Festive fashions decked the hall of DeSana Center Dec. 9 as designer Cheryl Zemke presented her seventh annual holiday fashion fundraiser, this year benefiting the Downriver Council for the Arts.
The event, held at the James R. DeSana Center for Arts and Culture, 81 Chestnut, Wyandotte, featured music, raffles, finger food and creative clothes based on a 12 Days of Christmas theme.
Bagpiper Tyge Cawthon greeted guests on the steps of the center, with Christmas carolers Robert Dillon, Ruth Ilmer, Jennifer Perry, Pat Rodgers, Glynette Wolk and Alex Zull from the Thistle Rose Academy of Arts of Farmington Hills singing on the stairs.
Santa posed for photos with guests and accepted Toys for Tots donations as a prelude to the 12 Days of Christmas themed fashion show featuring Zemke’s Creative Clothing Collection, narrated by Wayne State theatre graduate Danielle Wright.
DCA Director Erin Suess thanked Zemke and her team for decorating the center in addition to creating the fashion show.
“We could never exist without artists like her supporting us and helping out,” Suess said. “From the bottom of our hearts our board and DCA family thank you very much for doing this for us.”
Suess said the DCA has many events planned for next year, which marks the organizations 40th year. She also encouraged guests to visit the DCA gallery and gift shop, which features artwork and handmade gifts. Zemke’s designs and creations were also available for sale during the fashion show’s intermission and after the show.
Wright narrated the fashion show featuring award-winning Riverview designer Zemke’s handmade garments and accessories.
“The show is structured like the 12 Days of Christmas, but it’s my 12 Days of Christmas, so I think that it is going to be really fun,” Zemke said. “We’e got a lot of things in store for you.”
Wright said Zemke’s vision was dedicated to 12 days of fashion.
“Some of the items have been created throughout the year, some are favorites from past shows and are well-loved, and there are even a few sustainable creations, created with recycled items,” Wright said.
Wright said Zemke would debut new creations on the runway as well, and all items shown today would be available for purchase.
“We hope that you enjoy a little holiday magic,” Wright said.
The show began with 12 Draping Drapelets, which were touted as being flattering to women of any size, shape and height, combining elegance with easy-to-wear. C3 offers the ponchos and capelets in chiffon and other light-weight fabric.
“This fashion style makes for a great statement piece not only during this season, but throughout the entire year,” Wright said.
Customers may select the fabric and length which best suits their needs, and they complement leggings, jeans, a basic dress or a pencil skirt.
Eleven Leaping Leggings followed, followed by 10 sassy scarves, which are a hallmark of Zemke’s style, whether hand-painted silk or unique yarn creations. Each scarf is one-of-a-kind, designed to bring individual style to wardrobe pieces.
Nine Pretty Purses, all part of the collection, were next, followed by eight Frolicking Fashions ranging from maxi skirts, everyday dresses and cocktail attire.
Zemke ended the first half of the show on a whimsical note, featuring seven ugly Christmas sweaters, re-purposed thrift shop finds with over-the-top holiday trim and colorful whimsy to close the segment on a humorous note.
The second act included six Swinging Skirts, five Golden Rings — which were highlighted by male model Marko Carillo, four Jolly Jingles, three fantastically feathered Turtle Doves, two Menacing Misers and a gorgeous golden gown, named the Partridge in a Pear Tree.
Zemke said she has done each of her annual holiday fashion shows for non-profit organizations.
“A lot of people like that it is different from what is store-bought,” Zemke said. “A customized piece for their individual style.”
She said she tested her artistic skills with her hand-painted silk scarves, which she said takes patience.
“You have to do it in stages,” Zemke said. “You have to do a little bit and let it dry, and then go do something else and come back to it.”
Zemke said her son Austin has been the beneficiary of her initial designs for men, including “lots of Halloween costumes” when he was younger.
She also created a unique hoodie for him, using a technique called “resist,” in which you put your media on the fabric and then you pull off the ink, so that you are essentially working in reverse. Austin said he wore it recently to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Zemke also recently worked with the adults at Wyandotte’s Paragon Support Services, where she helped adults with special needs present a fashion show.
She said the annual Christmas show is purely her own, and while she does show her creations in other shows, the annual December fundraiser is her work exclusively, the proceeds from which help a local cause.
Zemke thanked local merchants for their generosity and donations for the gift raffle baskets, exceeding $3,000 in donations of goods and services, which included original art work and jewelry.
“Everyone has been so generous this year,” she said. “It is spectacular, the giving right now.”
Zemke said her niche is custom-fitting her clients.
“Because I specialize in construction, it doesn’t matter if somebody is very little or a full-figured person, I specialize in custom-fitting, so that it fits to you,” she said. “My whole concept is that we live in a cookie-cutter world as far as fashion goes, but my clients each are special, unique and different, and I like to customize an art piece or something that signifies their style.”
Zemke, who is based in Riverview, can be contacted at 734-740-1292 or at [email protected] Her website is cherylzemke.com.
Zemke said she loves it when the audience claps spontaneously, or a model is so pleased with what she is wearing that there is an additional spring in her step and smile on her face.
“It just makes me feel that all of this is worth it,” she said of the show. “I spend months in preparation, of not only making the items but setting up the hall and getting the donations, the models, the fittings and the rehearsals. So when I see the audience responding to them, I get really excited.”
Zemke recently launched DEDICATED Magazine, with Detroit area content covering fashion, art, culture and community. It is available in hard copy or digital format, with a link on Facebook to its website, magcloud.com.