An hour before the start of the "Every Body's Different" Spring Fashion Show, runway coach Barbara Fegely was giving last-minute suggestions to the many first-time models.
"Just walk natural, this is not high fashion; it's about the clothes," said Fegely, a former Manhattan sportswear model who helped organize the unique eco-fashion event.
The fashion show, along with a musical performance set for Saturday, is expected to raise more than $5,000 for nonprofit groups focused on preventing bullying and suicide.
It also kicked off more than six weeks of upcoming activities to spotlight local solutions to halt bullying. Salt Lake City Council member Charlie Luke spearheaded the city initiative, which can be found on its website, Flipthescriptnow.org.
Held inside The Salt Haus, 735 S. 400 West, the Thursday show was the brainchild of Amy Maple, director of the nonprofit Excuse Me While I Change The World, who met Luke during a showing of the documentary "Bully."
"Bullying comes from both sides; usually the bully has been bullied," said Maple, whose two children experienced bullying. "I thought changing schools would be better, but I decided to empower them."
More than a dozen women from age 10 to 73 hit the catwalk wearing local designers from the Salt Lake Fashion Institute, including Brittney Lauritzen, who designed a native-print dress for the event.
"We all can help out in the [anti-bullying initiative] in a small way," Lauritzen said.
Behind the black curtain, Amanda VanDongen, of Paul Mitchell the School, applied makeup to Ghiselle Larusso, who said she was enjoying the runway even though she was there to help out a friend who had to cancel at the last minute.
Sonia Olanova started her nonprofit to provide work clothing and career training for low-income women.
"Fashion can be about so many things," said Olanova, who will soon be making a trip to Nicaragua to help support women. "It's a way to help single moms and refugees [here in Salt Lake City]. We want to showcase women with all shapes and sizes."
With colorful murals on the walls as a backdrop, photographer Daniel Harnish's camera popped and flashed as students prowled by in the recycled T-shirts and skirts donated by Olanova.com.
While the show was intended to raise funds, learning to work a catwalk may benefit the first-time models as well, Fegely said. "It's about being comfortable with yourself," she said.
Fashion-show creator Maple added, "Children empowered with a strong sense of self-worth are better able to stop not only themselves from being bullied, but are more likely to help others."
All funds raised will benefit I Love Bullies, I Do Not Love Bullying; Flip The Script; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; The Legacy Initiative; and the RAD Youth Council.
Concert benefits homelessness, suicide prevention
What • The Will Sing For Food concert will feature Utah musicians dedicated to improving and unifying the community. It features The Legacy Initiative, which creates community gardens, sustainable living resources and provides outreach to homeless and underfed Utahns.
Where • The Depot, 13 N. 400 West in Salt Lake City
When • Saturday, from 5:30 p.m. to midnight
Cost • $10
Info • Excusemewhileichangetheworld.org