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Celebrating spirit

Hollis-Brookline students celebrate fashion, spirit of giving

Union Leader Correspondent

May 12. 2014 7:53PM
Hollis-Brookline High School students in teacher Candice Hancock's Fashion & Retail Merchandising class are hosting a clothing drive and fashion show to benefit Catie's Closet, a local organization that provides stylish clothing to low-income schoolchildren. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

HOLLIS — Students from a Hollis Brookline High School class are pooling their talents to share their passion for fashion with some of their less fortunate peers.

Monday morning marked the launch of a community-wide clothing drive to benefit Catie’s Closet, a Dracut, Mass.-based charity providing new and gently used clothing for school children whose families are struggling to make ends meet.

Fifteen students in teacher Candice Hancock’s Fashion & Retail Merchandising class are overseeing the project, which includes next week’s calendar-themed fashion show.

Hancock said the class itself is a new venture for the high school community, where family and consumer science courses in general have dwindled in popularity over the years.

“Not many kids are interested in sewing anymore,” said Hancock, who noted that her previous attempts to start a sewing club at the high school were unsuccessful.

With this year’s crop of students demonstrating a strong interest in fashion design, retail merchandising and other creative arts, Hancock suggested planning a fashion show, admitting her expectations were initially low.

“But everyone was so excited with the prospect,” she noted. “Designing outfits and making social connections is something these kids are great at.”

After another staff member passed along a Catie’s Closet brochure, plans soon began falling in place for the clothing collection and fashion show.

Set for May 21, the fashion show will take place in the school auditorium at 7 p.m. Donations of clothing or charitable cash donations will be accepted in lieu of admission.

The hour-long fashion show will feature student-designed outfits themed for each month of the year, followed by a display of fashions Saks Fifth Avenue’s Merrimack outlet store donated from its 2014 collection.

Staff members, students and community members will serve as models.

Student designers who participated in the Vans Custom Culture program, where teens model their own custom-designed sneakers, will also be featured in the show.

Michaela Pillion, a sophomore, has been spreading word of the event through Facebook and other social media outlets, while fellow sophomore Madison Webb created the night’s program handout.

Senior Julie Zanella has been putting her sewing skills to good use, hand-stitching many alterations on the models’ outfits, while fellow senior Becca Gill will coordinate the evening’s modeling sessions.

Senior Hannah Wilson, who designed the outfits for “January,” said she convinced her younger sister to strut the catwalk for charity: her sister will sport a sparkly New Year’s Eve dress.

Wilson said she was touched hearing about the struggles faced by low-income students and knew she wanted to help somehow.

“Coming from Hollis, we’re living in a more privileged area,” said Wilson, who will study fashion merchandising at the University of Delaware this fall. “Most of us have plenty of clothes we’re not using anymore. I know I do.”

Senior Laura Dapolito is in charge of the show’s audio-visual effects, including the slides and film shorts that will be flashed on the scene as the models stroll down the runway.

Dapolito agreed that learning about Catie’s Closet was an eye-opening experience,

“It’s important to fit in,” she said. “Especially when you’re going to school. You need to have shoes without holes in them. It’s definitely encouraged me to clean out my own closet.”

Clothing donation bins have been set up all over the school. The plan is to collect items during school hours through May 23.

New or gently-used clothing items, including jeans, pants, shorts, Capri pants, short and long-sleeved T-shirts, hoodies and sweatpants are among the suggested items, in juniors/ladies sizes 0-17 and XS-XXL, and men’s/teen boy’s sizes 28 to 38 and S to XXL.

Packages of new socks and underwear are also needed, the students said.

Catie’s Closet currently has in-school “stores” at various sites around the region, including Lowell High School in Lowell, Mass., Alvirne High School in Hudson and Fairgrounds Elementary School in Nashua.

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