March 24, 2011

Haute couture at Blue Wrap Project Runway

Local designers turn trash to treasures for charity show on Wednesday.

By Avery Yale Kamila
Staff Writer

Trash will be transformed into haute couture during the first-ever Blue Wrap Project Runway event.

click image to enlarge

Beth Schneider models a blue wrap headdress designed by Gabriella Sturchio.

Courtesy photo


WHEN: 6 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square


INFO: 885-1011



ENJOY A BUFFET of world cuisine, then watch a fashion show featuring looks from China, Japan, Cambodia, Liberia, Ghana, Vietnam, the Sudan, Burundi, Afghanistan, Iran, Poland, Peru, Brazil, the Philippines, Somalia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Catherine McAuley High School, 631 Stevens Ave., Portland


INFO: Email


SIP TEA AND sample scones and dainty sandwiches while enjoying a show of fashions from 1810 through 1890.

WHEN: Noon April 9

WHERE: Dorothy Stevens Community Center, West Kennebunk

HOW MUCH: $20 for adults; $10 for children

INFO: 650-9020;

Slated for Wednesday night at the Portland Museum of Art, the event -- complete with food, drinks and music -- showcases the creativity of local fashion designers and the charitable work of Partners for World Health.

The fashion show grew out of Scarborough-based Partners for World Health's efforts to take discarded hospital supplies that are still usable (and often have never been opened from their original packaging) and distribute them to health-care facilities in the developing world.

The supplies range from sterile syringes and stethoscopes to exam tables and X-ray machines. However, blue wrap is one medical item the organization has collected which has no use in the developing world.

Blue wrap is a disposal synthetic fabric that is used in the U.S. to wrap medical instruments before placing them in a sterilizer. Once the items come out of the sterilizer, "the blue wrap is pulled out and thrown in the trash," said Elizabeth McLellan, the organization's president and founder. "It's never exposed to blood or pathogens."

Medical facilities in developing nations rely on reusable cotton towels to sterilize their medical supplies, so blue wrap would only present a disposal burden to these cash-strapped health-care facilities.

As the material piled up in the Partners for World Health warehouse, McLellan, who is a nurse, decided to donate some to local art and fashion programs, hoping students could extend its useful life.

Once she saw the amazing items they were creating, the idea for Blue Wrap Project Runway was born.

Dozens of designers have created blue-wrap fashion items for the show. They include students at the University of Southern Maine, the Maine College of Art, Southern Maine Community College, the University of New England, Portland Arts and Technology High School and the Quimby Colony.

Individual designers donating fashions for the catwalk include Meredith Alex of Madworld, Queen of Hats, Mardie Weldon, Elynn Designs, Kathleen Daniels, Marietta Atiena, Kris Hall, Judy Gailen, Gianna Olsen, Julie Tao, Stephanie Harmon, Eunice Wilcox and Jung's Quality Alterations.

In addition to the one-of-a-kind works that will hit the runway, partygoers will be able to purchase their own handbags, neckties, wine totes and pillows in the event's Blue Wrap Boutique.

"The goal is to raise $10,000," McLellan said. "We'll use the money to pay for medications for the Third World."

These medications will supplement the donated medical supplies. Each year, the nonprofit ships at least two cargo containers filled with up to 50,000 pounds of medical supplies to communities in need.

In addition, people who are traveling to developing nations to volunteer often hand-carry hundreds of pounds of supplies with them. Last year, individuals brought medical supplies to 50 locations around the world.

The next cargo shipments will go to Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cambodia.

Tickets to the event cost $50, and must be purchased in advance. Should you want to get your hands on one of those tickets, don't delay -- earlier this week, there were only 80 tickets left.

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


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