FASHION FOR A CAUSE: Local designers, shops, stylists, and nonprofit gear up for a night of runway magic
Domestic violence knows no gender, sexual orientation, race, age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. According to the Domestic Violence Shelter and Services Inc. (DVSS) director of operations and development, Lauren Daley, “It will touch almost everyone in some way during their lives. Raising awareness and funds to support programs is crucial to providing services to individuals.”
The local nonprofit has been serving Wilmington for 31 years now. In 2016 they helped over 2,500 people, held more than 200 empowerment groups, participated in 119 youth programs, and held 82 trainings to help maximize their efforts to keep our community safe. Now, in year 25 of holding their annual fashion show—with clothes provided from their resale shops, Vintage Values—Daley and local marketing and brand executive Michael Ussery are giving the runway a makeover, so to speak. They’re bringing in local designers and boutiques to upcycle looks from Vintage Values, while stylists make over models to walk the catwalk come Friday.
“We want to show how to re-purpose resale-store finds with pieces you may already have in your closet,” Daley tells.
Ussery reached out to local stores and heard back from Tres Bleu, Aqua Fedora, Island Passage, Bloke, Sweetwater, Tusc, and Love A La Mode, along with designers Alisha Thomas, Lesley Tamaev, Lauren Lassiter, Elizabeth Workman, Chloe Gray, and Alice Powell. Stylists consist of Drewe Smith, Austin Mays Emily Caulfield, Kelsey Gibbs, and A’ngelia Fonville. “I’ve simply brought in a fresh eye and a close-knit network of clients and friends,” Ussery says. “Not only are their skills needed, but their hearts and lifestyle align with mine: We need to do what we can do, together, to make a difference for those in need to impact our community.”
Ussery already held a few lead-up fundraisers to the fashion show. One was his monthly market, There’s Something To Do, in February. He requested attendees bring a $5 gas card to donate to DVSS while shopping through a designer fair featuring local artists. He also helped promote an initiative at Blush Haus of Beauté—who will be doing hair and makeup at the fashion show. On a Sunday in May, they donated all profits from haircuts to DVSS.
“Owner Elisha Smith created ‘Beaute for Benefit,’ and pulled together willing salons and stylists,” Ussery explains. “At these donation-style events, to me, it’s less about the amount given but more about the act of giving.”
Ussery decided in the new year he would switch some of his professional goals toward giving back after putting together a puzzle with DVSS outreach director Mandy Houvouras. During the New Year’s Day dinner, she was talking about her desire to see their annual fashion show get a facelift. She hoped to reach a new demographic in the community: millennials. Thirtysomething Ussery immediately took to the idea.
“My resolution for 2017 was to ‘stop talking about it and start being about it,’” he tells. “I felt bombarded with this notion of it being cool to not care—and, well, that’s not really the case. I want to care about things, and people, and I hope it simply balloons out from me to these events to strangers to people reading this, and it ignites a desire to ‘be about it.’”
Ussery, the designers, the boutiques, and the stylists all are donating their time. He and Daley settled on the theme “Dawning.” They hoped to encompass all sides of the community in its outlook: a new dawn for advocates, a new dawn for clients, a new dawn for participants, a new dawn for volunteers, a new dawn for community compassion.
“This year’s theme was the product of a creative and dynamic team of volunteers, brainstorming ways to incorporate new ideas, while staying true to the show’s history,” Daley says.
Vintage Values has been around since 1986, providing Wilmingtonians gently used clothes, shoes, accessories, home goods, books, and more. It has grown into three stores across town and is a major source of funds year-round for DVSS. They accept donations of gently used items always (except electronics and children’s toys).
“Proceeds support our programs, and those we serve also receive vouchers for items they may need,” Daley says. “Clothing from these stores has been the main focus of the show for most of the show’s tenure.”
2017 will see clothes upcycled with a designers’, boutiques’ and stylists’ spin on it. Ussery says folks will see Gucci-inspired applique fashion, layers of prints on prints, and even casual street style with a twist.
“The most prominent trend will most likely be self-expression,” he tells. “Too often fashion is boxed into ‘it’s either this, or it’s not cool.’ Really, it’s about wearing what you like, putting your best foot forward, and using your style to start a conversation.”
Two fashion shows will take place Friday, May 19. A lunch show ($45) begins at 11 a.m. and dinner show ($55) will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside. Tickets include a plated meal; a cash bar is in the hotel lobby as well.
Funds raised help DVSS continue to provide 24-hour crisis intervention, emergency homelike shelter, court advocacy, empowerment groups, individual advocacy, children’s programs, as well as community outreach, education and prevention programs.
“With the insurgence of talent and exposure, hopefully, this concept of giving and being active will be a ‘dawning’ in Wilmington,” Ussery says, “and make us all more aware, more conscious and more willing to be a part of making positive change.”