Gun violence is more than just a problem in Philadelphia. It is a plague that afflicts the city nearly every day of the year.
When Philadelphia native Melanie Brandon read about a little girl’s murder, it was a turning point. She began brainstorming ideas about what she could do for an all-too-familiar problem.
Soon after, she saw a police press conference on the confiscation and destruction of guns in the city, and it was the catalyst behind her innovative idea: melt down confiscated guns and turn them into fashion accessories and jewelry.
“I just thought they could be used in a more positive way,” she said.
Known in the fashion world as designer Melani Von Alexandria, she has been involved in design since her 20s.
“I always found it interesting to have a role in how women look and the way we present ourselves,” she said.
When she wrote to city officials and proposed the idea, they responded back and were enthusiastic to her vision.
The City of Philadelphia has cooperated with her, and together, they’ve created a project known as Operation Melting Weapons of Violence into Accessories, which designates guns confiscated by the Philadelphia Police Department for Von Alexandria’s pendants, bracelets and other accessories.
On Sept. 27, she debuted her Spring 2009 fashion line, titled the Superwoman Collection, which she dedicated to successful women who have worked to strengthen the Philadelphia community. The honorees, all “superwomen” in their own right, were given engraved trophies of raindrop-shaped, black onyx and a check for their respective nonprofit organizations.
“These are women that I feel should be acknowledged for the beautiful things they do,” she said.
Philadelphia First Lady Lisa Nutter was the first honored for her work as president of Philadelphia Academies, Inc., which creates life and economic opportunities for Philadelphia youth.
Cheryl Ann Wadlington was honored for her establishment of the Voluer Image Consultants. The organization provides personal development programs for disadvantaged teen girls.
Veniece Newton was also awarded. She is involved in the fashion industry and has given funds back to the community. During the holidays, Newton and others will donate and distribute gifts to underprivileged families.
The event also honored Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, who could not attend but sent their well-wishes.
Models walked the runway floor to a drum and bass groove, showcasing Von Alexandria’s spring line of tailored organza, silk and cotton outfits. Some were garnished with feathers and bows. Others were draped with flowing cloth, which hung off their shoulders. The colors were muted and pale, and included grays, off-whites and greens.
The models were adorned in Von Alexandria’s Gunn Metal Jewelry. Diamond-encrusted bracelets swooped and wrapped around their waists and pendants hung from their necks.
Deputy Sheriff Paris Washington closed the evening by speaking of Von Alexandria’s work with the sheriff’s department.
“When she brought up the project to us, we were very enthused,” Washington said. “The neighborhoods belong to us. We have to say no to violence.”
Portions of the proceeds from the event and from her MVA Gunn Metal Jewelry line go to the MVA Gunn Fund, which provides a youth who has been adversely affected by gun violence with funds for the first two years of college education.
The “Superwoman” collection is not officially scheduled to come out until December, but the event offered an intimate sneak peek into a fashion line that is perhaps the most symbolically powerful one ever to grace Philadelphia.
Kevin Brosky can be reached at email@example.com.
Staff writer Danny Barron contributed to this article.