Danville Express

Newsfront - May 11, 2007

Runway fun with Tim Gunn

Designers create prom dresses to benefit Princess Project

by Jordan M. Doronila

Here's $100. Now go make a prom dress and be ready to model it in seven weeks.

Young fashion designers from San Francisco wove silvery sheets, purple colors and silk embroidery into prom dresses and featured them on a black stage in front of 250 people at "Project FiveFour07" in Danville last week.

"You made it work," said keynote speaker Tim Gunn, who is fashion consultant on the hit Bravo TV show, "Project Runway."

"I'm thrilled to be in Danville," Gunn said. "I love this whole area. I've never been in this part of this country."

Rakestraw Books held the fashion show Friday evening, May 4, to raise money for the Princess Project, which provides free prom dresses and accessories to high school girls who cannot afford them.

Around 11 designers from San Francisco Institute of Design and Merchandising participated in the prom dress competition. Models wore the dresses and strutted on a runway in a white tent put up in the parking lot near the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. Editors from Diablo Magazine and Splendora.com served as judges.

They voted Carol Chen as the designer of the best dress. She wore her own dress on the runway and said she colored it purple, inspired by her own personal tastes. Other contestants said they enjoyed showcasing their creations.

"It was really fun," said designer Kaelyn Pagenkopp. "It was really personal."

"It helped me understand the industry more," said Timothy Thelin. "It was a little nerve-wracking."

Also, Rakestraw Books sold tickets for drawings to members of the audience. Prizes included a gift basket, makeup, spa trips, and a diamond necklace from Christe James Fine Jewelry in Danville. The show raised $5,000 for the Princess Project.

After the prom dress exhibit finished, Gunn talked about his experiences in the fashion industry in New York City.

"I'm very moved by the whole spirit of the event," said Gunn, now chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne. "It's great to see a community give back."

He also discussed the difficulties of writing his book, "Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style."

"It almost put me in the hospital," Gunn said. "I hope they (readers) really enjoy it."

"It evolved from the basic insecurities I had," he added.

The main message of the book, Gunn noted, is focusing on what works with each individual person. Fashion expresses historical, cultural and philosophical ideas, he said.

"I'm for resonating with the thing that you love," he said. "But people can be really delusional. I'm all for appropriateness."

"We are really fashion therapists," he added. "We accept you for who you are. We just want to make you better. We want to have dialogue."

Gunn then answered questions from the audience. He had been working as head of the Parson New School of Design before accepting the position with Claiborne. He also mentioned that he enjoys shopping at Banana Republic, Hugo Boss and Saks Fifth Avenue, but their items are too expensive to buy at times.

"The clothes you wear are how you want to be perceived" he said. "You can have a great style with something old. It's how you walk in them. It's about owning your look."

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