By: Courtney Dabney
Jan Strimple likens producing a fashion show to riding a roller coaster. There are twists, drops, moments of calm – everything comes together to give riders that sense of thrill. The flow of a fashion show has to be just like that, the local fashion event producer says.
“You want the show to be charted,” she said. “It needs to go up; it needs to come back down and be gentle; it needs to come back up in terms of drama.”
Strimple says she doesn’t believe in formulas, but she does have a philosophy when it comes to putting together a fashion show – a philosophy she’ll put to use when she produces the Colleyville Woman’s Club’s (CWC) Lunch with the Girlz event, set to take place March 24 at the Hurst Conference Center.
Lunch with the Girlz is CWC’s annual fashion show, luncheon and silent auction that raises money for numerous local charities, some of which have included Girls Inc. of Tarrant County and GRACE (Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange). Last year’s event, combined with CWC’s other fundraisers like the Holiday Home Tour, allowed the organization to give more than $164,000 to local charities. CWC has given more than $3.2 million to charity since its start in 1978.
Among the highlights of the 2017 fashion show is mobile bidding, which had not been done in the event’s past auctions. Run by Greater Giving, a company that creates software for nonprofit fundraisers, the app allows event attendees to place bids via their mobile devices.
And, of course, this year’s event also brings back Strimple, who had produced the show numerous times in the past, save the last two years, when the shows were produced by Rhonda Sargent Chambers. The 2017 show will highlight the work of five designers based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area – Abi Ferrin, Elizabeth Anyaa, Shirin Askari, Samina Mughal and Nardos Imam.
“With the designers, that will be a special addition,” CWC president Karen Deakin said. “It’s just trying to give everyone a little more bang.”
Strimple said she chooses the theme of the show based on the audience. Since the Colleyville Woman’s Club has a diverse group of women, she wanted to showcase a diverse set of looks at a variety of price points. There will be a mix of eveningwear and daywear, ranging from bold looks to everyday attire, so as to both raise and lower the drama of the show. You know, like a roller coaster.
“I just personally feel that if it’s a show of all eveningwear, I’ll lose the audience,” Strimple said. “Oh, [it’s] glamorous, but after a while, you need some reprieve for variety.”
Every other aspect of the show is planned with careful attention to detail, and Strimple has a hand on just about everything. Music is one of them. Strimple says she prefers to not use songs with inappropriate language or content, instead opting for “full-sounding” music that’s tailored to the audience. For example, if the show is for an older audience, she’ll choose a familiar 1950s or 60s tune, but in a modern cover to keep it current.
The way the models look on the runway is critical as well. Rather than putting on a pout and straight stare, models will be directed to make eye contact with the audience and “have a soft smile in their eyes,” Strimple said.
She said the goal is to avoid looking “cookie cutter.” Hair and makeup should bring out each model’s individuality. If a model has naturally curly hair, for example, her hair should be styled in a way that enhances her natural look.
Strimple has done the CWC show for several years (neither Strimple nor longtime CWC member Suzanne Harrington remember the exact number; Strimple says she’s done it too many times to count). Harrington says she has fond memories of Strimple’s shows. Sometimes Strimple herself comes out to model on the runway. One year, Strimple closed the show by appearing in a white gown with two doves in her hands.
“Jan is the consummate professional,” Harrington said. “She’s imaginative, she’s creative, she is never ruffled. She is always just a class act.”
Strimple says the feeling is mutual. She said she has a “deep respect” for CWC and has gained many friends through working with the organization. She also just likes the fun.
“The fashion is the entertainment that they wrap the luncheon around,” she said. “I want to be sure that it is exactly that – entertaining – which is why I like a little fantasy in a fashion show.”
Meet the Designers
Nardos Imam. Nardos used to create designs from her mother’s tailoring scraps while growing up in war-torn Eritrea. Now based in North Texas, she designs custom couture and high-end bridal gowns.
Samina Mughal. Internationally known designer Mughal is known for her edgy, eclectic designs inspired by Europe and the East. Her looks are characterized by surface embellishments and unusual silhouettes.
Abi Ferrin. Ferrin is dedicated to both style and philanthropy, having once been a victim of domestic violence. Now she helps others through the Freedom Project, which she started to help victims of abuse and trafficking around the world.
Elizabeth Anyaa. Anyaa hails from Sierra Leone and currently owns a studio in Dallas. She’s known for her skill in textile arts, fusing materials like silk and wool to create unique fabrics.
Shirin Askari. Askari is the lead designer of ASKARI, a women’s clothing line characterized by prints and bright colors. In 2009, she appeared in the sixth season of the TV show Project Runway.
By: Courtney Dabney