Japan Fashion Relief event combines fashion, Facebook in Vero Beach

VERO BEACH – In their most recent effort to fuse fashion and philanthropy, a group of creative women – photographers, models, makeup artists and hair stylists – held a fundraising event Sunday at the fountain on Royal Palm Pointe to provide relief to the victims of Japan’s tsunami.

Japan Fashion Relief, which raised about $2,000 for the International Red Cross, also provided an opportunity for aspiring models to gain high-fashion experience, attend informal classes and pose for photographs.

Moreover, it helped catapult several local businesses into the stratosphere of online social networking.

“Some of these businesses didn’t have a Facebook presence before we helped set them up,” said Jill Douglas, the event organizer and a professional photographer who regularly posts fashion and lifestyle photographs on her Facebook page, “Vero Beach Style.”

In fact, the fashion fundraiser was promoted entirely on Facebook, a free internet website that requires registration to navigate and gives users access to scores of “friends” – colleagues, neighbors and associates – as well as friends of friends in just a few key strokes.

“We get about 2,000 hits a day,” Douglas said of the number of visits received by Vero Beach Style, which was created in December.

A mother of three, Douglas, who has a degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, said she knew her efforts to help others in need could be compounded exponentially if she enlisted the support of friends on Facebook.

The last time Vero Beach Style partnered with a nonprofit agency, its high-fashion photographs on Facebook helped adopt several dogs from H.A.L.O. No Kill Animal Shelter in Sebastian.

This time, Douglas and her team of beauty experts, Cindy Goetz, a makeup artist and independent beauty consultant for 20 years of Mary Kay Cosmetics, and Lindsay Nafzigger, a hair stylist who previously owned several Aveda salons in California, elicited pledges from 14 local business to donate to the relief efforts in Japan.

In exchange, the businesses are being promoted on Vero Beach Style’s page in color images featuring beautiful models, fabulous clothes and eye-catching composition.

About 20 models participated in Sunday’s fashion shoot.

Modeling classes were taught by Rachael Hine, 24, who was signed at age 15 with Elite Modeling Agency in Miami and regularly appears in Douglas’ fashion photographs.

“Be true to yourself,” Hine tells a group of aspiring models, referring to notes she has stored on her i-Phone.

And to correct posture, she says, “Put your thumbs in front of your hands when walking down the runway.”

Clothes for Sunday’s fashion shoot were provided by event sponsors Blondie’s on Ocean, Kemp’s Shoe Salon and Boutique, GT Rhodes, Tootsies, The Beach Shop, Labels, and Madison Avenue Consignments.

A group shot featured the models wearing t-shirts emblazoned with a logo specially designed for the event by Douglas’ niece, a graphic artist in Kentucky.

Douglas’ 16-year-old daughter, Lauren, a junior at Vero Beach High School, recently started modeling in high fashion shots for her mother. On Sunday, her long brown hair was styled in an up-do framed by peacock feathers and a cascade of crystals.

In lieu of monetary compensation for their efforts, the models received professional photographs to add to their modeling portfolios.

The investment of time and effort paid off, said Cindy Goetz, whose has seen an increase in demand for her services as a makeup artist since she started networking on Facebook. Her website gets about 5000 hits a year, explained Goetz, who holds a degree in fine art from Radford University in Virginia. In contrast, her Facebook page gets about 2,500 hits a day.

“This is free advertising,” she says. “I used to rely on one-on-one referrals, now thousands of people are viewing my site every day.”

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