Junior Christopher Simanton, one of the designers participating in this year’s Condom Fashion Show, said this is the first time he has heard about this type of show, but with the encouragement of friends, he ?decided to participate.
“I’m one of those people who sits and watches Netflix all day,” Simanton said. “I thought it would be really fun to take costumes and add the level of interesting quality to it by putting the condoms on. I looked through past pictures and thought, ‘You know, what if I did it this ?way’ ... From there, the ideas started flowing.”
The show is to take place Thursday starting at 8 p.m. Before the fashion show, though, events will begin at 5 with Free HIV Testing provided by Positive Link.
Simanton said his foray into the fashion world came early.
“I started wearing costumes when I was six and I would put my mother’s high heels on and wrap a blanket around my waist,” Simanton said. “I was a beautiful princess.”
Being involved in cosplay for nine years, Simanton said he became familiar with the world of costume design. When he came to Bloomington for college, Simanton found ?his niche.
“I was making costumes and I moved back to Bloomington to go to college,” Simanton said. “The Back Door was new and I went out and showed my pictures to people at the bar. I started conversations, made friends and I was told that I should participate in the Disney-themed drag show.”
After that first show, Simanton met his drag mother, Argenta Perón, and began performing as his drag persona, Oriana Perón, every week.
This project in particular, Simanton said, called into play both his previous costume experience and some newer techniques.
“I’ve made this kind of dress before, not this pattern because the pattern is new for the show, but I’ve made similar era gowns before,” ?Simanton said.
Simanton said the process of creating the textiles for such a gown ?required some creative thinking.
“I’m taking them, cutting them, opening them up and I’m sewing them together to kind of make a quilted square,” Simanton said. “You know those cookie cooling racks? I’m pushing the condoms through the square holes then interfacing with the iron so that they stick together like little diamond bubbles.”
Executive Chair of the Condom Fashion Show Israel Rodriguez said the show as it is now started four years ago as part of a now-dissolved project called Illuminate.
“Illuminate is part of the empowerment project, which is geared toward gay and bisexual men between the ages of 18 and 29,” Rodriguez said. “It’s to basically educate these guys about HIV/AIDS and also STIs in general.”
Once the design team chose who from the applicants would show, Rodriguez said the process was ?hands-off.
“Some of them wear their own work, some of them have models,” Rodriguez said. “The only part we played in that was we gave them 250 nonlubricated condoms so that they could work with those.”
Rodriguez said the theme came to him one morning and he just went with the flow.
“It’s all about #DiveIn, there’s always a sexual innuendo,” Rodriguez said. “It was one of those things, I just woke up and thought, ‘Water would be cool,’ but I didn’t want to do #Wet, that would be a little much. #DiveIn is more underwater-ish.”
According to Simanton, the gown will be the culmination of historical inspiration and the underwater theme.
“The style I’m going with is an 18th-century Victorian gown with condoms falling in with the sea theme by being stylized to look like a coral reef system,” Simanton said.
Simanton said his idea came from both experience with theater costume design, which is part of his major, and another area of study he feels strongly about.
“The coral reef idea came from my certificate I’m going for with the underwater science department,” Simanton said. “I’ve taken a lot of classes through them and have been to the Dominican Republic the last two summers with IU. I think those experiences helped shaped my idea and flesh it out to what it looks ?like now.”
Rodriguez added that two of the stars of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” will be involved in this year’s show, one of whom will be making her first grand ?appearance in Indiana before the newest season premieres.
“We have JuJubee from season two and all-stars, JuJubee is known to a lot of PSAs and has been involved in charities that give to HIV research so she’s very passionate about that,” Rodriguez said. “We’re also having Sasha Belle come in from the new season, season seven.”
The true objectives of the event, Rodriguez said, are to educate the students of IU and to drop negative preconceptions surrounding ?condom use.
“The goal of the event is really all about teaching people how to use condoms and giving people access to condoms because there’s a lot of stigma around condoms,” ?Rodriguez said.
Simanton said his personal goal is to get rid of any discomfort about condoms people may have left from adolescence.
“You hear the word ‘condom’ and you think that time in sixth grade when your teacher wrapped it around a banana,” Simanton said. “There’s this weird cultural distance. I want to try and bridge that distance and make it seem like condoms are colorful, fun and you should ?be safe.”
Rodriguez, a master’s student at the School of Public Health, said he wants people to leave the event with a better understanding of the resources Bloomington has to offer.
“It’s going to be a fun, safe place to talk about sex and it’s going to bring down some stigma,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, whose drag persona is also a member of the House of Perón, said to be on the lookout for something unexpected.
“Titanium has a surprise for everyone,” Rodriguez said.
Simanton said creative expression is an important form of communication found everywhere in daily life.
“As humans, whether we think about it or not, we are always expressing ourselves,” Simanton said. “From the clothes we pick up off the floor before running to work to the style we try to rework into our hair with yesterdays leftover product and water.”
He added that both the creator and the audience can take something away from works like his.
“This benefits all, those who wish to create something outside of themselves and those who receive catharsis from viewing or hearing the product of expression,” Simanton said. “That is why it is important to me to share what it is I have to share.”