Church Has World-class Fashion Show

March 07, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

It wasn't just a fashion show at the Church of the Brethren's New Windsor Service Center yesterday. It was a socially conscious fashion show.

Consider some of the models' garb: hand-knit sweaters decorated with figures remembered from country childhoods by women who now live in the barrios of Lima, Peru; woven jackets made by Mayan women in Guatemala who have turned their tribe's centuries-old craft into a source of income for their families; dresses made by disabled workers in India; silk scarves produced under a project to give Colombian coca farmers an alternative to growing leaves used to manufacture cocaine.

Members of the audience could sip Cafe Paz, coffee grown and packaged by an organization of six cooperatives in Costa Rica whose joint marketing effort is to improve living conditions for small coffee farmers and to put some money into reforestation of the Central American country.

The second annual International Fashion Show was designed to promote the International Gift Shop at the New Windsor Service Center, said Terri Meushaw, conference center director and marketing expert.

All fashions and jewelry -- and the coffee -- were drawn from the gift shop, which sells handcrafts made by workers in more than 40 developing nations. The items are marketed through gift shops in New Windsor, New York and Elgin, Ill., the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren.

Mrs. Meushaw said artisans receive 47 percent of the price of each item sold.

The $8 ticket price covered the fashion show and desserts that included fruit, Jamaican banana-oatmeal cookies, Brazilian coffee custard and anthill cake.

No, that last isn't what it sounds like. "They call it anthill cake because it has a combination of shredded coconut and shredded semi-sweet chocolate," explained Jeannette Gannon, director of food service.

The 19 models were as diverse as the outfits.

If Samorn Barnes hadn't been running a Thai restaurant in Sydney, Australia, in the mid-1980s, she probably wouldn't have been modeling a bright red Peruvian skirt and blouse with hand-embroidered trim in New Windsor Saturday.

One day a tall American French-horn player named Byron Barnes came into the restaurant. "He ate a lot, but he couldn't afford to pay," she recalled. They ended up marrying in Sydney, but Mr. Barnes, a native of Taneytown, missed his home. So four years ago, they left Australia and now own a Thai restaurant, Malee Thai, in Hanover, Pa.

Their daughter, Sumalee, Anglicized to "Lily," 3 1/2 , was happy to model, but drew the line at makeup.

Just a little, the cosmetician suggested. "No," said Lily, "I'm too small."

Jodia Chin, a second-grade teacher at Manchester Elementary School, kept her commitment to model despite still recovering ,, from flu. She said modeling is fun and gives her a chance to support the gift shop.

"The money goes back to the [crafts] people, and that's kind of neat," she said.

Miss Chin grew up near Timonium, but her parents and grandparents spoke Chinese at home, so she learned Chinese first and English second. She began teaching in Carroll County in 1990.

Maizie Bell, a Sykesville resident and teacher at Carrolltowne Elementary, readily accepted when Mrs. Meushaw asked her to model for the show.

"I love people, and I think God is telling me to do this," she said.

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