When Benicia Fashion Runway hits town in late September, what starts out as a simple parking lot behind Treasury Commons ends up as a setting for a glittery night-time fashion show along the lines of something you might see in Europe or New York. Local fashion aficionado Christina Strawbridge should know. After taking in fashion shows in those places she got determined to do something similar in Benicia. A big draw for both women and men across the Bay Area, the ninth annual event unfolds the evenings of Sept. 29-30, with many First Street stores staying open late for shoppers. The event’s big draw is an ensemble of four designers from the Lifetime series Project Runway and Project Runway All Stars. When the skies darken and the spotlights are on the runway, designers will be joined by models who appeared on America’s Next Top Model, including Cycle 22’s Ava Capra, the evening’s host. The designers are Richard Hallmarq and Samantha Black from Season 11, Kini Zamora from Season 13, and Sandro Masmanidi from Season 12.
The fashionable event starts out Friday evening with a behind-the-scenes chance to meet with the designers in the Union Hotel Courtyard and hear their stories about what it’s like to work with celebrities on the show. That’s followed by a trunk show preview to the next night’s runway show. Saturday’s festivities get underway at 6pm in the transformed lot behind Treasury Commons with a reception and tasty treats. Java Point and Mt. Beautiful Winery provide the refreshments. The Grand Finale Runway Show and Auction starts at 7pm as professional models take to the runway to present collections of the designers and of Christina S Fashion Designation, Strawbridge’s store at 370 First Street. Following the fashion show, participants then have a chance to shop the night away at stores that will stay open late.
Sponsored by Christina S Fashion Destination, Benicia Fashion Runway Weekend is clearly a labor of love for Strawbridge, who covers designers’ travel and other expenses. “It’s a passion I have for showcasing really fabulous talent and it helps my store, too. I love the artistic side of it and the ability to produce something that I enjoy, and I love showcasing our town,” Strawbridge said. She gets help from interior designer Michael Trahan with creating the setting and from Penny Stell with finding sponsors. A portion of the proceeds go to Soroptomist International’s efforts to open a safe house for abused women in Benicia. Each designer will donate a clothing item that will be auctioned off, and Soroptimist members will be on hand to sell tickets. Benicia Fashion Runway tickets are $20 for Friday’s events, and $40 for Saturday’s festivities. Tickets are available at the Christina S Fashion Destination, 370 First Street; and Benicia Main Street, 90 First Street, or online at beniciafashionrunway.com.