When the Center Club held a focus group asking its members what events they wanted to hold, some suggested a fashion show.
But any old fashion show wouldn't do. It had to mean something.
"We talked about our members being very philanthropic and wanting to give back," said Nancy Sloane, director of membership and marketing for the Center Club. "So that was a component we wanted to make a part of the fashion show."
At 7 p.m. Friday, the Center Club will host its first-ever runway show, Couture at the Club: An Evening of Ravishing Fashion. The fundraising event will transform the club, a private dining club with sweeping views of the Inner Harbor, into a high-fashion venue featuring a runway show.
Club members, including local celebrities and business executives, will help model the latest trends for both men and women.
Benefiting from the event is Suited to Succeed, a local nonprofit group that provides clothing and workshops to help women move from welfare to work by supplying business attire they can wear with confidence to job interviews.
It's about empowering women, said Karyne Henry, who heads the nonprofit's board of directors.
"Our slogan is, 'It's more than a suit, it's an opportunity,'" said Henry. "What makes us different is we try to create a business wardrobe, so having to buy clothes is not an obstacle to job success."
Last year, Suited to Succeed provided 10,417 items of clothing and shoes to their clients.
"We try to encourage women to donate just one suit and what ends up happening is they clean out their closets," said Henry. The organization takes business clothes, shoes and accessories.
Clients who are referred to Suited to Succeed can choose at least three business outfits. Once they have a job, they can come back and choose three to five additional outfits. The women are shown how to mix and match items to create different looks. In return, clients are asked to volunteer an hour of time sorting through donations or organizing clothes.
Ellen Yankellow, president and chief executive officer of Correct Rx Pharmacy Services Inc., will also model. She, along with Sloane, are involved in Network 2000, an organization designed to help women move into leadership positions.
"What's so great about Suited to Succeed is they really try to improve the status of women," said Yankellow. "The idea is to donate nice clothing that women can use for job interviews, and hopefully they go from being unemployed to employed and feeling good about the way they look."
Clothing and accessories featured in the show are supplied by Jones & Jones, Jos. A. Bank and Radcliffe Jewelers, with hairstyling by DK Salon and makeup by A Style Studio. Other partners include the Cosmetic Surgery Center of Maryland/BE LifeStyle MedSpa and Style Magazine. The event's emcee is Sloane Brown, Baltimore Sun society and fashion columnist.
The event, open to all, asks for attendees to donate business clothing and accessories. Monetary donations will also be collected.
"We'll have drinks, heavy hors d'oeuvres, mingling among our members and their guests, and a fabulous fashion show followed by dessert. I think it will be a lot of fun," said Sloane.
Tickets are $95 for members of the Center Club and $125 for nonmembers. For ticket information, go to http://www.centerclub.org or for more information about Suited to Succeed go to http://www.suitedtosucceed.org.