Art Walks the Runway struts into the SBDAC

Art Walks the Runway designs by Usama Ishtay. COURTESY OF SBDAC

Art Walks the Runway designs by Usama Ishtay. COURTESY OF SBDAC

Exuding the “it girl” vibes of the most discerning fashion meccas in the world, Art Walks the Runway has been dubbed Southwest Florida’s fashion event of the year, now entering its 10th iteration, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19. Doors open at 7 p.m. for cocktails and hobnobbing.

Over two star-studded nights, fashionistas, professional photographers, industry insiders and everyday gawkers will converge at Fort Myers’ Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, which will be decked out with elevated runways, multi-media installations and moody lighting to rival the elite showrooms of New York, Paris or Milan. Under an adoring spotlight, catwalk models will showcase Florida looks from local shops on Friday and haute couture by international designers on Saturday. Compelling performances by a contortionist and body-painted dancers will also grace the stage.

“It’s a big production, with close to 30 models each night,” says Melissa Tschari DeHaven, Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center public relations director and the event’s producer since its inception. “My favorite part of the show is seeing it all come together. There are so many moving parts, so many different things to coordinate. It’s crazy busy all the way up to show day, and then even on show day. Behind the scenes with models, designers and the hair and makeup crew from the Paul Mitchell School running around, there’s a special buzz that happens, and I love the reward of everything coming together in the end and the show taking the stage.”

Art Walks the Runway designs by Kenneth Barlis. COURTESY OF SBDAC

Art Walks the Runway designs by Kenneth Barlis. COURTESY OF SBDAC

Performing emcee duties both nights, iHeart Radio morning personality Brittany Gonzalez will set the tone and guide the programming. “She’s not just good on the microphone, Brittany is a super fashionista herself, always looking like the trendiest, coolest hot chick, so she’ll fit the spot perfectly,” Ms. DeHaven says. DJ Dream Jay, a mainstay in the downtown Fort Myers night scene, will be spinning the music both nights, providing the vibe and verve for every setting, whether it’s a chill mood for the cocktail hour, island tunes during beachwear presentations or electronic dance music for the high-energy catwalks.

2016 Ahmad Couture designs at Art Walks the Runway. PHOTOS COURTESY OF SBDAC

2016 Ahmad Couture designs at Art Walks the Runway. PHOTOS COURTESY OF SBDAC

All three of the boutiques handpicked by Ms. DeHaven for Friday’s show carry trendy, Florida-friendly clothing and accessories for stylish looks at the beach, on a cruise or for everyday, casual wear. Expect to see fun-in-the-sun ensembles and evening outfits for a girl’s night out or dinner date by Ocean View & 7th, in the Bell Tower Shops, and Forema and Apricot Lane Boutiques — both at the Gulf Coast Town Center.

Saturday night’s haute couture lineup features international stars of the fashion world, beginning with Ahmad Couture. Originally from New Delhi, Sha Ali Ahmad’s flowing evening gowns and intricately detailed, resplendent cocktail dresses have propelled him around the world, styling Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities and beauty pageant contestants. Found in prominent department stores, including Macy’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus, the Ahmad Couture line features exotic, fine silk garments embellished with hand embroidering, beads, crystals, rhinestones and sequins.



Next up is Isabel Original International. In line with her company’s motto, “Be Sexy, Be Beautiful, Be Original,” Isabel Lopez likes to accentuate the natural curves of a woman’s body with elegant panache. Her glamorous designs have been on red carpets around the globe, on fashion-week runways in Boston and New York and in the pages of glossy magazines. Currently based in Miami, the Colombia native manages “Original Living Magazine,” an international, bi-annual fashion lifestyle publication.

Ending Saturday’s show will be Gerro Couture. Inspired by her own expressive paintings, Helen Gerro’s style surprises and delights with DayGlo hues and bold, whimsical brush strokes. Each wearable item is meant to be a one-of-a-kind, hand-painted statement piece. Currently based in Punta Gorda, the Minnesota-born, self-taught artist has worked in the New York City garment district, sold her clothes to fine department stores and boutiques and graced the runways of fashion shows throughout Florida, as well as in New York City, Atlanta and Beverly Hills. “Helen is the one who came up with the idea to do a fashion show at the art center in the first place,” Ms. DeHaven says. “Everyone loved it that first year because it brought something cool and different to downtown Fort Myers, and 10 years later it has become a signature event for us.”

On Saturday, Elements of Body Art will present an uplifting, conceptual performance titled “The Garden of Life,” featuring dancers and models who have been meticulously painted by the company’s founder, Adriana Gomez. “Their show is about sowing the seeds of love and kindness and hope,” Ms. DeHaven remarks. “Adriana will come to the art center at 10:30 in the morning because it will take her all day, up until showtime, to paint the bodies for this beautiful performance. At the end of the day, all of that amazing art gets washed away. I just love it, and I know the audience will, too.”

Friday and Saturday, Katarina Danks will blend jazz and contemporary dance with her astonishing contortions for a jaw-dropping, choreographed display. Balancing her body on one hand, the audience will be amazed and inspired by the beautiful and improbable shapes and positions that Ms. Danks is able to achieve with her body.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door for Friday, and $45 in advance and $50 at the door for Saturday. Premium, first- and second-row seating is available for $10 additional. The SBDAC is located at 2301 First St., Fort Myers. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 239-333-1933 or visit ¦






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