Get ready for ‘Project Runway’ – Bangor edition

Posted Sept. 19, 2008, at 6:55 p.m.

For once, and perhaps the only time, Heidi Klum and I have something in common.

Unfortunately, it’s not dress size, salary or modelesque looks.

But it’s almost as good. On Oct. 3, I will be the mistress of ceremonies of Bangor’s own version of “Project Runway,” the University of Maine Museum of Art’s inaugural Fashion Challenge.

No, Tim Gunn won’t be there. And while our surprise guest judges aren’t exactly Michael Kors, they certainly have style — and they know their way around a dressing room. Suffice it to say the UMMA Fashion Challenge will have all of the drama, all of the intrigue, all of the fashion of the popular Bravo series — in a one-night-only format.

The event draws its inspiration from the exhibit “Celebrities and Socialites: Photographs by Andy Warhol.” So expect a little Studio 54 style. Expect a little Bangor style, too (and no, all you cynics, that is NOT an oxymoron). And expect to make an evening out of it.

Anywhere from 11 to 15 local designers will go head-to-head — or dress-to-dress, as the case may be — in the design competition.

Queen City boutique Bella Luna will showcase looks from the fall 2008 lines, and Bangor’s own Mallory Bruns will highlight pieces from her Sophronia Designs collection. Ukulele Funk will perform live music, and a reception — with acid jazz and a full cash bar — will follow.

George Kinghorn, the museum’s new director, became a “Project Runway” fan in Florida, when he worked at MOCA Jacksonville. One of his interns, Diana Eng, was a contestant in the show’s second season.

“One of the things I enjoy about ‘Project Runway’ is that it allows people from a lot of different walks of life to highlight their talent and be creative,” Kinghorn said.

Kinghorn and his colleague Kathryn Jovanelli, who was heavily involved in the planning, see the event as a perfect way to attract a new audience to the museum, connect with the community and complement the Warhol show.

“He rubbed elbows with celebrities and socialites, all of which I hope inspires your designs,” he told the small group of designers — mostly women, all ages — who gathered Monday to hear the parameters.

Their charge: Design an ensemble worthy of the red carpet — or a New York City discotheque. Their challenge: Use only plain muslin and yarn (for hand-knitted items), anything the designers can find in a hardware store or drugstore. But there are limits — no printed, stretchy or pre-embellished fabrics. And nothing from a store that sells completed garments.

One of the designers — I won’t mention any names, for fear of influencing the judges — came within a thread’s breadth of making the final 12 for “Project Runway” last year. She decided to enter the Fashion Challenge because she loved the community angle.

“I thought it would be a really fun fundraiser on a more local level,” she said. “It’s also a very good cause. And besides, anything that has to do with Andy Warhol is fun, fun, fun.”

If you want to find out who she is — and who will ultimately have his or her custom couture design on loan at the museum — come join me.

It’s going to be fierce.

In the interest of full disclosure, Kristen Andresen works for the University of Maine. However, she will be all ShopGirl, all the time, while emceeing the Fashion Challenge.

Win tickets

ShopGirl will give away a pair of tickets to Bangor’s inaugural Fashion Challenge. To enter, visit the ShopBlog (http://shopblogbdn.blogspot.com/) and follow the instructions there. A winner will be announced on the blog on Sept. 27. Good luck and, as always, happy shopping.

UMMA Fashion Challenge

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3

Where: University of Maine Museum of Art, 40 Harlow St., Bangor

Tickets: Limited. $12 for general admission, $6 for museum members and UMaine students with ID. Call 561-3350 or visit the museum to purchase.

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