BIDDEFORD, Maine — What do the mayor, a deep-pocketed developer and an award-winning novelist have in common?
They are all set to rock the red carpet at the Biddeford Ball Saturday night. Organized by clothing designer Roxi Suger, the inaugural party in a former textile mill embraces the city’s industrial past and toasts its creative future.
As this mill city shakes off its boom and bust history, forces like Suger, who moved her Angelrox fashion line from New York to Biddeford in 2013, are knitting together a new story stitch by stylish stitch.
In her boutique on Alfred Street, also named Suger, women shop for colorful wraps for weddings, parties and new beach looks. Suger greets them all with a warm smile and encouraging words. “Each individual looks so unique and beautiful. I mean, you look lovely in those,” she tells a customer trying on her layered frocks and tops last week.
The fashion designer’s impact on this city, known more for pizza joints and used record stores than vegan bags and bamboo skirts, culminates with its first ball in ages. Music from Old Souls and a high-end video show by Suger’s husband Julian Schlaver takes the entertainment quotient up an octave.
“We have had nothing like it before. It knocks it out of the park,” said Delilah Poupore, executive director for the Heart of Biddeford, a nonprofit focused on revitalizing the city. She will walk the red carpet in a flowing slate blue piece from Angelrox. “It’s a once-in-an-era experience.”
The ball is a fundraiser for key pillars of the community — local food banks and the renovation of the Marble Block, a former Reny’s at 129 Main Street. The formidable building is transforming into an art and design hub run by Engine, a not-for-profit community arts organization that’s been sending out the signal for years that Biddeford is an up and coming place.
The ball, in a sense, celebrates the city turning a corner.
“I’m personally very excited. It’s not something you typically see here in southern Maine,” said William Kany, leasing director for the Pepperell Mill Campus, where the ball will be held. “Friends are coming up from New York for this.”
Suger, who runs fashion show fundraisers across the country, typically selects a charity. This time, her efforts encompass an entire city.
The ball is “a celebration of joy and life and about giving back and doing good for others,” she said. And the fashion show with her urban-leading line celebrates “women of all ages, stages and sizes,” said Suger.
Novelist Anita Shreve will stride the runway as will Tammy Ackerman, co-founder of Engine and a cadre of local luminaries. Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant and Pepperell Mill Campus owner Doug Sanford will don duds from Portland Dry Goods.
Banded Horn Brewery Company, a few steps away, and treats from the soon-to-open Biscuits and Company complete the home-grown bash. The location is no afterthought. The sprawling mill, and the city, is waking up after a long slumber.
“It’s a chance to do something fancy and fanciful in a city that’s been hard working and gritty,” said Poupore. “This is welcoming for everybody.”
Next month, Suger opens a sewing room in a 5,000-square feet space in the mill and moves her offices to allow her boutique to expand.
“Helping to fund and support the arts is very much a part of our growing community and revitalization that Biddeford is currently enjoying,” said Suger. “It’s not over-the-top fancy schmancy. After all, it’s the Biddeford ball. Come as you are and be ready to have a blast.”
The Biddeford Ball starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday August 23, with a maker’s market and silent auction. The fashion show starts at 9 p.m. Music by Old Soul, beats by DJ Mike Rovin and videos by Julian Schlaver go till 12 a.m. Tickets are $25 to $100. To purchase, visit www.suger.me/ball.
The name of Roxi Suger’s boutique is Suger, not Roxi Suger as previously stated.