Fashion Week struts into town

The Baltimore Sun

Looking fierce, two local models strutted their stuff inside City Hall.

It wasn't some crazy challenge or "go-see" concocted by Tyra Banks. Rather, it was two 17-year-olds promoting Baltimore's Fashion Week starting Monday.

The teens joined Mayor Sheila Dixon and state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh to announce the event that will include runway shows featuring local designers and workshops on makeup, fashion photography and of course, mastering the runway strut that America's Next Top Model Miss J. Alexander would approve of.

"This is a great opportunity," Dixon said, "a lot of young people want to go into this field."

Dixon was joined by founder and CEO of Baltimore's Fashion Week, Sharan Nixon, a local eco-friendly designer and the two models. The trendy group was not hard to miss amid the staid suit-and-tie attire found doing business at the Baroque revival-style government building.

The entourage pushed through security at City Hall, opened large stylish leather bags for the guard and passed through a metal detector. Wearing several strands of over-sized peals and a white wrap blouse, Nixon said "this has been a vision of mine for a really long time. We have a lot of fashion, we just don't have the exposure."

Nixon said she decided to start a fashion week in Baltimore about a year ago, however she's been interested in fashion for a long time, working behind the scenes at shows in New York and modeling, which she continues to do.

While many international fashionistas may not recognize Baltimore as a fashion hub, Nixon said that finding local designers was easy. She said she posted information on her Myspace page and she got a lot of response. "It was just overwhelming," she said, adding that "the city's blessing made it much easier."

Dixon said the event will provide exposure not only to area designers, but also provide opportunities to youngsters interested in the fashion industry by allowing them to participate in the week's workshops.

Pugh agreed, saying "We need to engage people at a younger age." She mentioned the winner of Bravo's Project Runway, Christian Siriano, who created costumes for productions at the Baltimore School For The Arts.

Besides supporting fashion week, Pugh called for a designated fashion high school in the city.

Pugh, dubbed a "fashion queen" by Dixon, wore a shiny, light brown silk dress by Calvin Klein with a stiff popped collar rather than a more standard pin-striped suit. While she wasn't wearing clothing from a local designer, she said, "We have lots of talented people in Baltimore."

Samm Martin provided two of his pieces from his collection Violla Ricci for the two models to wear. Madalyn Mahoney, 17, wore a flowing jade green halter dress and Ashley Chambers, also 17, wore a similarly cut red silk dress with a printed overlay.

Martin said he has been interested in designing shoes for years, but he decided to work on clothes because putting together a shoe collection is more expensive. He's also part of an emerging trend of eco-friendly designers, and he said he works mostly with organic silk, coconut, hemp and bamboo fabrics.

"It's everyone's responsibility to take advantage of this new technology," he said.

Nixon said at least 20 percent of designers for next week's show will be eco-friendly. A portion of the proceeds from fashion week will go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation of Maryland, Today's Youth Center, the Sylvan Beach Foundation and HERO.

All events will take place at the War Memorial Building at 101 North Gay St. Tickets can be purchased at Tickets are $15 to $30 depending on the event.

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