Fashion With Compassion

Activism and philanthropy may not be among the first things that come to mind when you think of a beauty salon—but they're certainly connected, at least here in Tucson.

In fact, a lot of salons here promote activism and philanthropy, particularly when it comes to HIV/AIDS awareness. We know of at least six such salons—that's how many are participating in this year's Möda Provcater runway show, an annual charity event focused on style and entertainment which benefits the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.

Möda provcater roughly translates as "fashion agitator," which indicates that this isn't your run-of-the-mill runway show. Kelly Wiehe, SAAF's event coordinator, describes it as "fashion meets Carnaval." Sure, models will strut their stuff on the catwalk as in a traditional fashion show—but this show also includes dance (by Tucson's Breakout Studios), amazing visual components (from video to fancy lights to visual art) and models that perform—not just sashay.

"It's over the top; there's nothing soft and sweet about it," says Wiehe. "The models get to show their personalities. ... It's a bunch of crazy-creative people who are associated with this."

Unlike a traditional fashion show, this event is more about salons than designers. The participating salons—including Avalon for Hair, Skin and Nails (whose owner, Kevin Casey, created the event in 2004)—have worked with local boutiques to plan segments showcasing each salon's unique style through clothing, makeup and hair. But the event also gives budding local designers a chance to win recognition (and some cash) by competing against each other for the top title in Project Runway Moda, Tucson's own take on Project Runway.

The theme for this year's show is "My Story, My Style." Each participating salon has its own tale behind why it became involved with SAAF, from personal relationships with AIDS victims to plain-old philanthropy. Those stories will be acted out on the runway.

And SAAF will tell its own story with the debut of a special video about the organization, including nonscripted interviews with clients, caseworkers, collaborating medical providers and others who help make SAAF's services possible. And as anyone who's heard of SAAF knows, those services are crucial: The group helps meet basic needs for thousands of Southern Arizonans affected by HIV/AIDS, and provides outreach to educate the public about the devastating disease, who it affects and how we can fight it.

Says Wiehe in an e-mail: "Today, the LGBTQ community and their straight allies continue to be a major factor in the fight against the stigma associated with—and ignorance surrounding—HIV/AIDS, a public-health concern that touches the entire Tucson community. ... The money and awareness raised at this event go a long way toward helping SAAF provide critical programs and services in this fight."

Since Möda Provcater began, the event has raised more than $250,000—which has gone straight to SAAF.

Besides featuring local celebrities like Chuck George of KOLD Channel 13 (who'll host the event) and Tucson drag star Lucinda Holliday, Möda Provcater will offer a delicious dinner and exclusive seating to VIPs and others who make a big financial contribution to the cause. And every year, the event includes the presentation of the Cele Peterson Möda Provcater award, bestowed upon an especially philanthropic local individual and/or business in the local style or fashion scene. This year, the award goes to George Fangmann from Franklin's Men Store, who's been giving to charities throughout Tucson for almost 40 years.

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