by Suzanne Huntzinger

Underneath the flashy façade of Midwest Fashion Week is a thread stitching together dreams of high fashion runways and philanthropic endeavors. Berny Martin’s Fashion Community Foundation has been the machine that helps make not just those fashion dreams possible, but so much more.

Since 2011, before the foundation was even incorporated, Martin and Midwest Fashion week have been involved in charitable giving and events like the Love and Serve Haiti fashion show or the Indiana Down Syndrome fashion show fundraiser. Wanting to do more, Martin started the Fashion Community Foundation in 2019 with the vision of creating opportunities for cultural exchange like he had growing up in Brooklyn, New York.

Today, the foundation, powered by Martin’s Midwest Fashion Week, helps bring to life the dreams of underprivileged youth by giving them opportunities to acquire fashion design skills so they can ultimately begin careers in the industry. The foundation does this by making connections to careers in areas like fashion design, modeling, photography, casting, and marketing. “We’ve helped not only models start their careers, but also helped people grow businesses in beauty, fashion photography, public relations and more,” Martin says.

The efforts of the Fashion Community Foundation even go beyond the scope of the fashion industry. Sam Norris, founder and CEO of SafeHouse Protection, saw an opportunity to help victims of domestic violence when the country saw an increase in those crimes during the height of the pandemic. Thanks to the Julie Marie Scholarship program, Norris and ShP work in partnership with the Indianapolis Mayor’s office and the local police department to secure victims’ homes from intrusion or relocate them if necessary.

Martin and his foundation are crafting a five year strategic plan that includes several events in Marion County for 2022. Here’s a sneak peek of some of the projects in the works:

THE INDIANAPOLIS WEST SIDE FASHION SHOW – This fashion show in partnership with the International Marketplace Coalition will feature a group of four to six young, energetic and spirited individuals who will be part of the fashion production and earn money.

FASHION ENTREPRENEURSHIP CONFERENCE – This three-day conference with collaborative programming will feature professionals in fashion, entrepreneurship, and culture.

EMBROIDERY WORKSHOP – A workshop led by Berny where participants will learn how to craft an art piece using embroidery.

SCREEN PRINTING WORKSHOP – A workshop where participants will learn to transfer ink on to garments via screen printing. This workshop is usually held a few times a year.

The Fashion Community Foundation will continue its tireless efforts to promote inclusivity through exposure and exchange of fashion and style. “We build our network with a broad range of talent from diverse ethnic, economic, and educational backgrounds,” Martin says, “We want to celebrate and appreciate every person’s unique qualities and their contribution to shaping beauty, culture and art within themselves and others.”

The FCF was created from a desire to share the business of fashion with young people who by circumstance would not otherwise have the opportunity.

If you like to get involved, make a donation, or learn more about the foundation, visit