A Mother of a Movement: Fashion Show Celebrates “FemPower” at the Carriage Barn
With generations of supportive women to rise each other up, there is no limit to what FemPowerment can do.
Girls and women of all ages and stages - and even a few men and boys who love them - were treated to something extra special for Mother’s Day in New Canaan this year: a Hadley Pollet fashion show featuring inspiring women to benefit LiveGirl, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young girls everywhere. This celebratory event, although unique in structure, is part of the growing international movement to empower young girls into becoming strong women.
Designer and New Canaanite Hadley Pollet described just how far-reaching she envisions her efforts: “I personally want our brand and what we do to promote equality worldwide [and] shine a light on the good work LiveGirl is doing in the community here…. it’s important we all lift each other up and create equality worldwide for women.”
To that end, the “FemPowered” event was held on Saturday, May 12th at the Carriage Barn Arts Center, which transformed from a pastoral art gallery into an engaging stage, runway, boutique and reception. The impressive group of models - named Women Who Inspire in honor of their own accomplishments – showcased Pollet's latest creations.
LiveGirl founder Sheri West described how the event came to be: “I met Hadley at a NC Women Mean Business leadership panel. Our girls need role models like Hadley - resilient and vibrant leaders - to help them dream and know what’s possible.” Pollet then spoke at a LiveGirl event, and the West-Pollet duo knew they could accomplish even more together.
The Mother’s Day weekend event at the Carriage Barn began with performances by girls and women, including Norwalk fourth grader Zuri Giddings who recited her own piece entitled, “My Mighty Poem.” Victoria Iparraguirre, a high school senior in Stamford, performed a stirring rendition of the song “Rise Up” with precision and passion. Both girls are involved in LiveGirl programs, and they were handpicked by West to showcase their talents.
“We wanted to submerse the audience in a multi-sensory fashion/art/music/spoken word experience,” said West. “Part of the LiveGirl mission is to provide a platform for our girls to share their voice. Whether through music, words, or creative design, we encourage every single girl to know the power of her voice.”
Lytasha Blackwell, spoken word poet and Founder of She’s a B.O.S.S., performed “The Art of Being a Girl,” and musicians Christine Occhino and Aaron Staniulis got the crowd engaged as they performed Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and Pat Benetar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – selections clearly related to the theme of the event.
As if the performances were not enough inspiration on their own, the Hadley Pollet fashion show demonstrated just what happens when motivated and passionate women get together.
No detail was left undone from unique makeup and hair styles by Jul Salon and budding makeup artist Ava Rucci to the green and lavender VIP swag bags lining the runway under strategic lighting. Pulsing beats of catwalk music, passed hors d’oeuvres served by LiveGirl’s high school mentors, a mini Hadley Pollet shop, and a palpable excitement set the scene amid sophisticated art in the juried show.
Splashes of color, meticulously placed ruffles, stripes, ruching, and even polka dots – one of Hadley’s personal favorite patterns – wowed the crowd. Each piece featured Pollet’s signature zinnia in some way whether it was one of her famous ribbon belts, trim on a jacket, or a pattern on a Peek-a-boo bag.
The models in this show were not just beautiful faces in beautiful clothing. They are indeed Women Who Inspire, such as native New Canaanite Marysue Rucci and her young daughter Thea, who, according to her mom, was initially “scared. I told her I would be there holding her hand, but that if we got to the event and she decided she didn’t want to walk, she could stay in the wings... hopeful she’d change her mind. When we got to the Carriage Barn and she saw the other participants — so many girls and women coming together, and so much support and excitement in the room — she decided yes, she could do it. With enthusiasm. Afterward she kept asking if we could do it again!”
Rucci, VP and Editor-in Chief of Simon & Schuster, reflected about the impact of the event: “It was incredibly meaningful to walk with my daughter, with my mother and cousin and sister-in-law and friends in the audience in support of female empowerment programs. I was truly moved to be able to support LiveGirl’s great programs, the fantastic designs of Hadley Pollet, and other female artists. We talk about girl power a lot at home, but this multi-generational experience was the perfect embodiment of the concept.”
Another mother-daughter pair to inspire the audience were New Canaanites Kremena and Lorrina Doust. Founder of Love Design Studio LLC and a former model, mom Kremena sizzled in bold designs such as a black leather bolero jacket andthe Revelation Skirt – a long, sheer black skirt perhaps only rivaled by another stroll down the runway in a daring half trench coat in khaki - playfully named Double Trouble.
Author Sara Bliss was thrilled to model alongside with her daughter Liv. “Hadley has always been a force of nature and I loved being a part of showcasing her gorgeous work. It was also very Hadley to make it not just about her creativity, but part of a larger mission to support and inspire young girls. I was so happy to be part of such a positive, powerful event for Live Girl.”
Bliss' current project dovetails with the intent behind the FemPower event. “I am working on a new book on people who make radical life and career changes called Take the Leap. What I've come away with, after interviewing over 60 people, is that people are happiest not when they have a lot of money or outer success, but when they have figured out a way to do work that really lights them up. I hope girls saw women [at the event] who were in careers that they love and maybe it made them think about pursuing something different.”
Switching gears to her most important role as a mother, she added, “I also loved being with my six-year-old daughter. She loved seeing and meeting lots of amazing women and girls that day. It was a girl-power kind of day.”
West and daughter Olivia modeled several outfits as well, and their stage presence emphasized their strong mother-daughter connection. “Being Olivia’s mom has shaped my perspective on how we need to
equip girls to be leaders. Olivia and I are bonded in our belief of the power of LiveGirl, and the positive impact that girls can have on the world. This event was a celebration of that.”
Just when the audience ooohed and aaahed over one creative ensemble, the next one evoked an even more enthusiastic reaction whether it was a bustier with hot pink ribbon ruffle to a gray Jackie O.-like dress. The finale piece modeled by Mia Lin, legislative correspondent for Senator Markey and Hadley Pollet muse, was an outfit called Escapade: a blend of nearly every texture and color featured in the show.
Audience members Alexandra Gillsepie – a ninth grader and New Canaan resident - and her grandmother Carol Klimex of Lyme, CT, had differing ideas about which Hadley Pollet outfits they would wear, but they both agreed on the success of the event.
“We had no idea what to expect, but it sounded exciting, so we made the plan to come since I would be in town for Mother’s Day,” said Klimek. “I also got to learn more about my granddaughter and what she has been doing.”
Gillespie has been involved with LiveGirl for over a year, and now as a high school mentor, she will be a LiveGirl camp counselor this summer for middle school girls from all over Fairfield County. She explained the importance of the FemPower event as a fundraiser for LiveGirl: “New Canaan isn’t the only place where they want to have an effect. The leadership summits are free and accessible to everyone; they make it so everyone can pretty much do everything.”
Most of the models had a personal connection to the event organizers, which is at the heart of everything Hadley and her business stand for. ”It was beyond important for old friends to be a part of this. The brand symbolizes a timeless agent of connectivity between generations and beyond. Those who know me personally are able to intimately understand what our brand’s intent is and share through their loved ones - and I’m beyond grateful for all their support and participating in this milestone.”
“Including women whom I've known all my life is important because it is time for women who inspire to teach and set by example and behavior so that the younger generation can witness the impact one individual can do.”
Not all of Hadley’s friends and family were on the runway; some were behind cameras, in the audience, and behind the scenes. “In addition to all the Women Who Inspire that walked, I had the pleasure of working with my dear old friend Merrily Mellick as we prepared for the event, and she had a tremendous hand in its success.”
At the end of the fashion show, West and Pollet called their own mothers onstage and thanked them for raising strong daughters – the perfect icing on the cake for not only Mother’s Day, but also a day of spotlighting the women’s movement in New Canaan.
Ellie Hartz, Pollet’s mother, wearing a yellow and purple scarf designed by her daughter, summed up the impactful hour and half: “It was for all age groups and it went beautifully! It was professional, fun, creative and wonderful – and for a great cause. When I tell Hadley, This is so courageous, she tells me, Mom, if you don’t think it’ll come true, it won’t."
Hartz paused a moment, with a proud smile and glistening eyes. “Hadley never stops surprising me with her creativity; she doesn’t back down.”
The new additions to the Hadley Pollet line will be available soon on www.HadleyPollet.com. Anyone wishing to place a preorder should email wish@HadleyPollet.com, or call (800) 540-5259.
For more information about LiveGirl and the other Women Who Inspire models from the event, please visit www.golivegirl.com.
Photo Credits in order of photo appearance:
Mia Lin, Grace Dower, Sarah Edwards, Caryn Antonini; contributed photo
Zuni Giddings and mom Pilin Anice; contributed photo
Sheri West and Hadley Pollet; photo credit: Norm Jensen /Jensen Design
Marysue Rucci and daughter Thea; photo credit: Merrily Mellick
Author Sara Bliss and daughter Liv Bliss; contributed photo
Kremena and Lorrina Doust; photo credit: Norm Jensen/Jensen Design
Sheri West and Olivia West; photo credit: LiveGirl Ava Nichols
Escapade modeled by Mia Lin; photo credit: Noah Lin
Hadley Pollet, Sarah Edwards and Merrily Mellick
End of Show Photo by Norm Jensen/Jensen Design