Local designers model for charity at Project Funway

By Jordan Kranse, NewsNetNebraska

Megan Culbertson model's Haley Williams' design on the runway at Project Funway.

Megan Culbertson models Haley Williams’ design on the runway at Project Funway.

Models and designers strutted down the runway at the Cornhusker Marriott the night of Nov. 18 wearing new designs from old clothes for the fifth annual Project Funway. The event was a benefit for Fresh Start Home, a transitional shelter for homeless women. The main part of the event was a runway competition for local fashion designers, but the event also included a silent auction with donations from local vendors and supporters of Fresh Start.

The theme of the runway competition was transformation. Every design was made from clothing and materials found at thrift and secondhand shops. Designers integrated everything from old jeans to curtains into their designs. Fresh Start’s executive director Monica Zinke said they liked the theme of transformation because it tied closely back to the goal of Fresh Start Home; to help homeless women improve and transform their lives.

“I want to help raise awareness about homelessness and what Fresh Start is doing to help that,” Zinke said.

Designers included fashion design students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and members of the community. Michael Johnson, a UNL art student who entered the runway contest as a community member, modeled her own clothes on the runway. She had never designed clothes before signing up.

“Modeling is something I think is fun to do,” she said. “When I couldn’t figure out how to enter as just a model, I decided to enter as a designer instead.”

Johnson said she had been trying her hand at sewing and designed a skirt from an old curtain and found a shirt to modify to go with it. After she modeled her design on the runway, she was thrilled to get positive feedback from the audience.

“It’s been really good to hear nice things back from my designs,” she said. “I’ll probably try something like this again.”

The runway competition was split into two halves: Community Choice awards were based on votes from the audience and three special awards were based on the decision of official judges. Beth Fletcher, an audience member, attended the show to support a friend’s daughter, who was a model for one of the designers. She voted for that design.

“I think it was very well constructed,” she said.

Four designers walked away with Community Choice awards; third place was a tie that went to UNL designer Olivia Borer and community designer Crystal Brakhage, second place went to community designer Cassie Linnertz, and first place went to UNL designer Haley Williams.

The judged awards were decided by a panel of three judges; Robert Hillestad, retired textiles, merchandising and fashion design professor from UNL; Abby Turpin, 10/11 news anchor; and Megan Berry Barlow, HR director for Nebraska Furniture Mart and, as the program for the event claims, “wanna be fashionista.” The awards were as follows; The Best Integrity of Original Material award went to UNL designer Savanna Ramirez, the Most Innovative award went to Michael Johnson, the honorable mention went to Haley Williams, and the Best of Show award went to UNL designer Kaitlyn Coufal.

Zinke said this year’s event was one of the best Fresh Start had hosted in the five years Project Funway has been running. She estimated that more than 225 people attended the event, which she said was at least 50 more than in previous years. Though she won’t know how much money they raised for the shelter until they have to time to tally it up, she thinks the event ran very well.

“It was exciting to have so many people here and the designs are always  amazing to me,” she said.



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