BIRMINGHAM — Born to a Lebanese mother and Palestinian father in Dearborn, fashion journalist Hoda Salameh Winkler had already broken down barriers— by having two different ethnicities.
Yet, the concept doesn’t only revolve around her identity.
She also uses her eye for style to send a deeper message that promotes peace, social justice and racial equality.
On May 6, Winkler organized a fashion show called “Breaking Barriers” at Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham to fund a mission trip that will allow her and her husband, Jason, to aid Syrian refugees in Greece.
The philanthropic couple will document their stay on video as they distribute food and supplies, as well as improve camps and infrastructure.
Winkler said the fashion show event evolved from a photo shoot she coordinated with local photographer Piper Carter in downtown Detroit earlier this year that was also called “Breaking Barriers.” That shoot comprised models of different ethnicities, races and religions in an effort to merge their fashions.
For example, she said a Muslim woman wearing the hijab donned an Asian kimono, while an African American model wore Indian clothing and an Indian model wore Latin clothing, etc.
“Basically, all the fashions were stepping out of your comfort zone, proving that we are all one, no matter [the difference in] race, religion or ethnicity,” she said.
Winkler teamed up with Bridgette Odum of B. Michele Events to present the show. Odum even showcased her jewelry designs and donated 20 percent of her profits.
Lyudviga Shneyders of Birmingham’s Lyudviga Couture also agreed to display her designs in the fashion show and to donate 20 percent of her proceeds to the cause.
To top it off, Winkler shared photos from the shoot at the event.
Growing up, fashion and writing captivated her, but she had no idea how to pursue both.
However, at age 15, she became involved in the fashion industry, landing her first internship with Hour Detroit Magazine, which may have helped her find a way to link both careers.
After high school, Winkler attended Henry Ford Community College’s honor program and transferred to Wayne State University to major in journalism with a specialization in fashion design— earning a full-ride scholarship to enter WSU’s Journalism Institute for Media Diversity program.
Even then, her career decision broke barriers within her family and community.
“It wasn’t an easy career choice,” she said, recognizing it was not what most Arab Americans choose to do. “…However, I am extremely happy with my decision to follow my heart. I have met so many cool people along the way.”
Winkler graduated with six internships on her resume— all involved with fashion and media.
“My last internship was StyleLine Magazine,” she said. “[It] was the former largest monthly magazine in Michigan with a circulation of over 50,000.”
After two years of experience, Winkler became associate editor as a new graduate and worked there for more than six years. The magazine closed in 2014.
“I’ve been doing a lot of freelance work since then,” she said.
As for how the mission trip came about, Winkler credits her husband with the “idea in terms of helping Syrian refugees.”
She’d been planning his 30th birthday when he’d asked her to tell those invited to donate to Syrian refugees in lieu of gifts for himself.
She felt it was a sign since she’d been researching mission trips that same day and had found one to Greece.
Winkler also discussed her marriage, acknowledging that as a Muslim, choosing to marry a Jewish man came with obstacles. But, she said overcoming them was worth it.
The couple has been married for two years.
“We had all these Muslims, all these Jews, Christians, Hindus and people from different walks of life coming together,” she said about her wedding day. “I’ve never felt so much love in the air ever in my entire life… When I say it was magical, it was way more than just [us] exchanging our vows, it was forging connections that were lasting a lifetime. To me, that was irreplaceable.”
On June 7 at 7 p.m., local Rodan + Fields Beauty Expert Viyeaan Yaldo will host a Facebook Virtual Party called “Life-Changing Skincare for a Life-Changing Cause” to sell innovative skincare products to support the couple’s mission trip. Those interested can check updates here: https://facebook.com/groups/RefugeeMission/
To donate instantly or learn more, you can visit their fundraising site: https://www.youcaring.com/JasonandHodaHelpSyrianRefugees. To reach Winkler, you can visit her website www.