This past Thursday, February 2nd at The Fort Garry Hotel hundreds of people came out to show their support for Winnipeg’s Main Street Project at the first Runway to Change for arguably one of the most moving fashion shows. A school project by two incredible young women who not only raised money and awareness about homelessness in Winnipeg, but also raised the spirits of men who have been affected by homelessness with dressing them in Eph Apparel suits and walking the runway.

Here’s what you missed if you weren’t lucky enough to get your hands on tickets to this sold out show:

About the Show

The Runway to Change was a fundraising project created by two (very talented, sweet, genuine and inspiring) creative communications students from RRCC – Ashley Tokaruk, 23, Madelaine Lapointe, 20, to help end the stigma of Winnipeg’s homeless and collect clothing to donate to Main Street Project. Main Street Project is a 24 hour drop-in centre that works with individuals who are experiencing homelessness and substance abuse problems. They rely on donations to continue helping these people overcome their addictions and hardships. A big reason why Ashley and Madeline chose Main Street Project was because they do not turn anyone away and are both have someone they know living on the streets.

The fashion show lineup which included established local designers and local boutiques included short videos of actual clients from Main Street Project sharing their stories.

The Evening

Started off with mingling, cocktails, photos and hors d’oeuvres in a beautifully and perfectly lit elegant room at The Fort Garry Hotel. Amazing raffle prizes from WestJet, tickets to Bruno Mars, Jets tickets, Earls Main, and 48″ TV along with great assortment of gift baskets with all the proceeds (over $6,000) going directly to Main Street Project. As soon as Ace Burpee made the announcement that the show would be starting soon, everyone took their seats. We were soon welcomed by Mayor Brian Bowman,Cam Baldwin, Chair of the Board of Directors, and Rick Lees, director of development at Main Street Project who shared their gratitude for everyone involved and reminded us that 200 people were currently calling Main Street Project home tonight and how events like this happen in Winnipeg because of our big hearts.

The Designers and Boutiques

A fantastic variety of fashion from Lennard Taylor, Danali, Bella Balais, Style Bar, Hush, Topshop, Margot + Maude, kept the fashion show interesting and truly showcased Winnipeg’s fashion talent and boutiques. Eph Apparel, a local clothing company that specializes in custom-made men’s clothing including suits, provided custom fitted suits for the formerly homeless men.

The Models

There were a number of standouts on the runway from Swish Model Management, who always put on a great fashion show, but the real showstoppers were the men from Main Street Project – Nelson, Marvin, Andy, Phil and Arthur.  Three of these men share their amazing personal and intimate stories on video about how their regular lives took a turn and how they Main Street Project has helped them and given them a family and support system they needed to get back on track.  When these men stepped out in their custom fitted suits from Eph Apparel at the end of the show and brought everyone to their feet, you could not help but cheer them on in their moment in the spotlight. It took undeniable courage for each of them to walk out on that stage, with all the lights, news cameras and a large crowd cheering for them, and it was fantastic to be a part of that special moment for each of them.

Their Stories

John, Phil and Nelson shared their stories in front of a camera, at times struggling to complete their sentences about their hardships and battles with substance abuse. It is hearing these real stories about people living in right here our own community that need to be heard, that deserve to be heard to end the stigma of homelessness. Check out The Runway to Change’s Facebook page here to watch the videos.

The Sponsors

Generous local sponsors also got on board for this first-time event and helped to make The Runway to Change possible. Qualico, Canadian Footwear, Downtown Winnipeg Biz, RBC, Taylor McCaffrey and The Fort Garry all made significant contributions to the event. The lovely models were provided by Swish Productions, lighting and sound by Your Next Event and Quest Musique, music by Zaroda.

So what made this particular event so successful?

  • The real-life stories told by real people affected by homelessness
  • Seeing them in their spotlight moment, smiling and thanking the crowd
  • Ashley and Madeline’s authentic concern for the cause

Thank you, Ashley and Maddy for inviting me to your event. 🙂