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Fighting diabetes with fashion
Rock the Runway 2014 springs forward to Savannah Station
MICHELE MOBLEY - Models from St. Vincent's Academy pose for a first day-of-spring fashion preview. - photo by Michele Mobley

The coldest winter in recent memory may have been wickedly miserable, but take heart that it's inspired something gorgeous and grand.

As the air warms and the flowers unfurl, the glorious coming of spring is the theme of Rock the Runway, the annual fashion event and gala presented by the American Diabetes Association this Saturday, March 29.

For creative director Kevin Cartee, the “Flower Bomb” motif couldn’t have been more germane.

“I’m sick of this Polar Vortex stuff. I live in Savannah for a reason!” declares Cartee. “As we were starting to plan, I thought, ‘We need an explosion of spring!’”

Featuring flowing frocks and festive accouterments from local boutiques Bluebelle, JPaige, Kathi Rich, Palm Avenue and Veronica’s Closet, the production includes contributions from Savannah-based fashion innovators Faith Thornburg and Maggie Harney. The event also offers a chance to view the breathtaking original designs from this year’s sold-out Junk 2 Funk Fashion Show at Savannah Arts Academy, at which Cartee served as a judge.

A fashion expert and corporate style consultant with clients all over the Lowcountry, Cartee provides etiquette advice to students and professionals—and can whip up a photography shoot on a moment’s notice. He donates his time to several charities and is responsible for last year’s memorable “glam zombie” fashion show for the ADA. (“Can you say, ‘hashtag, overachiever,’?” he laughs.)

For Rock the Runway 2014, Cartee has once again enlisted B Street Salon for hair and Jennifer Lovett for special effects make-up, though instead of green zombie flesh tones, models from St. Vincent’s Academy and SAA will be adorned with crisp blue hues and dusty pinks to emulate the moment of awakening from the thaw. The concept includes slick pin curls and snow-dusted eyelashes, as previewed in a first-day-of-spring fashion shoot in Forsyth Park.

“We want them to look like they’ve been chiseled right out of an iceberg,” he describes.

The inimitable stylist extends his vision beyond the runway, transforming Savannah Station into a verdant indoor paradise with boxwoods, redbuds and blooming cherry trees from local petal pushers Hester & Zipperer. Outdoors on the red carpet, guests can groove to Electric Grandma and pose with their favorite fancy vehicle from New River Auto Mall’s luxury fleet.

Guests will be led through the parlor and warmed with beverages and snacks from Jumping Goat Coffee before entering the main space for dinner and the runway show.

Tickets to Rock the Runway are $45 and include an open bar and dinner from Leoci’s, bar food, Corleone’s and Form II Table.

“This is meant to be an immersive, interactive experience,” promises Cartee. “We are escorting you into spring bliss.”

Conceived as part of the ADA’s tremendously successful “Kiss-A-Pig” campaign that raises hundreds of dollars annually, the fashion show has become a staple event for the organization.

“It’s a vehicle to help us reach younger people and the creative community,” says Maria Center, director of ADA’s Southeast Georgia/Coastal South Carolina division. “Last year had such a great turnout, we’ve decided to do it every year.”

The evening is a stylish way to help the ADA fund research and educational programs for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes as well as provide advocacy, but Center reminds that diabetes is definitely not glamorous. Almost ten percent of Georgia’s population suffers from the disease, and if trends in diet and inactivity remain the same, one in three Americans will be diabetic by 2050.

Georgians spent $7.63 million on diabetes-related medical expenses in 2012; it cost Americans $245 billion the same year.

“This is an epidemic, and we’re in a part of the country where we see an extreme amount of cases,” says Center, adding that ADA’s public awareness campaigns help conquer the shocking amounts of undiagnosed diabetes.

“You can walk around for ten years with this disease and not realize it until you’re experiencing complications.”

Fortunately, Kiss-A-Pig and Rock the Runway are raising the consciousness about it more than ever, and larger cities like Atlanta and Charlotte have expressed interest in the fashion fundraising effort as a way to bring the ADA’s mission to bigger audiences.

Cartee and Center are already planning next year’s show and hope to take it international with more designers and a global art competition. Also in the works is a partnership with Dutch designer and diabetes patient Monica Vesci, who recently launched Camino Clutch, a line of purses with special pockets to hold lancets and insulin test strips.

“This is going to the next level, no doubt about it,” says Center.

Models from St. Vincent's Academy preview spring fashions from Bleubelle, Veronica's Closet and Maggie Harney. Hair: B Street Salon. Make-up: Jennifer Lovett.

American Diabetes Association presents Rock the Runway

When: Saturday, March 29, 5:30 pre-party, 7:30 fashion show

Where: Savannah Station, 601 Cohen St.

Cost: $45/$25 students w/ID

Info: (912) 224-8352 or

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