published Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Girls Inc. raises self-esteem through fashion camp

Sidda Gross, Rachel Kamuiru, Meghana Penaganti and Sophia Martin, from left, look at Rachel's upcycled flip-flops during Girls Inc.'s Design Girl Camp.
Sidda Gross, Rachel Kamuiru, Meghana Penaganti and Sophia Martin, from left, look at Rachel's upcycled flip-flops during Girls Inc.'s Design Girl Camp.
Photo by Tim Barber.

At 6 years old, Trinity Williams is already making big plans for the future.

"I want to be a rock star and wear cool clothes and play a guitar," said the energetic youngster. "And I want to be a princess."

Well, it's good to have goals.

Whether or not the vivacious little girl sticks to her current wish list, the leaders at Girls Inc. Chattanooga encouraged her and other girls ages 6-11 to reach their potential on their journey to self-discovery during the recent Design Girl Camp.

The camp's weeklong curriculum included guest speakers and activities that focused on teaching the 43 participants to appreciate their bodies and learn key character traits while having fun exploring the fashion industry. The camp was at Brainerd United Methodist Church on Brainerd Road.

"We realize that young girls are fascinated with what the media puts out there about how they should look and act," said camp director Toccora Johnson, manager of the organization's elementary-age programs.

Bea Lurie, president and CEO of Girls Inc. of Chattanooga, said the camp was developed in response to parental concerns about girls developing good self-esteem.

The camp taught the girls the importance of recognizing their own inner beauty and that there's more to the fashion industry than clothing, Johnson said. Speakers introduced the campers to such fashion careers as project managers, retail sales professionals and sketch artists.

Among the speakers were Terri Holley and Tracy Allen, both of whom work in the fashion industry.

Holley owns Embellish, a women's shoe boutique at Warehouse Row.

"Terri taught the girls the importance of foot care," Johnson said. "She showed them all kinds of shoes from flats to pumps, and she measured their feet. She talked about what inspired her to go into the shoe business, customer service and making a profit."

Allen, a Belk senior visual display artist, took the girls behind the scenes in the retail world, explaining to them the importance of teamwork, Johnson said.

"She also talked about Coco Chanel and how, through perseverance, Coco succeeded despite raising eyebrows with her designs," Johnson said. "Despite stumbling blocks, Coco never gave up."

Other speakers included Edna Varner, Betty Spaulding, Dorothea Johnson, and 14-year-old fashion designer Madison Waldrop, a student at Girls Preparatory School. The speakers addressed subjects ranging from inner confidence and strength to skin care, trendy accessories, and achieving goals.

But it was the hands-on activities that most excited the girls, Johnson said.

"They did silk screening on tote bags, made bracelets and paper dolls, and learned how to 'upcycle' old fashions into new fashions," she said.

"The girls brought products from home and redesigned them," Johnson said. "We taught them that they didn't have to go out and buy something new all the time. They could take something from home and redesign it so that it looks like it's new."

Sauntee Carter, 9, salvaged a pair of flip-flops headed for the trash by upcycling them with paint and rhinestones.

"When you have something old, you can make it new just by adding something to it. It's like recycling. I got this old pair of shoes and added paint and stars and now they look new," she said. "It's a smart thing to do."

The girls showcased their projects at a presentation held for family members on the last day of camp, Johnson said.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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