Anchorage isn't celebrated as a fashion Mecca -- in fact it was named America's worst-dressed city last year -- but an annual event benefitting local homeless families belies the city's fashion faux pas. And residents of the state's largest city are taking note.
The Clare to Clare Fashion Show for a Cause was again sold-out on Saturday. Hundreds gathered at the Dena'ina Center in downtown Anchorage to watch as models strutted the runway in the latest trends from local boutiques. Ticket prices ranged from $45 to $125 (for a runway seat) for the sold-out event. The show is in its fifth year and raises money to support the Clare House, a local homeless shelter for women and children.
It is especially needed this year, as Catholic Social Services, which runs the Clare House, is expanding the facility to double the number of people who can stay there. Currently, the shelter serves about 500 women and children per year – families allowed to stay for 30 days as they transition from a life on the streets to other housing.
The goal for the event was $100,000 – up significantly from the event's first-year take of $10,000. The final tally for Saturday's show was still being counted.
"It was very successful," said Clare Gauster, who helped create the fashion show after a chance meeting with a visiting nun.
Local boutiques supplied most of the garments. But for the third year, Alaska Native artists contributed by creating "couture" clothing – wearable art that is hand sewn. Among the outfits created by members of the Alaska Native Arts Foundation were a salmon skin dress and a halibut skin motorcycle jacket.
"All of the exhibits we supplied this year had a water theme," said Trina Landlord, the foundation's executive director. "We had one outfit, a sea otter bikini, that got a lot of attention, and some people were worried about how it would be received."
There were no gasping or hushed whispers of disapproval when the model appeared, Landlord said.
The fashion show challenges Native artists to use traditional materials in a contemporary form and to create art beyond their comfort zone.
Contact Sean Doogan at sean(at)alaskadispatch.com