In the 16 years she’s been staging fashion shows for charity, Pat Robbins has learned that it’s about more than style, it’s about family.
Robbins, the 2012 Chatham Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, says she loves what she’s doing and loves the people she’s doing it with.
“We have about 40 people who rotate in and out of shows depending on their availability,” she said. “We don’t see each other all of the time but when we do it gets pretty huggy. I call them my fashion family.”
She said the shows allow her to meet and interact with people she might not otherwise get to know.
“There’s a lot of networking, we support each other and share a common bond.”
Her most recent event was held at T-Bones Grill House and featured fashions by Betula Boutique. The event was in support of the Chatham-Kent Children’s Safety Village.
She estimated her monthly fashion shows alone have raised more than $50,000 but the awareness of the charities is immeasurable.
“We’ve helped people of all ages; young, old, in between and we’ve had great co-operation from local restaurants and clothing stores across Chatham-Kent,” she said.
Under the auspices of her company, Patricia M. Productions, she also holds more elaborate evening shows and special events.
“We do any and all types of fashion events and shows, and for all ages. Plus we have supported numerous causes such as ”International Women’s Day Walk” and an event called “Sassy” that supported women battling cancer, women’s expo, and wedding fashion shows for many years,” she said.
Since 2009, she has held the Teen Model of the Year competition, an event that is close to her heart.
“I’m really proud of Teen Model because I’ve seen it help young people really gain confidence in who they are,” she said.
The event is like the top model television programs but “without the drama and with old school manners,” she said.
The event is geared toward young girls 14-19 and involves a 14-week experience in which participants receive weekly modeling assignments and challenges. The next session will begin later this month.
“We had one girl who was shy, didn’t know how to apply mascara and couldn’t look you in the eye when she spoke,” she said. “Within a few weeks of competition, she discovered her inner voice and developed to the point where she was comfortable. I’ve had mothers call and thank me for what we’ve been able to do. It’s great to see the contestants caring for each other and bonding.”
Robbins, the manager of Bud Gowan Formal Wear, said fashion has been a way for her to give back to the community.
“The money raised at the shows stays in Chatham-Kent, we get to watch our models, some of whom are second-generation, take part in something they love and we get to be around cool people,” she said. “What could be better than that?”