Colors of Creativity

written by Bill Kopp

Photo by Wendy Newman Photography
Photo by Wendy Newman Photography
NOTE: This previously-unpublished feature was written to preview an event that was ultimately canceled in the wake of the then-unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.

Color Me Goodwill highlights local clothing designers and the mission of Goodwill Industries

Combining the environmentally conscious "reduce, reuse, recycle" ethos with the spirit of creativity is an inspired idea. And one of the ways in which that idea has taken form is through the creation of Color Me Goodwill. Now in its sixth year, the event brings together clothing designers and fashion lovers while shining a light on the work done by the sponsoring nonprofit organization. This year's Color Me Goodwill Fashion Show happens March 20 at the Orange Peel.

Per the nonprofit's official statement, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina "fund[s] employment and training programs that help people find hope, opportunity and jobs." Those programs are funded through the sales of donated items in the Goodwill's retail stores. The organization has 47 retails stores in Western North Carolina, including five in Buncombe County.

Goodwill's mission of helping people get back into the workforce and reach self-sufficiency is supported by public events like Color Me Goodwill, says Jaymoe Eichorn, VP of Marketing and Communications at Goodwill Industries of North Carolina. "Our primary goal is getting the word out, but the secondary goal is getting people interested in shopping. Because shopping at Goodwill is a really easy way to help your community."

Goodwill Industries International isn't a single organization; it's a group of 161 independent and autonomous local nonprofits, Eichorn says. Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina is headquartered in Winston-Salem and works in 31 counties including Buncombe. "We picked Ashevile for the show because of the thriving arts community, the downtown community and tourism," she says. "And we've found it to be really vibrant and welcoming for this event."

Beyond its undeniable entertainment value, Eichorn says that the Color Me Goodwill event "is really meant to help the audience connect their shopping and donations to the impact upon the thousands who are helped through our operations."

Seven local designers will showcase clothing ensembles they've developed using only items found at local Goodwill stores. "We give the designers -- all local to the Asheville community -- gift cards to shop in the stores," explains Eichorn. "Then they pore over the aisles and the racks of clothing to pull materials that they re-create into a collection for five models."

Eichorn says that four of each designer's five models are "professional, amateur or aspiring," and all are local as well. In keeping with the community-focused nature of the event, the fifth person wearing the designer's clothes is a "client model." Those client models "get the same hair and makeup treatment, they get an outfit designed for them by a local designer, and they walk the runway with the other models," Eichorn says. "But we tell a little bit about their journey. They're program participants who have come through Goodwill, received and benefited from our services," Eichorn says. "It's really all about them."

For Color Me Goodwill, each designer is challenged to develop fashions based around a specific color: blue, grey, green, pink, purple, red or yellow. The results will be judged by a five-person panel that includes Leanna Echevierri; she was first place winner of last year's judge and audience choice competitions. Echeverri also serves as "designer mentor" for this year's event.

"At the end of the official Color Me Goodwill show we have a separate entertainment segment," Eichorn says. "Because we want people to stay in their seats and hear who won." Each year is different. "One year, we had dogs onstage," Eichorn says with a laugh. This year's entertainment will be a youth fashion show led by designer Caleb Owolabi. "That fits in line with showing people what they can find in our stores."

Eichorn says that she's always impressed at what the designers at Color Me Goodwill come up with. One of last year's designs made use of an umbrella. "Those little wires were part of a skirt," Eichorn says. "You look at these garments and you think, 'How in the world did they put just things off the rack to create these head-turning, amazing collections?'"

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