Project Funway Fashion Show Supports Education Through Fundraiser

Thirteen years ago, Project Funway made its debut.

Since 2016, they have raised over $4 million in support of the Education Foundation of Eagle County (EFEC). Before a fashion show, it was a way to bring together friends and show off everyone’s creations.

In the first year, it quickly grew large enough that a fundraiser was launched. 

READ: Project Funway Fashion Show Raises Money for Education

“I was a trustee at the Education Foundation of Eagle County, and knowing that the local public schools needed a big “bake sale,” we chose EFEC as the beneficiary and chose to maintain that relationship until it eventually came under EFEC’s umbrella,” Pavan Krueger, EFEC trustee and founder, said. “It is now EFEC’s largest fundraiser and has become one of the most loved events in the valley.” 

Rather than a traditional fashion show, Project Funway’s designs are created from “anything but fabric.” They decided to stick with this when it dominated the categories — ready to wear and haute couture. 

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“It is the best part seeing the inventive ways that designers work with unconventional materials,” Krueger said. “Often we can’t even tell what the original material was because it is so transformed.”  

With this in mind, it was no surprise that this season’s contestants were just as innovative as the last.

The show opened with a performance from Battle Mountain High School’s drum line — setting the scene of how empowering Project Funway truly is.

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The Youth Category

The Youth Category, 12 and under, kicked off the show with a rainbow colored dress made out of trash bags, pom poms, pipe cleaners and colored papers. Titled “Spring Crafting Fairy,” each material was intricately pieced together by six-year-old Maty DeVito. 

Inspired by the movie “UP” seven-year-old Azalea Cadavid crafted her “Color Inflates Imagination,” dress by utilizing honeycomb paper, balloons and duct tape. Each balloon not only covered the gown from top to bottom but was intertwined in the models’ shoes. 

Other materials include shower curtains, dog and cat food bags, mesh screens, rubber ducks, pencils, Origami paper, coffee beans and more. Between the vibrant colors, intricate patterns and texturized prints — it’s easy to forget what each garment is made out of thus showcasing the talents of the young individuals.

It’s also one of the many things that makes Project Funway so special.  

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Before the show, the designer selection process is done through a committee where they look at materials, sketches, design concepts and overall quality. When the show was in the early stages, they used to accept all designer entries — now, they have to be mindful of each selection. According to Krueger, narrowing down the selection is a difficult process. 

“We have some schools who have created curriculum around the design process students study design theory, build garments and show them in in-school fashion shows,” Krueger said. “We’ve seen some of our best designs come out of the school programs.” 

Through the selective process, it comes as no surprise that the teen category, ages 13-18, is just as elaborate as the youth. 

Teen Category

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One look was made out of keyboards and ethernet cables from the Eagle County Schools’ IT department. The cords cascaded down into a mini skirt and wrapped around a tube top. The hat was made from half of a fan and had wires dripping down giving a waterfall effect. 

Another look called “Princess of the Sea” was made out of Tyvek, surgical masks, shells and pearl beads. From the puffy shaped skirt to the corseted top, miniature cape and crown — it was no surprise that 16-year-old Ava Hersey took second place. 

Sixteen year old Regina Frank dazzled the audience with her “Ode to Joan of Arc” gown that had the face of Joan of Arc made out of soda can tabs, crown caps and recycled metal. The audience was awed by the intricacy of the dress accompanied by a sword used as an accessoryit was easily one of the most elaborate looks of the night. 

Dobson Hockey Arena has not been home to Project Funway since the beginning. They made the switch as the show gained popularity and knew that Dobson was the only venue in the valley that could accommodate 1,000-plus people. This also let EFEC offer reduced-cost seats for teachers and community members who otherwise might not be able to come. 

“It takes quite an effort to transform it from an ice arena to a runway show and fancy gala setting, but it’s worth it,” Krueger said.

The 1,000-plus people in attendance came to not only show their support for their county but also watch their friends and loved compete on the runway. 

The Adult Category

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The final category for the night was the adults. Designer Kim Gerardi made a dress out of bath mats, shower liners, tinsel garland, carpet pad and hand crafted ornaments. Her Clearly, It’s Fashion,” mini dress felt like it could be worn while strolling along the streets of Paris. Between the black and silver sparkles of the dress and the black headpiece and shrug, Gerardi truly showed that clearly, it is in fact fashion.

Sara Manwiller created a jaw dropping gown made out of marbles, glass beads, foam clay, acrylic paint and plastic shower curtain. Her “Eyes On You,” was a tasteful 70s’ twist that left the crowd wondering how she made it. The open back and haltered top made this look even more fun. The way the skirt swayed as Miller modeled her own gown drew the eye to each marble she handpainted. Overall, it demonstrated Miller’s talents beautifully.

Colorado has lost $5 billion in school funding since 2009 — it’s why EFEC continues to be the number one teacher appreciation organization. Through fun fundraising events like Project Funway, it’s easy to see how much the community values its teachers, students and workers. 

Watching each designer walk down the runway makes it all that much more special. Seeing the creativity that goes into each look and the excitement on each model’s face makes this a one of a kind experience — you’ll leave feeling like you’re a part of Vail Valley. 

2024 Winners

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Best in Show: I See You by Lainey Schriner & Ky Hower  — Materials: Disposable contact cases, tinfoil toppers

Adult Category: 

First Place: Lady of the Dead by Viviana Marquez — Materials: Wood veneer, dried beans, corn, pumpkin and sunflower seeds  

Second Place: Tinseltown by Charis Patterson — Materials: Christmas tinsel, tinsel garland

Third Place: Metal to the Bone by Carly Wick & Katie Shepard — Materials: Upcycled medical and surgical items: surgical drapes, medicine vial caps, coban, blade & suture peel packs

Teen Category:

First Place: Butterfly Journey by Hanna Ponce — Materials: Coffee and soda lids

Second Place: Ode to Joan of Arch by Regina Frank — Materials: Soda can tabs, crown caps and recycled materials

Second Place: Princess of the Sea by Ava Hersey — Materials: Tyvek, surgical masks, shells, pearl beads

Third Place: Oceanic Opulence by Valentina Campos — Materials: Oyster shells, mussel shells, faux pearls, metal washers

Youth Category:

First Place: Nature’s Beauty by Sawyer Lines — Materials: Wooden discs, willow, yarn, moss, bungee cord

Second Place: Shower of Art by Halo Rose Jaramillo — Materials: Shower curtains, slime, crayons, pencils

Third Place: Flower Power by Lakelynn Wahouske — Materials: Origami paper, fishing line, duct tape, tin foil

All photos by Lily Fox

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