First thing’s first – I’m a dude so I don’t really fall within the target group of the typical audience that shows up at Glam’s annual fashion gala to benefit the Smithstrong Foundation. Michelle Smith LeDrew, the owner of Glam and driving force behind the foundation, had invited me to the event in the past. For various reasons, we had never been able to make it. This year, though, all of the stars aligned and my wife and I were finally able to attend the fifth annual show.
In spite of my status as a dude, I found the whole evening to be utterly enthralling. The space itself was beautiful. Hosted at the 802, which is basically a natural “stripped down to its beginnings” space that occupies the third floor of a building in downtown Warsaw, the event area in its entirety was decked out to take you away to the lovely French capital of Paris. A runway dominated the main room with seating and tables flanking it. A spread of French and related cuisine prepared by One Ten Craft Meatery was available in a side room next to the bar area which served wine and beer. The food was included in the cost of the ticket so naturally, I spent a lot of time there. A retail section featuring various wares was also available for anyone desiring to do a little shopping.
We chose not to go to the VIP event which started an hour before the show but from what I could tell when we arrived shortly after 7 pm, everyone seemed pretty satisfied with it. Our first hour was spent in search of wine and beer, food and friendly faces. We found plenty of all of the above.
The seemingly omnipresent Jeri Purdy was the de facto master of ceremonies for the evening, effortlessly making sure everything ran on schedule. It was almost like she had done this before. 🙂 Jamie Plack and Mason Geiger were there as well, bobbing in and out of the masses to ensure the event was properly documented for posterity. The Dean’s List Jazz Group kept the mood light and fun with their lilting and mellifluous tones, only taking a break when the fashion show portion of the evening was in effect.
The fashion show was clearly the pinnacle of the night. It started off with two of Michelle’s son, Zachary and Bryce, presenting two flowers to empty chairs in memory of Michelle’s father and brother, Charlie and Scott Smith. They then exchanged hugs with Michelle’s mother and brother, Ryan. At that point, the parade of outfits began. The theme of an evening in Paris extended to the runway portion of the gala with many of the outfits exhibiting a decidedly Parisian flair. All of the outfits were exquisitely showcased by the models, none of who actually walk runways for a living. They pulled it off in a professional manner, however, making sure the highlight of the evening was a memorable one.
The fashion show culminated with an appearance at the south end of the runway by Michelle, her sons and many of the people who had worked behind the scenes to make the evening a successful one. After a few words from Jason Brown of One Ten along with her sons, Michelle shared what the evening meant to her. The moment was an obviously emotional one for her and everyone in attendance as we were all reminded why the event existed in the first place. If there is beauty in tragedy, it was on display center stage for those few minutes.
The last hour of the evening was spent pretty much how we spent the first hour, with a little bit more shopping interspersed. I was able to talk to many of the people involved in putting the gala together. There was an air of exhaustion intertwined with relief, a realization that all of the hard work was worth it in the end and this was their time to sit back and enjoy it.
If someone had asked me five years ago if I would have ever expected a fashion show of this level to occur in downtown Warsaw, my answer would have been quick and easy – nope. Michelle and the people who work with her have changed that. What once seemed like an impossibility is now the expected, a sign that things are changing not just for Michelle and her family, Glam and the Smithstrong Foundation but for downtown Warsaw as well.
Find out more about the Smithstrong Foundation.
I received a free ticket to the gala in exchange for my unbiased review of the evening. However, that free ticket turned into a new suit, pair of socks and pocket square for me, two new outfits for my wife and pre-gala drinks (along with Farmer’s cheese, of course) at Rua. What can I say – I do enjoy partying for a cause.
All photos (except the three at the end) used courtesy of Jamie Plack Photography.