Darien's Helen Ainson raises money for breast cancer awareness
Raising money for a noteworthy cause doesn't have to be all business as the owner and staff of Helen Ainson proved by weaving fashion and fun into a fundraising hit.
Erica Jensen, owner of Helen Ainson, was trying to think of a possible celebrity who had enough name recognition that people would know who the person was and still be able to help out with a breast cancer awareness event.
That's when Irina Shabayeva's name popped into her head.
"I know a lot of people who know "Project Runway" and would know Irina," Jensen said. "There are a lot of guys who watch the show too, so it's not just for women."
Jensen said when she approached Shabayeva about the event, Shabayeva immediately agreed because her own mother had battled breast cancer.
"It was just incredible because Irina's mother had breast cancer, so she immediately said yes," Jensen said.
Jensen was ecstatic about the turnout for the event.
"I was very, very happy with the event," said Jensen. "We transformed downtown Darien into something you wouldn't expect."
Shabayeva was not immediately available for contact. Her agent, Al Quinn, said she is currently doing a fashion show in Houston.
An e-mail to Shabayeva was not returned as of press time.
Photographers were weaving in and out of the crowd as they snapped shots of guests in their formal evening attire.
That transformation included a tent decorated with lights and pink balloons, live music and hors d'oeuvre served by the newly opened Scena Restaraunt across the street. As guests enjoyed the live music and champagne, Helen Ainson customers modeled Shabayeva's newest clothing line, Jensen said.
Thursday's event drew a crowd of about 175 people.
The transformation wasn't noticed by just guests at the fundraiser as more than a few vehicles driving by slowed down to catch a glimpse of the action, much to the ire of the drivers behind them.
"It was just so wonderful," Jensen said. "Everybody thought it was a wonderful event."
Even though the breast cancer fundraiser was scheduled to last from 6 until 8:30 p.m., Jensen said many of the guests didn't leave until 9:30 p.m.
Jensen said she deliberately chose Thursday night for her fundraiser because she believed it was the perfect time for people to get out of their house.
However, when asked what her next big-ticket event would be, Jensen laughed and said it was going to take her "a couple months" to recover from Thursday night.
"I had been planning this since July," Jensen said. "I went on the radio, put ads in the newspapers and online, as well as sending out invitations to our customer list," Jensen said.
"Now it's over and I'm glad," Jensen said. "The hardest part will be coming up with something that is comparable to this event in the future."