Color Me Goodwill highlights upcycled fashion and homegrown talent

CODE YELLOW: Models from the 2019 Color Me Goodwill show pose in fashions by Asheville-based designer Caleb Owolabi. The upcycled collection was created from clothing purchased at local Goodwill retail stores. Photo by Max Ganly

Did you know that although there are Goodwill retail stores throughout the U.S., each operates independently in its own area? That means of the 155 autonomous Goodwill organizations throughout the country, only Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina services the 31 counties in this corner of the state.

That’s why, when it comes to planning the annual Color Me Goodwill fashion show, “It’s very locally focused,” says Jaymie Eichorn, chief marketing officer of the regional Goodwill Industries. From the designers and models to the emcees, hairstylists and makeup artists — all who participate are locally based. “Given the arts culture and community of Asheville, we thought this could be a great place to do it.”

Since its launch in 2015, Color Me Goodwill has operated as an awareness campaign, Eichorn continues. “So many people know about Goodwill because of our stores and our convenient donation locations,” she says. “Far fewer understand the true mission of Goodwill and how the donations are used and what the impact of that is.”

That mission, according to the Goodwill website, is to “create opportunities for people to enhance their lives through training, workforce development services and collaboration with other community organizations.” Household items and clothing donated to Goodwill are resold through the retail stores, which fund career and employment programs, developmental disability services, residential living programs and behavioral health services.

After postponing the show the last two years due to concerns tied to COVID-19, Color Me Goodwill returns to The Orange Peel for its sixth iteration Friday, April 29, at 7 p.m.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring Color Me Goodwill back this year,” says Eichorn. “The combination of Goodwill’s mission, sustainable fashion, amazing designers, vibrant models and Asheville’s artsy vibe creates a fun and unique event.”

Rules and themes

Here’s how the contest works: In September of each year, a call for submissions is issued. Interested designers apply, sharing links to their portfolios and explaining their interest in participating. “Components of this include sustainability, slow fashion vs. fast fashion, upcycling and recycling,” Eichorn explains. “We really want to see what their passion is around those concepts.”

As in the past, a committee — including show director Leanna Echeverri, a former Color Me Goodwill winner — pored over this year’s applications and chose seven designers to compete. The artists were then given a $200 gift card to spend on materials in Goodwill retail shops, along with a theme color for their five-outfit collections.

Previous shows have revealed that not all colors work for the contest. “It’s been an evolution,” Eichorn says. For example, “White doesn’t work on the [paper] program, and black blends in with The Orange Peel stage.”

This year’s contestants (and colors) include a combination of designer teams and individuals: Art Blue (green), The Three Graces (orange), Sugar Britches (gold), Ray Fawley (gray), Jenna Jaffe (purple), Mama Trash (blue) and Shepp McManus (red).

All hands on deck

Along with creating original designs, each designer chooses four of their runway models. The fifth, a “client model,” is assigned by Goodwill and is a participant in the industries’ programming. “They’re really showcased because we want people to understand their stories,” Eichorn says.

One of her favorite memories from past shows is of client model Demetrius Strickland, a participant of Goodwill’s Community Access program, which serves people with disabilities. “He just kind of stole the show,” she says. “His personality, his stage presence — he came out and he really worked the audience.”

Strickland will again walk the runway for the orange collection this year.

Meanwhile, local hair and makeup artists donate their time on the day of the show, creating dramatic catwalk looks. For 2022, participants include Jillian Brooks, Kimberly Davines, Sheri Gafney, Tia Renay Hixon-Schrock, Crain Jackson, Alejandro Jimenez, Naomi Shelby Lynn, Chelsea Mayne, Charlotte Cat Murphy, Samantha Olsen and Vanu.

This year’s judges are Danielle Chaboudy, Charles Josef, Sarah Merrell and Renee Walden, who will award a $500 prize to the overall winner. The audience also gets to choose a winner at the show, and that designer will receive $200.

Meanwhile, during the voting break, showgoers can enter a raffle for an umbrella and scarf customized with photos of past Color Me Goodwill designs shot by photographer Wendy Newman.

This year’s event will also honor another local photographer, Max Ganly, who passed away in 2020.

Great loyalty

Eichhorn says the April 29 event will be a celebration of life, talent and community. Furthermore, she hopes it will introduce attendees to the good of Goodwill beyond the company’s well-known retail stores. “If you’re donating in Northwest N.C., then that impact is coming back into Northwest N.C.,” she says.

Eichorn has noticed an uptick in donations over the past two years — and not just in the number of contributions being made but in the size. What had typically been a bag of clothing has more recently become a truckload of items.

“People were sheltering in place,” she says. “They were sitting at home thinking, ‘I never liked that room. Let me redo it.’ Same with their wardrobes.” That, paired with the fact that retail stores were closed early in the pandemic, led to an increase in inventory.

Store sales have been strong, too, Eichorn reports. Part of that trend is due to the influx of inventory at this time. “We just have a lot of support from the community in terms of donations and shoppers. We’ve got a lot of great loyalty.”

WHAT Color Me Goodwill,
WHERE The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave.,
WHEN Friday, April 29, 7 p.m. $20 advance/$25 doors


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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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