In 1990, The New York Times published an article called “AIDS and the Fashion World: Industry Fears for Its Health.” It was a scary look inside the fashion industry’s reluctance to say whether big name designers had died of AIDS or its complications. This reticence had more to do with privacy than anything else in […]

In 1990, The New York Times published an article called “AIDS and the Fashion World: Industry Fears for Its Health.” It was a scary look inside the fashion industry’s reluctance to say whether big name designers had died of AIDS or its complications. This reticence had more to do with privacy than anything else in my mind. The public at large didn’t need to know about it, and besides that, many in the business thought, and rightly so, it could ruin their businesses. 

In 1994, in the course of 4 months, I lost three of my creative and professional mentors to this debilitating and devastating disease. To say that I was sad and dismayed would be to put it mildly. Just the following year, in 1995, the drug industry introduced new treatments that could prolong patient’s lives and, in some cases, stall the progression of the disease itself, but alas it was too late for them to benefit from these advances. But realizing that I had a voice to speak for them, I found renewed determination to help wherever I could, using the gifts they gave me. So Robert, Ginger, and Holly, I’m still out there for you!

Now, 17 years later, I found myself on a stage in the lobby of the lovely and modern Intercontinental Hotel, hosting a fashion show benefiting this fall’s AIDS Walk Wisconsin. The fact is year after year we are still losing the best and brightest contributors to our culture of art, design and fashion, and we need to acknowledge that. Thankfully, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin is still there to help those afflicted manage the disease and their lives by providing education about prevention as well as awareness, compassion, and, most of all, hope.

“Life 4: A Walk Down the Red Carpet,” which took place last Sunday, was spearheaded by one of Milwaukee’s leaders in fashion retail, Clai Green. By galvanizing many of the other shops along the 500 block of North Water Street, such as his own stores, Luci Boutique, White Star Menswear, and Miss Ruby’s Bridal. Mr. Green and many others poured their boundless energy into producing this top-notch fashion fundraiser. Accessory designers JAXIE and Karie Marie showed their wares in the lobby as guest’s sipped cocktails from Clear Bar.

Near the swanky hotel’s gallery, Beauty Hair Salon’s editorial team coaxed enchanting coiffures from the models, while Michael Weiss and the team from Blush Beauty Boutique perfected their visage in full view of the public, which included somewhat surprised travelers who wondered aloud what was going on as they made their way suitcases in tow to the front desk to check in. The intimate approach proved perfect for a cozy “behind the scenes” set up for the show that followed a little later in the evening.

Sarah Geitner of the Intercontinental staff went out of her way to make sure every little detail was perfect and the hotels fantastic team didn’t let her down. Fashioning a red-carpet runway in the center of the lobby of a hotel is no easy proposition, let me tell you. Yet another Sarah, of Sarah Lasky Events, coordinated all the fashion talent as the wonderful evening progressed without a hitch. A bevy of beautiful girls, and handsome guys paraded the runway showing the latest looks from Mr. Green’s trendy and popular men’s and women’s stores, with the finale being a full on bridal fantasy in white from Miss Ruby’s Bridal. Busy local radio personalities Kidd and Elizabeth from 99.1 The Mix were on hand to give out prizes like a retro touring bike donated from local startup Gogeddit.com, a make-up party from Blush Beauty Boutique, and two tickets to blast from the past ‘80s band Erasure’s next Milwaukee appearance. These are two of the most giving people I’ve ever met. They are great role models in philanthropy. 

To say the show was grand and that the crowd was generous would be a distinct understatement. You want to know the secret to true beauty and lasting style? That would be caring about others even when you have your own problems. That would be taking the time out to attend an event during a busy summer. That would be supporting businesses here in Milwaukee that make helping others a high priority. That would be reaching deep inside yourself and your wallet to find true compassion for your fellow human beings. These and more are what made this evening a truly beautiful and fashionable event, and those that attended are real fashion heroes in anyone’s estimation, including my own. For more information about AIDS Walk Wisconsin on October 1st, check out their website

Coming up in September check out the link to another fun fashion show I’m involved with benefiting Elena’s House Hospice.

All photos by Tom Nardini (demodephotography.com).

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