Fashion sense Lawyers find event planning is a 'Green Breeze'

By Mike Scott

For The Legal News

While the Green Breeze Fashion Show for Land Conservation may commence without a hitch, it was far from a "breeze" for organizers to pull together.

Developed by a group of lawyers, most notably The Uptown Group (TUG) Chair Sarah Szirtes, general counsel with HealthCall of Detroit, the Green Breeze on Saturday, July 24 starts at 7 p.m. and will benefit both The Greening of Detroit and The Community House. Held at The Royal Oak Music Theatre, the Green Breeze Fashion Show will feature one of the world's most renowned designers, Jeff Garner of Prophetik.

And there is a good chance that it will also be featured as part of a film at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.

"(Szirtes) has spent countless hours of work organizing this and really making it an eco-friendly event," said Ann-Marie Welch, an associate with Clark Hill PLC and member of the TUG board that organized the event. "She sent letters to designers around the nation and the one that she was able to secure is one of the most popular around."

With Garner on board, it has been easy for event planners to get volunteer models to show off his designs at the event. All of Garner's designs are self-sustainable and come from the United States. The theme -- "Southern Shores" -- features Civil War-era clothing similar to clothing that was repurposed by Southern soldiers.

Garner has studied under Calvin Klein and will be a headliner for the Sundance Film Festival next year. In addition Lani Netter and husband Gil, producers for the 2010 Oscar Award Winning film "The Blind Side," are filming a documentary on Garner that will be shown at Sundance next year, Szirtes said.

The Birmingham resident has spent countless hours ("hundreds of hundreds" Szirtes says) in planning the event but in doing so she has been able to learn things about the fashion industry and meet people she otherwise never would have encountered.

It started when Szirtes emailed Garner in December, soliciting his interest in being featured at the event. She knew it was a longshot, not just because of the celebrity that the designer has enjoyed in recent years but because he didn't have any real connection to the state of Michigan.

"When I emailed him (Garner) had never been to Michigan and I don't believe any (retail) stores here carry his line of clothes," Szirtes said. "But when he emailed me back I almost fell off the couch."

Since then it would be tempting to say that everything has fallen into place for Szirtes and the Green Breeze. To an extent it has. Guests will be treated to music from a Detroit Symphony Orchestra violinist, the local band Catfish Mafia.

Celebrity guests already scheduled to attend the event, include actor Thomas Ian Nicholas of "American Pie," "Rookie of the Year," and "The Chicago 8," as well as Alexandra Rush, a Michigan native who has appeared in GQ Magazine, "Sex and the City 2," "Celebrity Apprentice," and "Real World Brooklyn." StyleLine editor Karen Buscemi will serve as emcee at the beginning of the show.

But it has taken a significant amount of time and work from Szirtes in particular, along with other board members such as Welch, to ensure that the event is destined for success.

"I've learned so much along the way because I have been personally involved in everything from recruiting bands to selecting volunteer models," Szirtes. "The interest has been phenomenal but that is largely a result of (Garner's) presence."

One of the main goals that Szirtes had in organizing the Green Breeze is to portray Michigan as a place where residents care about environmental sustainability. She feels a personal desire to debunk some of the negative perceptions about living and working in southeastern Michigan. One of the motivations continues to come from such media reports as the BBC documentary film, "Requiem for Detroit?" by Julian Temple and a Rolling Stones article that appeared in the February 2009 issue that paint a negative picture of the region.

"I wanted to show off the area as the great and supportive community we are because I love it here and I'm tired of getting the feeling that people feel sorry for me when they learn I am from Detroit," Szirtes said. "Most lawyers and so many professionals I know in this area are involved in their careers but also are a part of philanthropic organizations."

Garner's company Prophetik is focused on environmentally friendly materials including organic cottons, hemp, flax, Greenspun (recycled bottles) and organic pigment dyed, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified fabrics. The label has been part of London Fashion Week's Esthethica for the past several seasons, and the line not only focuses on sustainability with fabrics and production, but also in the heart of giving, raising funds and awareness for a select charity each season.

Szirtes has been particularly impressed by the number of models that turned out who were willing to donate two full days of their time to this event. Some of the women are area high schoolers. Only 15 were selected from a pool of more than 50.

"For (teenagers) to recognize the importance of what we are doing is impressive," Szirtes said.

There are very few VIP tickets left and a pool of tickets has been reserved for students from high schools, colleges and graduate schools.

"We will also have student work on displays from area high schools like the International Academy and (Bloomfield Hills Kingswood) Cranbrook," Welch said. "It's amazing that Sarah had this great concept and was able to pull it all together."

Szirtes is taking a wait-and-see approach to whether the event will become an annual celebration or what follow-up efforts may be appropriate.

"We hope that some retailers will become interested not just in (Garner's) collection but in carrying clothing items that are naturally made without a lot of unnecessary chemicals," Szirtes said. "We're trying to raise the level of awareness."

Published: Fri, Jul 9, 2010

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