Bonnie Bing

Fashion show provides wows at ArtAID event

ArtAID. You have to see it to believe it. Every year I go to many local events, but some of them are standouts. ArtAID, a benefit for Positive Directions, tops the "wow" category. This year it was Oct. 10 at the Cotillion.

The event included a live auction that raised $55,000. While that was exciting, for many of the 1,400 attending, the highlight again this year was the fashion show.

The ArtAID show is not just any fashion show, but instead a production that sends the audience into near sensory overload. The music is loud, the lighting is stupendous, the models range from outrageously beautiful to simply outrageous. Add dancers to the mix — and this year a stage with a trampoline — and you get an experience not soon forgotten.

Among those providing dance numbers this year was former Wichitan Joshua Carlson, who's an unstoppable combination of choreographer, dancer, acrobat and aerialist.

It's fun to watch the faces of people in the audience attending ArtAID for the first time.

Koyie Hill, catcher for the Chicago Cubs, was one of those. He and his pretty wife, Meghan, sat by me. While Koyie was impressed with the athleticism of the dancers, Meghan pointed out her favorite outfits to her pal Sarah Haertl. And even though local personality Sierra Scott has been to ArtAID many times, her already big eyes were even bigger as she said more than once, "This is amazing."

I went backstage before the show and felt like I had landed on planet Cotillion, where all the people are tall and wear the edgiest of outfits to complement superbly coifed hair and remarkable makeup. And everyone could be a movie star.

The masterminds behind this annual extravaganza are Tod Ernst and Graham Ross, of Planet Hair. They always seem amazingly calm before the show.

"That's because I can't wait for it to be over," Tod said, laughing. "But when the show starts we start running around like chickens with our heads cut off."

The final rehearsal for ArtAID always takes place the afternoon of the event, then everyone goes to Planet Hair for hair and makeup, then it's back to the Cotillion.

"We did 110 people's hair and makeup," Tod said.

Eighty models wore clothes from Aspen Boutique and Section 37 as well as costumes designed by Tod and Graham. And we're talking innovative costumes here. One of my favorites this year was molded from paper mache.

Everyone I talked to who was involved said it's a fun event to work on, and the time and energy spent is worth it. So true when you consider that a total of more than $100,000 was raised to help people who are HIV positive or have AIDS.

"This was the 16th year and we had a great crowd," Tod said.

And it's over for another year. "I was a little tired when I finally got to bed that night," he said.