Acid attack survivor from India makes runway appearance

By The Associated Press ,

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Model and acid attack victim Reshma Querishi has her make up and hair done before walking the runway for the Archana Kochhar collection during Fashion Week in New York.

Model and acid attack victim Reshma Querishi has her make up and hair done before walking the runway for the Archana Kochhar collection during Fashion Week in New York. (Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Fashion Week kicked off in earnest on Thursday, with highlights including an emotional appearance by an acid attack survivor from India walking the runway to send a message of courage to other survivors of such attacks in her country.

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FROM THE RUNWAY, A MESSAGE OF EMPOWERMENT

Most fashion shows have beautiful clothes on display. Not many have an important social message behind them, and fewer still have a powerful spokesman walking the runway.

Thursday's show by Indian designer Archana Kochhar had all three. Its very first model, Reshma Quereshi, is the survivor of an acid attack in India; she walked the runway to send a message of courage and empowerment to other victims of such attacks in her country.

"This walk was important to me because there are so many girls like me who are survivors of acid attacks, and this will give them courage," Quereshi said in an interview, speaking through a translator. "And it will also go to show people who judge people based on their appearance that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover — you should look at everyone though the same eyes."

Quereshi suffered severe burns to her face at age 17 in an acid attack in 2014 by several male assailants as she was walking with her sister. She lost her left eye, and her face was deeply scarred.

She said Thursday that she was thrilled to participate in the runway show; she wore a long ivory dress embellished with colorful embroidery in pink, red, green and other hues, and a sparkly tiara in her hair.

"I never thought in my wildest dreams that something like this would happen to me," Quereshi said, "and that I would be coming to such a big place to walk on such a big stage."

The collection, called "A Tale of Two Cities," was "inspired by the breathtaking Taj Mahal and the rich, buoyant colors of magnificent India," according to the designer. The prints evoked not only the Taj Mahal but the lotus flower and royal elephants. Silhouettes included bellbottom trousers, cropped tops, capes, and jumpsuits. To offset the colorful embroidery there was a lot of ivory — evoking the ivory marble of the Taj Mahal.

Also walking in the show was Bollywood movie actress Sunny Leone.

"It's amazing how in one millisecond someone's life is destroyed," Leone said of Quereshi's story, calling her "very brave."

"To be here, she's come so far," Leone said.

--Jocelyn Noveck

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