In the spring of 2009, the seeds of Benicia Fashion Weekend were sewn, and by fall, ready to present to the community. Under clear skies and balmy weather, guests were treated to a professional fashion runway show with local luminaries modeling the latest fashions.
This first festive event was held at the Inn at Benicia Bay on D Street, with live music, a silent auction, wine and nibbles. Auction proceeds benefited the Benicia State Parks Association. The brainchild of Christina Strawbridge, whose goal was to showcase fashion and beauty on First Street, the fashion runway show generated a buzz in the community.
Following the initial success at the Inn, the show moved to the Arsenal for two years, and then back downtown for another seven successful years. For each show, the parking lot behind the Treasury Commons building gets transformed into a creative venue under the stars, pulsing with music and energy, soft lighting and large potted trees and shrubbery.
The early shows featured women’s fashions from Christina S, Be Chic Boutique, Piccolo, Miguelena and Posh. Over time, the other shops closed, but Strawbridge continued the event, making connections with famous designers from America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway—including Richard Hallmarq—and other fashion luminaries such as Patricia Field, costume designer for the hit show Sex and the City.
This September marks the tenth anniversary of Benicia Fashion Runway, with locals and visitors from around the Bay arriving in their chicest attire. To offer a professional runway show of this magnitude is rare in a town our size, and has been highlighted by local and regional press.
Fashion Runway Weekend also includes a Friday Night Meet and Greet with the models and designers at the Union Hotel, plus late night shopping. Saturday night features a runway reception followed by the much anticipated runway show.
Local businesses and individuals help with the set-up, including interior designer Michael Trahan, Penny and Bob Stell and a full team for set up and take down of the runway. Members of Benicia Soroptimist cover the door both nights. Sponsored by Christina S Fashion Destination, major sponsors include Hamann Real Estate, Color Zone, Metropolitan Van and Storage, Republic Services and Mt. Beautiful Winery, among others. The runway production has benefited the Benicia State Parks Association, the Arts and Culture Commission Public Art project and the Soroptimist Safe House and Resource Center. A portion of this year’s proceeds will again benefit the Safe House, and each designer will donate an item from their collection to be raffled off at the Grand Finale Runway Show.
At press time, the confirmed lineup includes Richard Hallmarq, PR Season 11, Char Glover and All Stars, PR Season 13, Amy Bond from last season’s Project Runway, and Erin Green, from America's Next Top Model. Talent recruitment has been a collaboration between Strawbridge, Richard Hallmarq and Project Runway Season 11. “The key to the success of the show is to highlight a diverse mix of designers who have relevant collections,” said Strawbridge. “Because Project Runway has such a huge following, the audience loves seeing the designers and their collections up close, showcasing the future in fashion and design. It benefits the community and brings people into town.”
6-8pm, Meet the Designers
Union Hotel Courtyard, 401 First Street
8-10pm, Shop with the Designers
Christina S, 370 First Street, Downtown Benicia
6-7:30pm, Fashion Runway Reception
7:30-8:30pm, Grand Finale Runway Show
8:30-10pm, Shop the Night Away
370 First Street