Milwaukee’s fashion lovers gathered at the Milwaukee Art Museum Friday, Oct. 15, from 5 p.m. to midnight to watch models walk down the runway, showing off Mount Mary College students’ and local designers’ garments at the second “RunUp to the Runway” event, part of one of the Museum’s monthly “MAM: After Dark” themed events.
Ten senior Mount Mary College students warmed up the catwalk in the Museum’s main lobby with the garments they designed, ranging from casual to formal wear. Three of the students modeled their own designs while local models wore the other students’ garments.
Libby Quail, one of the Mary Mount students, modeled her own garment: a tan, black and white winter coat with a giant white fur hood and sleeve cuffs.
Paxia Vang, another design student, designed a bright red dress that flared out at the bottom, with a similar flaring collar that was removable. She said her inspiration for the design was a phoenix, a mythical bird that bursts into flames and is reborn from its ashes.
Sandra Tonz, Mount Mary College instructor of the five classes in which the ladies made their garments, said the ten students were chosen from those recognized at Mount Mary’s student fashion show in May to represent a range of student work – from casual to special occasion designs. She, Sandi Keiser, the department head of fashion at Mount Mary College, among others, chose the finalists.
Over 600 event attendees, made up of a mix of young, middle-aged and older adults, voted on their favorite garment. The winner, Alison Topczewski, who modeled her own tan fall coat, will receive a scholarship from the event proceeds.
Keiser, who helped select and direct the Mount Mary students, said Mount Mary College was supported as a sponsor of the event by the “RunUp to the Runway” organizing committee, including Jordan Dechambre, an editor of M Magazine. She said the committee members strive to support the development of Milwaukee talent.
The “MAM After Dark: RunUp to the Runway” event has been going on for four years. In years past, the shows featured Milwaukee boutiques, said Keiser, but now they have individual designers’ garments.
Starting at 10:15 p.m., about 20 models wearing couture fashion from area designers Lorena Sarbu, Shannon Lee Molter and Miranda Levy and accessories by Linda Marcus, a Marquette alumna, walked the runway. Meanwhile, “I’m Not a Pilot,” a local indie, classical and pop band, played on stage at the end of the runway. Black and white film images faded in and out on a projector to the rhythm of the music.
The fashion show’s theme was “femme fatale” – an attractive and dangerously seductive woman.
The models wore different types of evening dresses in three sections. Models in the first section wore formal evening gowns while they walked the runway to the music of “I’m Not a Pilot.” The women in the second section wore fun, going-out party dresses and walked to a Lady Gaga techno remix and other techno beats. Models in the last section wore leather aviation caps and futuristic black and white dresses.
All of the catwalk models were local volunteers. Most of them said they preferred print modeling to runway modeling because Milwaukee, unlike other big cities, does not pay its models for walking the runway.
Sarah Golata, 25, a Milwaukee native who began modeling only last year, said she was modeling at the “RunUp to the Runway” show because she was asked by the event committee members, whom she knew from last year’s show. She said a lot more people attended the event last year because Ra’mon Lawrence, a clothing designer from “Project Runway” television show, brought one of his collections for 15 women to model.
Nicole Feltz, 21, a model for one of the Mount Mary designers, has modeled for the last three years for a few local designers, including BEBE at Bayshore Town Center in Glendale.
Feltz said she preferred print modeling because “it’s the way to make money and get clothes. I’m just doing this for a friend. Milwaukee runway models don’t get paid.”
All of the hair styling and makeup for the runway show was a courtesy of Erik of Norway and Neroli Salon and Spa beauticians.
During the later runway show, five male models dressed in black sat around the perimeter of the catwalk holding orange paper lanterns in their laps. Though they sat perfectly still like statues, each model’s black t-shirt stated in white letters: “I am not just an object.”
These t-shirts are being sold at the gift shop of the Museum’s new exhibition, “European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century,” that was open for attendees to browse through all night.
This exhibition that opened Oct. 7 features modern furniture and household items that are both visually interesting and functional at the same time.
All night local salons Neroli Salon and Spa, the Pfister Hotel’s Well Spa and Erik of Norway set up “beauty bars” for the guests to enjoy hairstyling, nail painting and skin analysis.
Nova Vandevoort, 32, a Well Spa employee, interpreted guests’ skin analysis, a box of blue light through which a mirror with designated colors showed facial skin sun damage, dehydration and oil.
Students from the Institute of Beauty and Wellness located on North Water Street also gave makeovers with Aveda products.
Sarah Everson, 21, a student who will be completing the institute’s 14-month cosmetology program in December, said she became interested in fashion in her freshman and sophomore years of high school. Though she gave makeovers at the event, Everson said she enjoys styling hair the most.
All night the Museum’s Café Calatrava, located in the basement, provided hors d’oeuvres – like tiramisu, chocolate cake, lemon tarts and Italian rice with tomatoes and sausage – at a long table set up near the entrance.
Photographers from Front Room Photography took guest photos for free at the “MAM After Dark” photo booth from 7 to 10 p.m. in the front hallway.
Though attendees came to see new fashion, many came to the event wearing their most fashionable garments.
Lon Michels, a local coat designer and professor at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, brought 18 Milwaukee women in a limousine to the event to model his outrageous fur coats painted with multi-colored patterns.
Tracy Ballway, 43, who came with her daughter and mother wearing Michels’ coats, called him “the Picasso of our time.”
Several local models also attended the event.
Erica Harley, 22, a Milwaukee model sitting in the runway audience, has been an independent model for three or four years, she said. She said she enjoys modeling in modern and abstract photography of Milwaukee Institute of Art of Design students, but she primarily does runway modeling. She comes to the Museum’s “RunUp to the Runway” every year to get modeling inspiration and make connections.
All event attendees, from young fashionistas to older adults, drank cocktails and socialized as they watched bright lights and fun fashion on the catwalk.
by Melanie Pawlyszyn