Standing ovations and stunning designs marked the second annual Blue Wrap Project Runway fashion show held Thursday night at Hannaford Hall at USM’s Portland campus. The event raised money to cover shipping costs for Partners for World Health, which collects discarded but still usable medical supplies and distributes them to Third World countries.

The show featured 40 models wearing clothing created by an almost equal number of designers. All of the designs were made from the disposable medical product known as blue wrap, which is used to sterilize medical instruments. The organization doesn’t send it overseas because medical facilities in developing nations use reusable towels to sterilize equipment rather than blue wrap.

“We use millions and millions of pieces of blue wrap every day,” Partners for World Health founder Elizabeth McLellan told the crowd. “It’s a plastic and it does not disintegrate.”

She added, “I’m sure you’ll be amazed when you realize that beautiful ball gown on the runway was made out of trash going to the dump.”

The show began with a short film produced by Annie and Phil Cormier, which caused most in the audience to wipe away tears as volunteer and model Marieta Atienza described treating a young burn victim in Haiti where the only supplies available were the ones the Partners for World Health volunteers had brought with them.

The brilliance of the event is that it brings together people from the medical, fashion design and environmental communities.

“Everyone is becoming more aware of recycling and not being such a wasteful populace,” event chair Angela LeBlanc told me. “As more people find out what we’re doing it grows exponentially.”

Vivian Russe told me she’s volunteered for the organization since it was formed in 2009 because it’s “a great idea to do two good things at once.”

Model Christina Strong D’Appolonia, an attorney who turned her passion for fitness into the Strong Bodies center in Yarmouth, wore a cocktail dress and jacket on the runway created by renowned Maine designer Jill McGowan.

“It’s fascinating how different all the designs are,” D’Appolonia told me.

Other highlights from the runway included USM President Selma Botman in a Mother Nature-inspired dress designed by Portland Arts and Technology High School student Nada Ibrahim; Miss Maine United States 2010 Aleksandra Derikonja in a sexy dress designed by Erika Lynn Smith; well-known Realtor John Hatcher in a Thomas Jefferson costume created by Barbara Kelly; former Miss Teen Maine Tara Cavanagh in a swimsuit designed by Nevenka Simanic; and Miss Greater Portland Courtney Avery sporting a fascinator designed by Dorinda Putnam, who owns Queen of Hats.

Another runway treat was a short violin performance by the Bossong children, Robert, 11, Lawrence, 10, Victoria, 8, and Reagan, 6, who all modeled period costumes designed by their aunt, Lynne Atienza. But the youngest model on the runway was 4-year-old Avery Murphy, who wore a ballerina dress designed by her cousin Erika Lynn Smith.

“It was an amazing success last year,” board member Jennifer Hickey told me. “We went to a bigger venue because we sold out last year.”

The move allowed more than 300 people to watch this year’s show.

Partners for World Health sends medical supplies overseas in shipping containers, but it also sends groups of volunteers on medical missions to countries in need. These volunteers hand-carry duffle bags loaded with medical supplies.

“The nice part of Elizabeth’s trips is they have an educational component,” Hickey told me. “You learn about the culture too.”

Recent trips have taken the organization to Tanzania and to Libya, where volunteers provided medical supplies to the fighters trying to overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Master of ceremonies Erin Ovalle, morning host on WMTW-8, predicted a bright future for the event.

“This is going to go big, it’s going to go national, global,” Ovalle said. “This event is going to catch.”

Those of us in attendance Thursday night, will be able to say we were some of the first to catch the blue wrap fashion craze. 

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

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila