Drive2Thrive – Discover Wonderland Fashion Show

Written by Julie Bent
Photos by Brooke Hall

It’s not everyday that Alice in Wonderland meets Project Runway in a philanthropy-driven spectacle under the towering glass ceilings of Port Discovery. And when it happens, any expectation you have about this event will be blown to smithereens. Yes, there were models strutting down the catwalk in clothing that was closer to art than practical wares, national celebs showcasing their latest designs, and fashion-lovers from all walks of life partaking in the frenzy. But after this experience, one would be inclined to believe that this is Baltimore’s fashion epicenter in the making.In its third year running, Echelon Life’s Drive2Thrive brings together superstars and local Rising Stars to benefit children’s charities. Let’s just say it: This is one hell of a fashion show.First to hit the runway was a collection of designs by students of the Maryland Academy of Couture Arts.Many thanks to Debbi Weinberg, Founder and Chair of the Girls’ Empowerment Mission of Maryland, who was honored at Echelon Life’s annual fundraising event.

Inspired by the night’s theme “Alice In Wonderland,” the academy designers channeled the Mad Hatter and company in their over-the-top designs reminiscent of the Tim Burton-style Wonderland.

Tweed, silk, and a long feather. A tailored fall look from an academy student takes the symbolism of the peacock to another level.

Well, hello, Caterpillar. A reversible cape closed the academy’s section of the runway show. This exquisitely hand-painted silk lining was stunning. The butterfly cape is the work of a remarkably talented 12-year-old, Jude Drakeford.

Baltimore designer Wendy Kaufman’s longtime background in costuming shines through on the runway, but her collection is entirely wearable save the headpieces, which while stunning would garner an odd look or two at a PTA meeting.

I am tempted to call Wendy Kaufman the Betsy Johnson of Baltimore, just switch out Betsy’s punk edge for Wendy’s mystical whimsy and there you have it.

A fall piece from her line

Banshee, which reads like a Station North fairy tale. Wendy Kaufman is an exceptional designer and a star in the making. Project Runway would be lucky to have her.

Not only is Kaufman’s choice of color and texture splendid, the eclectic array of silhouettes means there’s a little something for everyone.

Just when you thought Cleopatra was over, Kaufman resurrects her in the visage of Elizabeth Taylor and paints her in this provocative red getup – fabulous.

She’s been at this design game since at least 1985, but it was just this year at Baltimore’s Fashion Week that she debuted her first ready-to-wear collection. Wendy Kaufman is definitely a designer to watch, with her sights set on a spot in Season 9 of Project Runway she’s bound to live up to the title of Rising Star.

Baltimore designer

Bishme Cromartie draws inspiration for his sexy and artistic collection from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven.With an ultramodern sense of design, his collections retain a Baltimore edge while being noble enough to grace any New York Fashion Week runway.

Bishme Cromartie, a mere 19 years old, already has shows in Baltimore, Philly, and New York under his belt. Bottom line… this guy is young, talented and destined for greatness.

Reco Chapple showcased his all pink Spring 2011 Collection in honor of his aunt who recently completed treatments for breast cancer. Chapple was featured on Bravo’s The Fashion Show.

Here’s Reco Chapple and a model wearing one of his “extra extra fabulous” evening gowns. This collection is about luxury. He features lots of shimmering pink silks and delicate lace. Get down with Reco at House of Chapple.

Project Runway finalists Carol Hannah and Jay Nicholas Sario were also featured on the Drive2Thrive runway. They both agree that meeting amazing people and making lasting connections were amongst the most invaluable benefits from their experience with Project Runway.

A glimpse from Jay Nicolas Sario’s Spring 2011 Collection where the Samurai is a strong source of inspiration.

Who does Jay design for? “Modern, strong women who are willing to challenge the fashion world.” His spring collection was both bold and feminine.

On the runway, a charming collection of bridal gowns and bridesmaids dresses by Carol Hannah.This southern girl debuted her first collection at Charleston Fashion Week in 2008. Next stop was Project Runway and then straight on to Bryant Park in 2009.Going for a prim and proper look or are you after a little glamour? Hannah’s bridal collection provides both while maintaining a sweet southern sensibility.Carol Hannah dresses are available in Baltimore at Bella Bridesmaid – 1305 Light Street.

Jewelry designer, Brittany Posternock and Alice Tanchel, wearing a b.pos original necklace.

Fei Mancho and Chino Chikwere, volunteers for the Girls’ Empowerment Mission.

Drive2Thrive III was brought to life by event design firm Echelon Life, LLC. Seen here are PR Assistant Chezia Cager and VP Bianca Williams.

Keion Carpenter, retired NFL Atlanta Falcons Defensive Back, founder of The Carpenter House and Aaron Maybin, Buffalo Bills Defensive End (#58), founder of Project Mayhem, were recognized as Rising Stars for their professional success and for developing children’s programs that give back to our community.