A Runway With a Cause

Möda Provocateur, Sunday, March 3

For the past decade, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation has organized its own fashion show to raise awareness and money for those living with HIV/AIDS in Southern Arizona.

But for the past 10 years, Möda Provocateur has been anything but a typical fashion show.

The show features about 250 models wearing outfits and sporting hairstyles from a number of local and not-so-local boutiques and salons, including Zoë Boutique, Ahead of Style, Toni and Guy Salon, Village Salon, Avalon, Mac Cosmetics and Buffalo Exchange. Each salon teams up with several of the boutiques to put together an outfit and hairstyle.

The show is divided into a number of categories, including art nouveau, wedding, eco-friendly and AIDS awareness. The clothes that are modeled typically follow edgy themes. A winner is announced at the end of each category presentation.

"At heart, it's a fashion show, but we often tell people that it's not your grandmother's fashion show," said Ethan Smith Cox, the foundation's director of development. "It's a really fun, loud, over-the-top hairstyle and fashion show."

Between fashion segments, the show will feature performances by dancers from Fourth Avenue's Breakout Studios and Tucson's Artifact Dance Project as well as videos that feature several of SAAF's clients sharing their stories. KOLD Channel 13 meteorologist Chuck George will be the event's master of ceremonies.

The show began in 2003, Cox said, when a larger, traveling show came to Tucson. It featured a similar fashion show setup with provocative clothing and themes, and donated part of its proceeds to the foundation. But the SAAF decided it could organize a fashion show without the help of an outside company, allowing 100 percent of the proceeds to go to the foundation.

Attendance has grown since the SAAF took over, as has the amount the foundation has been able to raise. Last year, the event filled the Tucson Convention Center's Grand Ballroom.

"It's really been growing ever since (2003)," Cox said, noting that the first year yielded about $12,000, while last year's show brought in more than $60,000.

While Möda Provocateur has made its mark over the past decade through its charitable work, SAAF has been serving the region far longer. The foundation is the product of a 1997 merger of the Tucson AIDS Project, the Shanti Foundation and the People with AIDS Coalition for Tucson. The SAAF's foremost mission is to carry on the work of its originating organizations by providing services to people in Southern Arizona living with HIV and AIDS, Cox said.

The foundation's services include peer counseling, complimentary therapies and providing housing to its clients, most of whom live at or below the poverty level, Cox said. Prevention is also a large part of the foundation's efforts. It provides HIV testing, and seven other programs for those in prevention "target groups." Cox said SAAF currently serves about 1,200 people dealing with HIV and AIDS in Southern Arizona, and that the number increases every year.

Möda Provocateur is the kind of event that you really have to see in person to get its appeal, Cox said.

"It's one of those ones where it's almost like you've got to come out and see it to really understand," he said. "It's just an incredible evening of entertainment."

Cox said that while the foundation deals with a serious topic, Möda Provocateur gives the community a chance to have a good time while raising money for a good cause.

"It's also a really uplifting evening," Cox said. "We're not really telling you necessarily all of the sad stories; we're really telling you a lot of the success stories."

Much of the evening, he added, consists of stories from clients whose lives have been changed or saved thanks to SAAF's work.

"While being very entertaining and a whole lot of fun," Cox said, "it's also really a great reminder, and I think I always walk out of the event feeling empowered to go out and keep fighting that good fight."

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