A little scared and a little hesitant at first, the models seemed to grow with confidence with every little step they took. They hummed and danced to the tunes as they walked the ramp.
Their spirits were high and so were their heads, and their innocence and grace redefined what true beauty is.
The 'Beauty redefined' fashion show featured 15 men and women who had each survived a violent attack and been left scarred at the hands of scorned, disgruntled admirers or family members.
The first model to take to the catwalk was 14-year-old Sonali, who was attacked over a family dispute when she was only 17 days old. She dreams of being a doctor when she grows up.
Adorned with floral head-wreaths made out of marigolds and draped in beautiful Bangladeshi handloom saris and dresses, the fashion show was choreographed by Bibi Russell. Makeup and hairstyling were provided by Farzana Shakil and Source by Nashra, who volunteered to accentuate the facial scars and features of the models.
Prior to the fashion show, a poetry recitation along with songs that empower women were performed.
A brief, on-stage discussion wrapped up the show highlighting the struggles acid attack victims go through everyday, deprived of a normal life. Often dispirited and scared of what people may think, they shy away from society.
But not on Tuesday. The fashion show ramp was a restoration of dignity and empowerment; an appreciation of the unbelievable amount of resilience and bravery the 15 models demonstrate everyday to move ahead with their lives. One of the models said she was so happy that she couldn't put it into words.
ActionAid organised the event to celebrate these men and women while at the same time highlight that acid attack survivors are often neglected in our society.
"People are born to live as humans, not to fall victim to child marriage or acid attacks," said ActionAid's country director Farah Kabir.
Distinguished guests at the fashion show included the US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat; and Director General of Department of Women's Affairs, Shahin Ahmed Chowdhury.
A few stalls were set up at the venue where weavers from Sirajganj and Lalmonirhat showcased their handicrafts and handloom saris, shawls and gamchas. Among these weavers, many lost their homes to river erosion and are victims of climate change. Some of them were also acid attack survivors.
Photos: Rajib Dhar