Runway Treatment 

Fashion meets physician at Couture for the Cure.

Flamingo-like legs swagger across the rooftop of the Gibson Guitar Factory, and vivid fabrics swirl at the edge of the runway. Female models are steady in four-inch wedges and stiletto-heel boots, while the male models walk barefoot along the glittery catwalk.

My third-row seat couldn't be better to watch the first annual Couture for the Cure fashion show, benefiting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

As energetic music beats, the models strut by in clothes that organizers call "downtown chic" from Costa Rica's Yendry Alvord and Memphis' Patrick Henry. Among those commanding the catwalk are Justin Sampson, the new face of Ralph Lauren, and Furonda Brasfield, a former contestant on the TV show America's Next Top Model.

For founder/director Keyanna Sawyer, the show is the combination of a passion for fashion and a heart for children.

"I modeled for six-and-a-half years; I wanted to get back into fashion and give back to the community through something I love," she says.

The transition from model to show director has been rewarding for Sawyer, who, at the age of 24, is already intent on impacting Memphis. "Founding Couture for the Cure has enabled me to become more active in the community," she explains. She hopes the show convinces others to do likewise.

According to Sawyer, Alvord's designs are "funky, hip, and free" and have "a lot of detail for the conservative sexy woman." Even if "conservative sexy" seems contradictory, the description fits the clothing well. Among my favorite pieces is a light-blue top with two accents in the back that mimic tiny hand-held fans.

In contrast are Henry's clothes, which "have a Miami feel," Sawyer says. "They're colorful and bright and tailored." When the male models emerge from behind the black curtains, the wind ruffles their loose-fitting shirts. One model decides to unbutton his top — revealing finely cut abdominals — and before long, the other men follow suit.

But it's not all about style. Mid-show, emcees DJ Tree and Brad Carson turn the audience's attention to a patient-narrated film about St. Jude, whose daily operating costs exceed $1 million.

As the show concludes, the outdoor catwalk is awash with light, a sharp contrast to the surrounding night. At this fashion show, the sky is the limit.


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