Strike a pose

April 5, 2011, 3:02 a.m.

Charity Fashion Show 2011 ventures into San Francisco

Strike a pose
Courtesy of Ed Jay

The lights dim and the sea of gaily and outlandishly clad audience members seated in the rows on either side of a sprawling runway looks expectantly toward the giant screen.

They are not disappointed: a moment later, a tall, willowy model in a tie-dye, batik, robe-like dress struts out from behind the scenes. She does not break pace as she emerges from the backstage haven, but steps forward briskly with confidence, only pausing to pose for the conglomerate of photographers clustered at the end of the runway before she glides back up the aisle.

She disappears backstage again, where a gaggle of makeup artists and hairstylists speedily adapt her “Disco Glamour” look into “Ladylike 50s” or perhaps “Traveling Nomad.”

“We work to create a cohesive story with our makeup,” said Meg Wehe, a makeup artist from the Blush School of Makeup, the organization responsible for coloring and painting the faces of the models present. The artists move quickly to circulate through all the models and present them on time, and backstage is a hectic scramble of people.

Charity Fashion Show (CFS) has not always been such a mega event. Just three years ago, CFS took place in the Oak Room at Tresidder with only a small group of Stanford-affiliated models and designers.

Current Producer and Director of Public Relations Thom Scher ’11 recalls the original CFS, in 2007, as a completely different performance.

“I came up here, and I met Wayne Hwang,” Scher recalled. “He was producing this really small event called the Charity Fashion Show, which had been around since the 90s but in a completely different form.”

“I met Wayne through a mutual friend, and we really hit it off. And it became really clear that if I was managing all of the business and he was managing all of the creative side, we could make Charity Fashion Show huge,” he added.

The charity component of the show was one of the founding principles, implemented by the Asian American Student Association (AASA) at Stanford, and carried through to make CFS what it is today.

“Charity Fashion Show evolved from AASA’s Sweat-Free Labor Show, so the idea of benefitting the community came somewhat naturally,” CFS Director of Development Stephanie Werner ’11 wrote in an email to The Daily.

“Especially because we don’t represent a particular design house, we feel that it is of the utmost importance to have a social cause, to use our brand recognition to benefit those who perhaps couldn’t afford a ticket to CFS,” Werner said.

From Tresidder, the show migrated to a tent in Roble Field, which was a step of grand proportions.

“It was actually a huge improvement,” said Ariana Afshar ‘11, who has modeled for CFS since her freshman year. “I was so excited, so shocked. And then now, San Francisco.”

Charity Fashion Show 2010 made it apparent that a different venue would be necessary if the show was to follow the trajectory it had set for itself. Last year, CFS faced serious economic problems, simply because the scope of the show had exceeded that of most other student groups on the Stanford campus.

“These troubles were largely tied to fundraising policies enforced by the University that are set forth for good reason,” Scher said.

These policies, outlined in the Vice Provost for Student Affairs (VPSA) regulations on student group funding, made it difficult for CFS to capitalize on sponsorships. CFS therefore faced a tough decision this year: either maintain its Stanford connections and downsize considerably or officially disconnect from the University. They chose the latter.

“As that’s changed, I think we’ve brought on some way larger names,” Scher said. “We’ve got Verizon Wireless presenting as a sponsor and key sponsors of Pigment Cosmetics, Umbrella Salon and Vitamin Water Zero.”

Strike a pose
Courtesy of Henry Navarro

This year’s charity was the Princess Project, an organization that donates prom dresses to underprivileged girls. The Princess Project also emphasizes diversity of all types, a vital component of Charity Fashion Show–audience members could not help but notice the aesthetic variety of models.

“Charity Fashion Show puts models of all different colors, shapes and sizes on our runway, because we value ethnic diversity and a positive body image,” Werner said. “By showing girls in attendance that you don’t have to fit in a mold to be beautiful, we aim to increase their self-confidence and self-worth, counteracting negative industry stereotypes.”

Diversity not only includes different body types and ethnicities, but also experience levels and ages. Models ranged from a Hillsdale High School student, Cora Kammeyer, who had never modeled before, to Jessica Havlak ’10, who had previously participated in Charity Fashion Show, to Ty Olsen, a model signed with an agency in San Francisco.

They all shared the same nervous energy before going on the runway, and they all went through the process of learning how to “walk” and develop their own style.

“You’re allowed to have your own unique style, as long as it’s not really strange,” Afshar said.

And unique walking styles there were, as models jauntily shimmied to Katy Perry, sauntered languidly and marched stiffly down the runway. Their expressions varied as well, with smoky glares from some, subtle pouts from others and traces of smiles playing on the lips of a few. The works of 40 designers were displayed in sets or “pockets,”–each themed after a certain decade as the show traveled through time from the 50s to the modern day.

“I think that our move to San Francisco means that we have been able to capitalize on a really huge community–the arts community in San Francisco is amazing,” Scher said, smiling. “That’s something that I personally cherish, and I love working there.”

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