Madcap 2006 dress by Brett JamesThe Finest Couture Fashion Show

~ A Night of Beauty and Intrigue1236424_490928397670400_989584464_n


October 19, 2013 at Cavo Nightclub


7 pm to 10 am

Tickets: VIP $125 / General $75

On Saturday, October 19, 2013, guests are invited to enjoy a Fantastical Evening featuring a Couture Fashion Show at Pittsburgh’s hottest new night spot – CAVO in the Strip.

Madcap 2006 image 2But, be prepared!

Producers Tara Rieland and Brett James were inspired to bring back the high-drama, high-fashion recipe of their notorious runway shows, previously featured at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Madcap Masquerade fundraisers in 2006-2009.

The event focuses on the truly talented artists and designers from the region. This is the event where designers get to push the envelope, and create a piece dedicated to a theme. This year the Masked Ball is conjuring elegance through wit and whimsy for a fantastical runway show that benefits Gwen’s Girls, who work with young girls to help them prosper through difficult situations.

Here is revealing Q&A with Tara and Brett

Meet the Designers and their Childhood Influences


libby-miami--e1369426098474Lybbie Lewis says of her childhood inspirations: “My grandmothers’ closets. I use to play for hours in their clothes. I remember at age 5 years, dressing and tying belts to keep the clothes on and throwing fashion shows for the family holidays, using my sister and cousin as models.”

Lybbie recently launched the Mallet Hill collection that is her line inspired by her experience as an international female polo player.

“Be Victorious!”Libby-June-1

As for her current inspiration she says, “I have always been boho chic and inspired from the colors in nature and the beauty in luscious fabrics. Right this moment, love!

 As for the Oct 19th event, “It will be a surprise, I never tell, only show!”
nina inspirationNina VanSuch remembers a little girl standing beside her with a handmade dress waiting for the bus on her first day of kindergarten.  When Nina learned the the little girl’s mom made it she implored her mom to make her one too. “My mother was from Spain and knew a lot about hand sewing, She also crocheted, but sewing with a sewing machine was new to her. It was while at my mothers feet, playing with dolls, using the small scraps of fabric that I taught myself how to sew. These items are still played with by my niece at my mother’s home. There was a dress that I made for my Dawn Doll that was inspired by watching the Sonny and Cher show with mommy. We still have it.”


The intrigue of textiles was further cemented when still as a young girl she watched a movie about Coco Chanel. “I loved the fact that Madame Chanel was such a great seamstress and made her own samples. I do feel that working with the fabric teaches you so much. I would never imagine the things that I learn otherwise. “
As for her current inspiration she says, “ I worked retail for many years and I have been the person in the dressing room with my clients and heard them crying about their bodies. This knowledge makes me a different type of designer because I am thinking in terms of wearable, sell-able clothing that can fit different body types.”


Her Masked Ball inspiration derives from a photograph by Richard Avedon, vivid fabric from Loom, and the current Punk Exhibit at the Met.
stylefile-openerJohn Gurman regards his parents as encouraging, but subconsciously their conservative tendencies may be reflected in his own love of classical dress lines and extraordinary elegance.  “I tend to be a Republican when I am designing things, a little conservative. Growing up I had a conservative background, subconsciously that might still be there.” However, he is quick to state that he designs for the art of it because he doesn’t have an “end user”. By day, John is an interior designer at Loom Exquisite Textiles. John Gurman


For his Masked Ball creation, John is inspired by the otherworldly characteristics of his model Souxie Radcliff. “She looks unfamiliar, not from Pittsburgh, more on the European end in stature, even outer space, she is the unreachable body size. Even when she is not speaking her long limb movement is very studied, so graceful that you can’t help but to watch.”

As Interior Design graduate from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh he is fascinated by the art of textiles and their versatility. “I am working with the fabric itself, whether its charmeuse or a silk, I look at the density of the fiber, experiment with it to its limit. Dying and stripping becomes an experiment to see what it can do.” For this piece he is building a foundation with a pattern, draping the black and nude textures to cascade into a gown.

zoeZoe Collins has an early memory of winning a tug of war with her sister over a pair of  purple velvet bell-bottoms with silver snaps that were their most coveted pair. They were the “it” pair of pants in 1975. The glory to be  SEEN was a profound experience. She discovered the power of garments, that a  piece of clothing can change someone’s outlook on life and how people perceive you. However, her values to be “seen” have changed over the years, but the relationship of fashion with people has always inspired her. “I am nothing like I was when I was a baby, all I really care about is helping people and a garment can do that.”


Zoe is one of the original Madcap Masquerade designers who was also “part of the 5060858441_c719f83e9cvibrant ’90s New York art scene.


She says of her current inspiration: “Having spent several decades exploring specialty design in dressmaking, I now devote much of my studio time to light industrial engineering and prototyping. I am honored to have been invited to contribute once again to the Gwen’s Girl’s Foundation.  For 2013, I have produced a piece which not only hearkens back to my initial fascination with the intensity of image, but also represents the shifting forces of feminine power as we progress through life.”
Keith BloomKeith Bloom says that as a child he was head strong, extremely creative, and had a clear personal style. “I was always drawing people. But it wasn’t until I saw my first Gianni Versace fashion show that made me realize I wanted to be a fashion designer.” During his high school years he remembers watching the television show “Style with Elsa Klensch” on CNN. “There he was, Versace with the most beautiful models slithering down the runway in his clothes screaming sex without saying a word!”bloom


Keith’s  muse remains the late superstar Aaliyah. “ If it wasn’t for the death of the beautiful and highly talented singer Aaliyah, I would have never pursued my dreams of becoming a fashion designer. I always say, “My garments are like Aaliyah’s voice to her music… Elaborately simple, always complimenting, and never overpowering.”


For the Masked Ball he is infusing his own brand of sexy sophisticate with the edgy theme of the event that mixes fantasy with real life.  ”I like to create looks that accentuate the body of a woman, rather than let the clothes wear her.”
add_4_37460 Erica Ersik  says of her early inspirations, “ I have always been creative and my grandmother taught me to sew when I was little… I would make Barbie clothes. I didn’t know I wanted to be a designer though until later in life so I went back to school and it was the best choice I ever made!”  Erica is a senior at the Art Institute studying Fashion Design.


Erica says that her design aesthetic is mostly sleek and tailored with influences from art and architecture.  Her Masked Ball masterpiece will be inspired by “the sky at night when flying above the clouds.  I love how dark and beautiful the city looks and the clouds are ominous.”
crop_146486_avatar_1380196600  Jena-Anne Sabom’s earliest memory of her creative thoughts began drawing on the floor with her Grandpa Sabom, who was an Outsider artist. “.  I can never remember a time when I wasn’t creating…..something.  As far as fashion, Grandma Sabom was an elegant woman and I loved playing with her hair-brushes and mirrors and smelling her perfumes and creams.  My mom was always so stylish also and I remember being intoxicated by her when she dressed up for a date with my dad.  Watching her dress in her leather pants and funky 70′s and 80′s blouses and again, remember her lingering perfume once she left and the baby-sitter was in charge.”img009 (1)


Jena-Anne’s favorite pieces from her mother’s wardrobe are the ones she made when she was putting her self through business school.“ I began ‘designing’ in middle school and high school in order to better express myself through my clothing choices.  Over the years, I have created many of my garments, much like my mom, as a way to save money as well as a means of self-expression.” Jena-Anne designed her first full collection in 2005 and was a part of the original Madcap Fashion Shows in 2006.


For the Masked Ball, Jena-Anne has a special relationship with the Cavo, the event’s venue. She painted the mural above the Cavo dance floor. “Because I knew Cavo was the venue for this fabulous charitable event, I channeled the energy of the venue and work I have done there.  The mural I painted above the dance floor at Cavo is an image of a woman wrapped in a swatch of white cloth or ribbon, so I raided my fabric archives and found pieces that I could create my vision with.” Among her inspirations for this event is Sarah Burton’s work for  Alexander McQueen. She emphasizes that she is not only a designer but also a visual and fine artist. “I am thrilled by designers whose works transcend fashion, and excite my mind, eyes and heart with their art.”
03-16-50_power-hosts-fund-raiser_original Tori Mistick says of her childhood beginnings that she rejected her Barbie’s poorly constructed outfits to create her own. “I use to make my Barbie’s band aide outfits. I had all the cool designer band aides with Mickey Mouse, or Ariel, the mermaid. So I would get all these band aides and get them naked and make them like Herve Lerger dresses. Holidays I would make dresses out of wrapping paper, like when I was 5, 6, 7 years old.I would cut their hair off to be kind of like a pixie like I have now. It’s funny thing to think about it now, I kind of turned into my Barbie dolls.” tori dress


Tori new almost at that moment that she wanted to be a catalyst behind fashion and attended CAPA High School for Visual Arts. There she organized a mentor program for aspiring designers to mentor with local designers. She was paired with Iman B who taught her clean lines that were never too tight or too loose. For the Spiked Fashion show she made a hundred felt florets to attach to her creation that she later wore to the Mattress Factory’s Urban Garden party.


Inspiring her for the Masked Ball she is thinking punk rock at the Met Gala.  ”Sarah Jess Parker wore won of my favorite dresses of Alexander McQueen’s. I love that plaid and I found fabric on a shirt that I love, it’s different colors of green, water color plaid on a large scale. Emerald green is the Pantone color of the year so it will be timely. “
alex beitler image2Alex Beitler remembers when he was ten years old learning how to use a sewing machine from his mother who was working as a home economics teacher at Gateway. “I learned how to make doll clothes for my younger sister. We couldn’t afford American Doll clothing so I figured out how to make them.” He also says that he wanted to learn how to make his own clothes because his he didn’t like the ones his mother made. “I read comic books growing up and thought it would be crazy to clothes like these characters.”Alex attended Mercyhurst University and then FIDM in Los Angeles where Nikki Hilton was in the class ahead of him. “Being a straight guy in fashion was a big jump for me. I had to see women’s clothes from a different type of perspective.”Alex Beitler


For the Masked Ball he is channeling a Victorian Era structure with the spirit of Amelia Earhart. Alex is constantly inspired by music and art. As a deejay and graffiti artist he spins as DJ Three, but also tutors mathematics to junior high kids. What motivates him is more than beauty and harmony, but triumph over life’s obstacles as well. He has participated in the last two charity fashion events benefiting Gwen’s Girls.

Elaine HealycvsElaine Healy recently won Most Creative Collection and Best Over All Collections at her June 2013 graduation show from the Art Institute or Pittsburgh’s fashion design program. She is also on the circuit of Raw Artists.



3604_viewRichard Bryan knows his high-fashion and garment structure from decades of working as a stylist and as Saks’ visual merchandising section. He has been a staple in fashion shows with his impeccable taste and eye for what works. He worked as a stylist for the first Fashion Story event in 2003 and the Madcap Masquerade Balls.



Holly ThomasHolly Thomas is a highly talented mysterious young designer who has participated in local fashion shows and worked with bridal designers.

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