Project Funway celebrates 10 years of creativity and raising money for Eagle County public schools | VailDaily.com
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Project Funway celebrates 10 years of creativity and raising money for Eagle County public schools

Instead of individual designers, clothing by ’design houses’ will be showcased at this year’s virtual event on Saturday night

Project Funway outgrew other venues and moved to the Dobson Ice Arena in Vail in 2017. Last year’s event raised $220,000 for the Education Foundation of Eagle County.
Juan Pena / Special to the Daily

It’s hard to believe how a little idea to do a fashion show for charity has blossomed into an event that typically gathers hundreds of people and last year raised over $220,000. Project Funway celebrates 10 years of fashion, fun and fundraising efforts to help the Education Foundation of Eagle County with its virtual event Saturday at 7 p.m.

The idea for Project Funway was created by friends Amy Fordham, Pavan Krueger, Diana Scherr, Claire Thayer and Jeanne Whitney.

“The five friends were in a living room hanging out enjoying a glass of wine when one of them discussed a new dress she was going to sew,” said Wendy Rimel, of Project Funway.



The women started to think it would be fun to put on a small fashion show, invite a few friends and donate the proceeds of the fashion show to a local charity.

“Pavan and Claire, longtime fans of the show ’Project Runway,’ thought it would be particularly fun to add a design category for ’Anything But Fabric’ and they came up with the name, Project Funway,” Rimel said.



Finding a cause was easy. The Education Foundation of Eagle County was just starting out, too, and many of the early designers were parents who were involved in the Education Foundation of Eagle County and their kids.

Berit Kirchner models a dress made of flowerpots and shoes made of watering cans in the inaugural Project Funway at the EagleVail Pavilion in 2012. Berit and her family will be one of the featured design houses this year.
Project Funway / Special to the Daily

“The same year of the first Project Funway, Eagle County Schools lost funding from the state of Colorado, resulting in the reduction of 60 teachers and loss of most arts, music and counseling programs in local public schools,” Rimel said.

The Education Foundation of Eagle County is dedicated to kindergarten through 12th-grade education specifically focusing on equitable access to in-school enrichment and mental health services and efforts to recognize and retain top teacher talent.

From its humble beginnings at the EagleVail Pavilion before moving to the Donovan Pavilion in Vail and then The Westin in Avon before landing at the Dobson Ice Arena, the event has grown in popularity. It has become the “it” event to be a part of, whether you are designing, modeling, styling, judging or attending — everyone wants to be there.

Sara Manwiller models at the Donovan Pavilion. Project Funway quickly outgrew the EagleVail Pavilion and moved to a larger space to accommodate the growing number of attendees.
Project Funway / Special to the Daily

“Project Funway found itself scrambling year after year to find bigger and better venues to keep up with the popularity. Design slots would be sold out with a wait list to participate,” Rimel said.

The event will be virtual this year due to the pandemic, but that won’t thwart the creative juices flowing through the many “design houses” that have been working hard for the last 10 weeks to come up with the winning style.

Nadine Hinkle proved you could even make a dress out of cowboy hats at Project Funway, which moved to the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon from 2014 to 2016.
Project Funway / Special to the Daily

“One of our young talents came to us with an idea to do a TV program showcasing the designers working on their creations and getting to know each designer or design house with a series of videos,” Rimel said. “Keeping the design houses within families allows us to keep the event COVID-19 friendly.”

This year will feature many veterans of the event, some being a part of it since its inception. But, during the 10th season, there is a twist for the designers. Each design house was given “mystery materials” to work with, stretching that creativity even further. Each design house was also given Vail Health mask-filler materials to incorporate into their designs.

Another twist this year includes Mondo Rivera, of the actual “Project Runway” show and former judge of Project Funway, who wanted to be a designer in this year’s event instead of being a judge.

“This year he surprised everyone with choosing to travel from New York City to be with us. He loves what we do and loves to support youth,” Rimel said.

Mondo Guerra was a runner-up in the hit series “Project Runway” and was the winner in “Project Runway Allstars.” Guerra joined Project Funway three years ago as a judge.
Project Funway / Special to the Daily

This year’s event is free to watch, but the Education Foundation of Eagle County hopes to get viewers to support their programs by buying votes, with the minimum vote being $10. Sign up by going to projectfunway.org. Your credit card will not be changed unless you want to cast a vote for a particular design house or place votes for several design houses. The Education Foundation of Eagle County is encouraging you to vote. On-hundred percent of tax-deductible event proceeds will support the mission-driven work of the Education Foundation of Eagle County. To learn more, go to efec.org.

Karl and Pavan Krueger will be judging instead of designing this year, but you can still vote on their Krueger House creations made over the past 10 years. The dress in this photo was made out of laundry detergent bottles in 2015.
Sherri Innis / Special to the Daily

Here’s a list of the design houses and some of the mystery materials they had to work with:

  • Alter – Miscellaneous placemats
  • Braunholtz – Paper towels, toilet paper, plastic bags, toy car tracks, Lego compatible sticky tape and Legos
  • Cantele – Nespresso coffee pods
  • G and J Tau Studios – Mylar, toy sling shots, sticky notes, and Slinkies
  • Hornbostel – Black, blue, and orange plastic drink bottles
  • Kirchner – Cookbooks, puzzles, foam blocks, magnetic shapes, and Capri Sun drink containers
  • Krueger – Not designing, they will be judging this year but you can vote on past creations
  • Manwiller/Christenberry – Stuffed animals
  • Marquez – Acrylic fluorescent light covers, vellum and silverware
  • Mondo Guerra – Town of Avon shopping bags and buffs, plastic furniture wrap, Be Good To People plastic bags, Alpine Bank banner
  • Overy – Mylar, red and yellow foam, orange plastic drink bottles and acrylic fluorescent light covers
  • Qualman – Art gallery and auction catalogs
  • Rimel – Miscellaneous board games and Rubik cubes
  • Scherr/Regjo – HVAC filters, bubble wrap, aluminum pull-tabs and inflatable air mattresses

View photos from the past 10 years at efec.org/photos.


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