYQ people.
The UNYQ team knew there were intense community issues and divergent personal stories making headlines. But Charlotte was still a vibrant, growing city with a lot of opportunity. The struggles were very real, but with struggle comes opportunity.
In a way, Charlotte as a community was just like our patient customers. By our very nature, UNYQ embraces people who are determined to rebuild their lives. Having seen their darkest days, they found the will to get up again – often literally – on their own two feet. To embrace a reason for being. To feel whole and worthwhile again. To inspire others by the action they take, day in and day out.
That outlook enabled the UNYQ leadership team to not only move forward with opening our east coast office in Charlotte in January 2017, but it was an attitude that moved UNYQ to quickly dedicate ourselves to making a difference in Charlotte. And art and fashion would offer a way to do that.
Charlotte Runway for Peace came about from PLITZS Fashion Marketing organizer Anthony Simons wanting to do something positive for the community following the Charlotte’s most tumultuous year. That desire became a benefit fashion show for Heal Charlotte Dream Academy Day Camp, a community collaboration with the goal of impacting behavior changes early through positive experiences for youth.
UNYQ Charlotte’s office lead and vice president of Business Development Lisa Tweardy was already an avid arts and business community volunteer. She took to heart the deep discussions she had with community supporter and Boom arts festival founder Manoj Kesavan about the future of Charlotte’s new and growth-stage arts community. Inspired, Lisa reached out to Anthony and Manoj about how UNYQ could help.
As a result, UNYQ commissioned local artist Marcus Kiser to design one-of-a-kind, space-themed art on UNYQ prosthetics and a scoliosis brace. Marcus drew ideas from the popular exhibit he and fellow artist Jason Woodberry developed called Intergalactic Soul, which addressed issues of racism, injustice, segregation, and mis-education through the layered lens of history, Afro-Futurism, and science fiction.
Donning their one-of-a-kind artistic interpretations, our UNYQ models joined the runway show featuring 18 local and national fashion designers. UNYQ also sponsored ticket sales and welcomed area providers and funders to a private showing of our very latest fashionable prosthetic and orthotic wear.
That private VIP gathering enabled the UNYQ team to jointly showcase the latest UNYQ Align™ and UNYQ Armor™ technology integration with special partners from Intel® and Tymewear. (We’ll be announcing more on that later. Watch this space!)
But it was truly the UNYQ models who stole the show. Like Cadie Jessup, a trailblazing dynamo para-athlete who believes in showing her prosthetic as an inspiration and example of her can-do attitude. Not to mention her workout dedication was on full display in her abs-revealing outfit! (See Cadie’s story here)
We learned about Cadie from local, independent provider Clay Claiborne of Claiborne Prosthetics and Orthotics. Clay knows a thing or two about dedication in the face of what could have been insurmountable odds when embarking on his orthotics career. He has inspired and helped so many.
Erin, who is becoming a regular UNYQ fashion star, was so happy to have a new cover in her favorite turquoise color. She offered a special testament about wearing UNYQ Armor™, telling all that that her fashionable covers literally change the conversation when people interact with her. Instead of sad questions about how her amputation came about, the reactions are now about how cool the cover is and where she got it. A much brighter and enthusiastic conversation starter to say the least.
And 16-year-old Grace was back (from her White House fashion show debut), gracefully making her way down the runway as the “warrior princess” and feeling good about herself in a very special UNYQ Align™ scoliosis brace. Embedded sensors enabled real-time data gathering that was on display on-screen and on the UNYQ phone app – truly a first for the runway and an important step forward for all UNYQ wearers!
So this show like no other show became UNYQ. And UNYQ embraced small steps and big steps with style. Just like our patient clients. In Charlotte and all our communities.