It’s safe to say this was a fashion show unlike all others. Where the concept of financing shipping containers, global medical missions and keeping reusable medical supplies from becoming toxic waste in our landfills mingled perfectly with trumpet sleeves, box pleats and sophisticated applique.

“Blue wrap is what we use to sterilize surgical supplies in all hospitals across the U.S., and then we throw it away,” explained Elizabeth McLellan, founder and president of Partners for World Health, referring to the polypropylene plastic cloth that was featured in all runway designs. “One use and it goes right to the landfill. Tonight, we create wearable artwork out of trash to raise awareness of this fact.”

Now in its third year, Blue Wrap Project Runway 2014, held at Hannaford Hall on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine, is a primary fundraiser for the organization, which also provides surgical and primary care services for people in need living in developing countries as well as education on global health.

“It’s a growing trend to reclaim waste that’s perfectly usable in other countries or for other causes,” said Linda Banks of Simply Home in Falmouth, as guests mingled before the fashion show, enjoying cocktails and music by Straight Lace.

Banks was joined by Sam Kilbreth, a freelance film producer in Portland and his wife, Jen De Rose, who is managing editor of the new Old Port magazine launching in June.

“I lead the medical mission trips,” said Dr. Hector Tarraza, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Maine Medical Center and volunteer medical director at Partners for World Health. “We go to places like Bangladesh, Peru, Sierra Leone, where people are living in slums and have nothing.”

“It’s about making a difference in people’s lives and being a role model to the next generation,” he added. “To inspire them to do the same thing, if not better. It’s really about people helping people.”

“We are going to work with Partners for World Health to ship medical supplies and equipment to Uganda to help establish a cancer center,” said Carolyn Johnson, district governor for Rotary District 7780, who attended Thursday evening’s festivities with her husband, Peter.

Nancy McBrady, an environmental attorney with Preti Flaherty in Portland, attended the event with her sister, Liza Walworth, a freelance anthropologist.

“I think what they are doing in bringing attention to the waste in the medical industry is huge,” said McBrady.

Post-cocktails, guests were ushered into the auditorium to take their seats for the big event and were warmly welcomed by McLellan.

“I’m a nurse and the last thing I expected to be involved with is a fashion show,” she said as the audience chuckled. “But ‘no’ is not a part of our vocabulary. We log over 1,000 documented volunteer hours per month. We are here to stay, and out to grab every medical supply, big or small, keep it out of the landfill and put it in the hands of someone who really needs it.”

With that, mistress of ceremonies Tory Ryden entered the hall in a glamorous gown and hand-painted overcoat made entirely of blue wrap, took to the podium and the fashion show began. Models made dramatic entrances strutting down the aisles before taking center stage to feature each design.

Dresses ranged from a simple bridesmaid sheath and pillbox hat designed by Portland designer Jill McGowan to period pieces inspired by geishas and the French court of Louis XIV, to more esoteric haute couture musings inspired by Claude Monet and, more simply, clouds.

During the intermission, there were special performances by the Portland School of Ballet and the Bossong Family Ensemble, and Ryden rallied the audience to make pledges that raised over $21,000 for the organization.

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

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