Courtesy Lisa Harris
Lisa Harris built Twin Cities-based brand Fashion Meets Poetry on a foundation of women empowerment and support, diversity, beauty, and bravery. Since she came out with her poetry book Unveiled Beauty in 2016, a coffee table-worthy book that combines poetry about women’s stories and fashion photography, she has built a community of women finding their voice. And now, on November 11, she’s once again bringing people together to celebrate being a woman with her 2018 Unveiled Beauty Fashion Show at the Five Event Center.
At the show, three poems from the book and two new poems will be read live as custom designs from Arianne Zager, Deborah Block, Anyse Mellott, and Natalie Barclay are worn on the runway.
The 12 models are everyday Twin Cities women, and in keeping with Fashion Meets Poetry’s foundation of diversity, they come from all backgrounds and all walks of life. Among them are a former Target vice president, a veteran, an entertainer, and a local entrepreneur, and before the show, two of them will be sharing their stories.
If you haven’t heard of Harris or her brand, check out what she has to say about Unveiled Beauty and its corresponding fashion show. To some, the night is much more than a runway. It’s a night of beauty and bravery.
So the fashion shows, the events—all of it really started because of the poetry book you wrote, Unveiled Beauty. Can you tell me more about it?
The book really came from a place of healing and self-discovery for myself. It really started when I was struggling as a working mom and had some career changes, and I really started writing [after stopping after college] as a way to kind of figure out where I sit, what my next step was. At that time, a close girlfriend of mine encouraged me to write a book, and I said you’re crazy—but that’s what girlfriends do. They push you.
You had the poetry on your own, so why did you decide to combine it with fashion?
I’ve always been in love with fashion, so it was natural to bring those two passions together. My intention was to bring beautiful photographs that enhanced story and the poems. [Working with one of the book’s commissioned fashion designers, Samantha Rei,] I would present her the poem, and in essence, the challenge was: What is the fashion that this character, this woman in the poem, should be wearing, and how could her fashion design, her fashion look, enhance the story of the poetry being told?
So how did your book evolve into a network of women?
Because the poetry is for women and it’s very raw and vulnerable, women started sharing themselves for me. I was naturally creating a safe space for women, and I just fell in love with it. I fell in love with the idea that women still needed to share and be witnessed, that they felt they could trust me—I loved that space, and I organically moved into women’s empowerment. The root of my brand is having women really embrace the journey of our life, the high and lows, and also celebrating their own beauty.
I talk a lot about beauty and bravery, whether you’re on stage to share a story or walking the runway. In these moments you display bravery, and when other women can see us doing brave things, we can inspire them to do their own brave things in their life.
And the fashion show?
The space seemed a little more heavy at speaker series and the training programs, so I wanted to make sure there was a time throughout the year where we could celebrate the women. Everything that I do, from the book to the speakers to the models, are everyday women. When I started the book, I told my best friends and sisters, “Hey, I need some girls to model and I want them to look like everyday women; will you sign up?” And they said yes. Then when we started to move into speaker series, I knew I didn’t want space for keynote speakers. I wanted it to be everyday women—women down the street who might be the manager of the Best Buy store who had a story to share and wanted to be witnessed.
You mentioned beauty and bravery together earlier—could you expand on that?
It’s about redefining beauty and bravery. Women have a hard time owning the word “brave.” It’s a big, powerful word—that’s for the fire fighters, that’s somebody else, that’s not mine. I think when we start to own being brave, we can start doing big things in lives. Beauty and bravery to me really go together, and it’s about redefining what beauty is and celebrating our uniqueness.
This interview was edited for style, length, and clarity.