STYLEAID has been the charity fashion event in Perth for the past 20 years. (ABC News: Briana Shepherd)
The WA AIDS Council’s STYLEAID has been Perth’s charity fashion event for the past two decades, but as HIV awareness falls off the agenda and WA’s economic downturn hits donations, organisers have decided this year will be its last.
The fashion-focused ball is best known for its runway show – and has launched the careers of countless models, designers and other creatives.
WA-born internationally acclaimed models like Gemma Ward, Nicole Trunfio and Tom Bull all had their first “walk” on the STYLEAID stage.
Event manager Mark Reid and creative director Aly May have been there since the very beginning.
“That we’ve actually managed to produce this is incredible when you consider it’s done on a volunteer basis, everybody involved is there because they want to be there, that’s amazing,” Ms May said.
Depending on the year, the event can have up to 400 volunteers – including models, dressers, hair and make-up artists and production crew.
Thanks to Ms May’s creativity, Mr Reid said it quickly became known as a platform for local models and designers to get exposure, but also to be involved in something world class.
And while the event started out showcasing Australian and New Zealand designers, after two years Ms May wanted to shift the focus.
“We’ve been so fortunate that Aly had the vision to say, let’s focus on Western Australia,” Mr Reid said.
“We’ve got some amazing designers and that’s who we need to showcase because we’re a West Australian event, supporting a West Australian charity.
“The day after each STYLEAID Aly and I would sit down and she would say ‘I’ve got the theme for next year’ and every time she’s been so on trend 12 months before the event – and it’s always been about pushing boundaries.”
HIV falls off the agenda
But with HIV no longer a death sentence – and WA’s economic struggles not expected to improve anytime soon, Mr Reid said they had decided this year would be the last, before they were forced to shut up shop.
“It’s been 20 incredible years but I think the landscape in Perth has changed,” he said.
“People have had enough of black tie balls and I think to stay relevant you’ve got to recreate yourself, and you’ve got to do something completely new and different.
“And we want to go out on a high.”
Both organisers said people in WA now only chose maybe one or two events a year – and with so many other worthy causes, it was understandable people were donating elsewhere.
“So many worthy causes like breast cancer, depression and suicide, and Telethon,” Ms May said.
“And while people used to go to maybe four or five events each year, that’s definitely changing.”
Other charity events seeing good support
As STYLEAID closes, The Black Diamond Gala dinner for suicide and depression in WA is experiencing better sales than ever.
Run by Lifeline WA, chief executive Lorna MacGregor said with suicide touching 89 per cent of West Australians, it was an issue most people could relate to.
“There’s a strong part of the community that understands that suicide is preventable and they want to do their bit to prevent suicide and save people from the trauma of losing a loved one,” she said.
“And they do that in whichever way they can so for some people they become crisis supporters and help on the phones, some people help by raising funds and some people help by coming to a ball and having a fabulous night out.”
Final STYLEAID brings back WA great
The final STYLEAID in August will be full of highlights from the past 20 years.
It will feature 20 WA designers – and has even managed to bring Aurelio Costarella out of retirement for the night.
Costarella – who stepped away from an illustrious career in the fashion industry last year to focus on improving his mental health – will be presenting one of his vintage designs.
“It’s very special, he’s been such a strong advocate for STYLEAID and for the WA AIDS Council the whole time,” Mr Reid said.
“When someone like Aurelio gets involved you know that it’ll have an impact because he’s so well thought of and he’s a treasure of Western Australia, we’re blessed to have him.”
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