With less than an hour to go before show time, the situation behind the scenes at Port City Music Hall was controlled madness. A crush of male models who were queued up for official photos peppered designer Meredith Alex with last-minute questions and threw back a few shots. But don’t get the wrong idea, these men weren’t a Zoolander-esque pack of “professionally good looking” male models. Instead, they were a group of regular guys from the Portland area, most of whom had never sashayed down a catwalk in their lives (which explains the necessary doses of liquid courage).

In their midst, Alex continued to work her sewing machine and scissors as she put the finishing touches on her lines of Madfashion custom couture and Madgear screenprinted street wear. Alex, who heads the Madgirl World label, with a boutique on Commercial Street in Portland, specializes in taking previously worn clothing and up-cycling it into a hipper twist on the original. She creates eco-friendly lines for both men and women, but decided to highlight her menswear in this show.

“I always thought men deserve a little limelight,” Alex told me as she worked.

Out on the roof deck, where the pre-show photo shoot was under way, I caught up with the appropriately named Terry Zipper, who admitted to being a runway virgin. But that didn’t stop him from recognizing a good look when he saw one.

“This jacket was $8.99 at Goodwill,” Zipper said of the off-white Brooks Brothers suit coat he was wearing. After Alex worked her mad magic by adding black and white polka dot trim to the collar and pocket flaps, the price clocked in at $175.

“I’m buying this as soon as I get off the catwalk,” Zipper said. “Meredith’s got such a great idea about recycling everything and everything being green.”

He wasn’t the only guy ready to snatch up these one-of-a-kind pieces.

“I’m buying mine too,” said the always fashionable Paul Drinan, who is the organizer behind the annual WMPG Fashion Show (scheduled for April 17 at Space Gallery). Dressed in an embellished all-weather jacket and a plaid button-down, Drinan was one of the few models who had taken a turn on a runway before.

State Sen. Justin Alfond, who fell into the newbie model category, showed off an olive green button down and a vintage tie spiced up with applique. Turns out his fiancee, Rachel Weinstein, commissioned Alex to create a custom wedding dress using parts of her mother’s nuptial gown.

“I don’t know a lot of details,” Alfond confided. “But they’ve been having a lot of work sessions.”

I’m sure whatever Alex cooks up will look absolutely stunning when Weinstein heads down the aisle at Portland’s Ocean Gateway in August.

Those seeking a casual collegiate look rather than formal fashions will appreciate the threads sported by Oakley Dyer, Jedd Steinglass and Josh Benthien. The three friends and Colgate University alums are self-described fans of classic preppy attire. With this in mind, Alex decked them out in her University of Madness collection, which features crew neck sweaters given proper preppy cred by the UMAD letters in plaid and print appliqueed to the front.

The guys continued to joke around upstairs, while downstairs a crowd of beautiful people began to fill the venue. Many were friends, family members and fans of the models and designer. Others were there to see the Marion Grace performance that followed the show.

Even from across the room, I could tell Elizabeth Mitchell was someone I needed to meet. I watched her extract a pair of creamy stiletto pumps with red soles from her handbag and slip them onto her feet. She told me the shoes were a recent purchase from a trip to San Francisco and, like a practical Mainer, she knew better than to attempt Portland’s brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets on a three-inch heel.

Mitchell, who called Alex “a genius,” was there with her sister Emily Mitchell and friend Bill Rafuse. The trio came to the show to watch Charlie Mitchell, Elizabeth and Emily’s brother and a founder of Bowl Portland, strut his stuff on the runway.

The Mitchell siblings are no strangers to the spotlight, as their mother, Libby Mitchell, is the president of the state Senate and is running for the Democratic nomination for governor. In addition, Charlie Mitchell and fellow model Alfond are building a bowling alley in downtown Portland that everyone’s talking about, which I hear should open soon.

Another well-known face in the crowd was Rock Goddess Robin Ivy, who DJs for WCYY and dishes up daily horoscopes and color recommendations with her popular Zodiac Zone broadcasts.

“It’s tough for guys to find cool clothes,” said Ivy, who added that she regularly sends guy friends to the Madgirl World shop to give their wardrobes a boost.

Nearby, Jessica Keenan was proudly wearing a Madgirl Super G T-shirt (which retails for $22). Keenan is Alex’s niece and offered some insight into the designer’s creative process.

“We actually have a box in our house where we put stuff to bring to Meredith,” Keenan said. This collection of cast-offs can include food boxes, bottle caps and contact lens cases. Kennan showed me a funky wooden Madgirl bracelet decorated with tiny cutouts from a Newman’s Own pizza box.

“I’ll give her old clothes, fabric and shoes I don’t wear anymore,” Keenan said. “Then she’ll do something with it and I’ll be like ‘Can I have that back?’ “

The answer is sure. For the right price anyone — whether a relative or not — can grab a piece of the crazy cool Madgirl style.

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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