Elvis, Audrey Hepburn, Frida Kahlo, the New York Yankees and a “Game of Thrones” character all inspired creations that graced the Project Cuffway runway Friday at the Cox Business Center.
The fourth annual fashion design challenge by Rustic Cuff benefits the National Pancreas Foundation by throwing a party wrapped in haute couture.
The evening of bling, high heels and tuxedos moved along with a bounce as DJ Jankins kept the mood hip and festive.
Patrons bid on some one-of-a-kind Rustic Cuff bracelet sets and artwork through the evening while noshing on cuisine of egg rolls in Thai dipping sauce, orange glazed chicken, bacon-wrapped shrimp and spicy French cheese puff pastry.
A dessert table included a decadent array of choices in lemons bars, salted caramel chocolate chip brownies, pecan bars, chocolate mousse tarts and white chocolate clusters with cranberries, pistachios and granola.
Rustic Cuff founder Jill Donovan created the event to honor her father who died 20 years ago from pancreatic cancer. In the first three years, the event has brought in more than half a million to the charity.
The amount raised at this year’s Cuffway will be announced on Monday.
While designers and models are stars for the evening, Donovan has always kicked off the show focused on the purpose: raising money for pancreatic cancer research.
This year, she wrote the song, “You Showed Me How to Live,” along with Allan Mathews featuring Victoria Le on vocals as a tribute. It is available on iTunes.
Donovan, who plays a Steinway grand piano in the music video, said her favorite lyric is, “I know one day time will turn into forever.”
The video shows people who have lost a loved one to cancer holding signs with what that person taught them: “to be generous,” “to be kind,” “to have faith,” “to find joy,” “to dream,” “to serve others” and “to fish.”
Donovan ends the video with the lesson from her father, Bernie: “to dream the impossible.”
When emcee Leanne Taylor, of Channel 6, returned to the microphone, she was dabbing away tears. So were others in the crowd, who called it “beautiful” and “powerful.”
Then, the mood shifted. The DJ pumped up the energy, and the models took the stage.
Project Cuffway began as a fun test of design ingenuity by requiring all pieces be made using a majority percentage of Rustic Cuff packaging: pouches, boxes, tissue paper and sacks.
This year changed it up a bit but kept those categories for kids and adults. New categories were added with similar challenges, such as constructing clothes from duct tape, paper plates, sheet music, bubble gum (and wrappers) and Oreos (and packaging).
These do not appear to be amateur projects. These are thoughtful, intricate fashion concepts and wearable wardrobes.
A “walking art” category asked designers to think about painters and notable artwork to be transformed into fashion. This brought forth some of the most whimsical and visionary pieces of the evening.
Among the biggest surprises came in the original clothing made out of paper plates. The grand prize and best in show awards came from this category.
Designer Katrina Hill made several trips to the stage when winners were announced, placing in five categories; winning two.
But, it was designer Kara Rainey influenced by “Game of Thrones” with her entry, “Khalesi,” who won the grand prize, chosen among the first place in each category. She also took second with “Cadence” in the sheet music category.
The evening ended with blue and gold balloons released from the ceiling and Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” playing in the background.
It was an appropriate song for the purpose: a celebration among friends addicted to cuffs and celebration of lives lost to cancer.
Grand Prize: “Khalesi,” designer Kara Rainey
Best in Show (Rustic Cuff staff favorite): “Picnic at Tiffany’s,” designers Tami and Megan Losoncy
Kids Category (ages 5-13)
Winner: “Rainbow Princess,” designer Rosa Sanchez
2nd Place: “Toucan Do It,” designer Joanna Foss
3rd Place: “Rustic Renaissance,” designers Katrina Hill and Erica Gahagan
Duct Tape Category
Winner: “The King,” designer Nicole Keaton
2nd Place: “C’mon Get Happy,” designer Katrina Hill
3rd Place: “Enchanted Royal Princess,” designer Carressa Edwards
Oreo Wrappers Category
Winner: “Milk & Cookies,” designer Katrina Hill
2nd Place: “Retro Blues,” designers Megan and Tami Losoncy
3rd Place: “Tuscany Vintage Oreo Gardens,” designer Teresa Stewart
Sheet Music Category
Winner: “Tiffany Kline,” designer Tiffany Kline
2nd Place: “Cadence,” designer Kara Rainey
3rd Place: “Lilac Lily,” designer Katie Snyder
Adults Category (14 and up)
Winner: “Enchanted Garden,” designers Kimberly and Judy Skaggs
2nd Place: “RC Mermaid,” designers Tracey Watkins and Cheryl and Kailey Stettler
3rd Place: “ That’s a Wrap,” designer Shannon Andregg
Bubble Gum Category
Winner: “Bubble Pop Electric!” designer Katrina Hill
2nd Place: Snap, Crackle Pop!” designer Cassidy Main
3rd Place: “Extra Fringe,” designer Jessica Hernadi
Walking Art Category
Winner: “New Beginnings,” designer Laci Stephens
2nd Place: “Couleurs Dansantes,” designer Jahna Dooling
3rd Place: “All You Need Is Love,” designer Katrina Hill
Paper Plates Category
Winner: “Khalesi,” designer Kara Rainey
2nd Place: “Pink Paper Blooms,” designer Gidget Hookey
3rd Place: “Picnic at Tiffany’s,” designers Tami and Megan Losoncy