Q&A: Melanie Drouhard, Designer at the Project Runaway Fashion Show and Fund-Raiser

Project Runaway is a fashion show and sale to benefit Child & Family Tennessee's runaway shelter, Saturday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Foundry. Melanie Drouhard is one of the designers who will repurpose two KARM Thrift Store items for the event, and local boutiques will also present on the runway.

How long have you been designing?

I've been studying and practicing graphic design since I started school in late 2000. I learned how to sew in middle school at a 4-H summer workshop and continued all throughout high school.

Who's your biggest influence?

I find unconventional artists to be very inspiring, such as the Dada movement and their use of found objects in collage. To the other extreme, I like very clean and minimal, well-proportioned "Swiss style" design. I am not solely influenced by one fashion designer. I secretly hope to someday emulate the ever-classic and sophisticated styles of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, but with a twist, adding bright colored leather accents, for example.

Do you have any modeling background?

No, unless you count modeling the garments that I constructed in 4-H.

Do you feel a connection with runaways?

I feel strongly about helping all children in need. I think a lot of runaways are trying to escape bad home situations and I feel very fortunate that I was born into a loving environment. Anything that levels the playing field and gives them the same opportunities as someone born into a nurturing family is very important to me.

How'd you get involved with this project?

I saw a flier for the show at one of the galleries downtown at First Friday. Although it's been years since I've sewn much more than pillows and curtains for my house, I have been looking for a creative outlet that gets me off the computer and in turn helps others. This project is perfect for that.

Do you typically shop for used clothing?

I would say 75 percent of my wardrobe is either consignment or thrift-store finds. I love treasure hunts and the idea of repurposing ugly and out-of-fashion clothing into something new and one-of-a-kind.

Do you have tips for other people shopping for clothes at local thrift stores?

My biggest tip for thrift shoppers is to be patient. Shop when you are not feeling rushed, and carefully look through every rack, including larger sizes. Cinch a "too large" shirt with a belt. Be very open-minded—you never know what you will find. My favorite spot is AmVets on Magnolia; I have found some real gems there.

What should audience members particularly watch for at this show?

That all the outfits have completely been reinvented from something old. Sometimes I think limitations can yield some really fantastic results. I'm excited to get new ideas for my own wardrobe and possible future designs.

What do you see as the biggest local fashion trend for spring?

Pantone announced emerald as their color of the year, so I think we'll be seeing a lot of green this season. I think mixing patterns will continue to be trendy, as there are infinite possibilities and it still looks very fresh. Mixing separates is definitely more interesting than wearing a matched two-piece ready-made garment off the rack. And you don't have to worry about running into someone on the street wearing the same thing.

For more information or to purchase advance tickets, visit projectrunawayknox.com