Break Free NYFW, the Break Free Foundation’s Semi-Annual Fundraiser
Break Free NYFW was founded by Alexandra Nyman, the creative director and CEO of LadyCat. Break Free is a runway show with a cause that is leading the discussion on mental health, substance use, and co-occurring disorders within the fashion industry. For each runway designer showcase that Break Free hosts, we invite mental health and recovery activists to not only walk on the runway as models but to be featured designers showcasing their collections for the world to see.
Why a Runway Show?
Break Free NYFW was founded by Alexandra Nyman. In 2019, Nyman made her official premiere as a designer during NYFW under the moniker LadyCat. Alexandra wanted to use this platform she was provided with the spread a deeper message about mental health and titled her first collection “Therapy”.
The inspiration for “Therapy” came from her brother and his mental health journey. “He has faced so much since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder type ii, and I am in awe of his strength every day. He is my driving force and main inspiration in all I do. In collaborating with my brother, I have learned how to be a better mental health advocate and how to ensure he gets the care he needs.
“I wanted this collection to inspire others to seek help and to take their mental health as seriously as my brother does. He has learned to be vocal about his needs and how to support him on his mental health journey. This collection served as a visual reminder of the need for all to do the same,” Alexandra recalled when she thought back on the launch of “Therapy”.
And although it wasn’t perfect, it was a learning experience for her that sparked the inspiration behind Break Free. To create a space for sober and mental health advocates to share their art with other like-minded individuals in a showcase during NYFW. And to lead the conversation on substance use disorder and mental health within the industry.
The first showcase for Break Free NYFW was held on Monday, February 14th, 2022, and featured six designers. The showcase sold out and had around three hundred people in attendance. The show was held at Ideal Glass Studios and was embraced by members of the press with coverage in Forbes, E Online, Seventeen Magazine Online, Time Out New York, Yahoo, Digital Journal, Fashion Week Online, and No Kill Magazine to name a few.
Co-sponsored by Recovery Centers of America, Break Free sold out its 250-plus seats and secured an ample donation to 10,000 Beds, which raises funds to send individuals suffering from substance abuse to rehabilitation centers. Break Free was able to grant ten scholarships through this fundraiser and their partnership with 10,000 Beds. In September, for their second showcase, Break Free established a new memorial scholarship fund in memory of Sergent Tyler for veterans and active service members struggling with substance use disorders. This fund will be awarded to two individuals.