This Saturday, October 7th, Rockefeller Park & Greenhouse will transform into a fashion-forward runway as local designer Valerie Mayen debuts 30 looks from her new "Of a Kind" collection for Hullabaloo 2017. This year marks the sixth outing for the now-annual event, which Mayen calls a "giant fashion extravaganza."
The event will feature a craft cocktail bar, free food and drink from vendors like Edwin's and Metro Croissants, and live performances—not to mention Hullabaloo's first-ever outdoor runway show. In planning the show, Mayen worked with Small Organization Solutions, which has also helped design events for CiCLEvia and Night Market CLE.
Designed as a fundraiser, Hullabaloo has previously benefited organizations such as the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and Laura's Home. "Each year, we're inspired by a different non-profit and mission," shares Mayen. This year's beneficiary is L'Arche Cleveland, a local non-profit that provides homes for people with developmental disabilities.
If Mayen's name seems familiar, it's probably because she was a contestant on season eight of "Project Runway," or because she owns Yellowcake—a line of women's outerwear and accessories that Mayen describes as "approachable, classic, and modern." The business began as a Gordon Square boutique that Mayen operated for five years and continues to thrive online.
"I live down the street from our old shop, and not a day goes by that I don't miss it," says Mayen. "But I can't imagine running the [brick-and-mortar] shop with a baby, our Hullabaloo event, and trying to have some semblance of a personal or social life."
This summer, Mayen mobilized 21 local women for an "Everyday Woman" campaign designed to showcase Cleveland's diversity. Among those featured were burlesque performer Bella Sin, Indie Foundry's Stephanie Sheldon, Bombay Taxi Boutique owner Shibani Faehnle, and Inner Bliss Yoga owner Tammy Lyons. The campaign consisted of a photo shoot for which the chosen models sported Yellowcake's latest looks.
"People develop a stigma or stereotype of higher-end clothing and assume it's not for them," says Mayen, who plans to do another shoot this fall. "We wanted to showcase how our garments are a lot more approachable than people might realize. Our models are students, event planners, architects, entrepreneurs—no matter what their size, they're all real women."
Along with figuring out creative ways to reach new audiences, Mayen is also establishing herself as a prominent figure on the slow fashion scene. "We're not mass-producing products and pushing them out to the public; instead, we pull what we think will sell and make small quantities," says Mayen, who studied at both the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Virginia Marti College of Art and Design. "We might make 30 to 100 pieces as opposed to larger companies that might make 500 to 500,000 pieces. It's about being more sustainable, utilizing resources more wisely, and creating less waste."
Looking ahead, Mayen hopes to start teaching at the college level alongside her work in the design field, and currently gives talks at local schools like Ursuline College and Kent State University. But first, it's all about Hullabaloo 2017—this weekend's fashion show, followed by a Cleveland Flea appearance and a pop-up trunk show at FOUNT next weekend.
It's all part of her master mission to create accessible fashion for women across the spectrum. Says Mayen, "My focus is on creating pieces that are timeless with more longevity—shapes and silhouettes that are more flattering to a wider range of women."