Why Colorado Health Network Hosts Red Ball

HIV and fashion have historically intertwined and the AIDS epidemic resulted in many losses to the fashion industry. While stigma and silence surrounding HIV and being gay limit our knowledge of precisely how many were lost to AIDS before fashion icon Chester Weinberg’s more public passing in April 1985, the epidemic’s impact on fashion has great historical context and can be felt to this day.

Image-maker Ray Petri, whose life was cut short when he died of AIDS at age 41 in 1989, developed what was then a radical new clothing style. His impact lives on today, as many incorporate his style to express their individuality — a blue MA-1 flight jacket, loose fitting Levi’s worn from the hips, paratrooper boots and cropped hair. The style worked with all genders and incorporated skirts for men.

Yusuke Suga, whose hair styles were featured in fashion publications including Vogue, died of AIDS in 1990 at the age of 47. According to the AIDS Memorial, Yusuke is credited for creating the “wedge” haircut worn by ice skater Dorothy Hamill in the Olympics. Some of Yusuke’s clients included Princess Grace of Monaco, Cher, Jackie O and Diana Ross.

These are just a few examples reflecting the intersectionality of fashion and HIV and exemplify the unknowable loss to society in the early years of the epidemic.

While societal attitudes have changed since the death of these visionaries, we have farther to go in eliminating HIV and promoting acceptance for people living with HIV. This progress is necessary not just to honor the legacy of Ray and Yusuke and untold others, but for all people who are, have been, or one day may be impacted by HIV or AIDS.

This year’s Red Ball Fashion Benefit represents all the good things that people like Ray and Yusuke bring into our lives. The show will be filled with new and inspiring fashions, and incredible hair creations.

On this World AIDS Day — December 1, 2021 — we honor those lives we have lost and celebrate incredible achievements in health care.

Funds raised by Red Ball support life-affirming programs and services for more than 5,000 people living with HIV who are actively engaged as clients with CHN across Colorado as well as critical prevention and education programs including free syringe access and free HIV/STI testing.

U=U Undetectable equals Untransmittable