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Spencerville a runway to high fashion

The village of Spencerville hosted a red carpet fashion show with local models taking to the runway to display the works of Designer Robert E. Blackmon. JOURNAL PHOTOS/MARTELLE

SPENCERVILLE - It was a night of glitz, glam, and all things fabulous August 27th in Spencerville, as Designer Robert E. Blackmon hosted his first ever full line fashion show, launching his Rebel Fashion line. Brockville's Bonita Bold Fashion took to the catwalk as well at the three hour "Bold & Rebellious" event, which was held at the private home of Blackmon. The unprecedented fashion event was a smash hit, with proceeds going to benefit the Spencerville Mill and Museum Foundation for ongoing maintenance of the historic grist mill and museum and its scenic riverside park.

Dressed to impress, audience members at the event were treated to a show featuring everything from bikinis to bridal. The show also included men's accessories. A well-known Master of Ceremonies from Los Angeles, Big Kim, flew in for the show. Cocktails at a cash bar, a live auction and a pop-up shopping boutique added to the merriment of the event.

Best-selling author, lifestyle expert, fitness guru, and fashion designer Robert E. Blackmon first came to Spencerville eight years ago. He settled in the village with his husband, whose family is from the area.

"I'm from the big city; I came from L.A., so I was accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle. I joke with my husband that Spencerville was the real reason I married him. The sense of family and community, the people here, it made the decision to move here so easy," says Robert of his love for the village.

Originally pursuing a career as an architect, Robert gained his passion for designing clothing by chance.

"I had to take electives in school, and I ended up in Home Economics. I didn't take to it at all; I was awful in fact. I barely passed the class with a C and it didn't cross my mind again for awhile. After school, I moved out to L.A. One evening at a party, a friend mentioned that they couldn't wear the shirt they had wanted to because a button had fallen off, and I was like 'why not just sew it back on?' I guess a bit of that home ec class had stuck, after all. So I made something like $20 to fix that shirt, and it just grew organically from there; people would bring me things to mend or tailor. It really became a passion. I started making Halloween costumes and prom dresses, and I realized it was something I could make money doing," says Robert of his unlikely start in the world of fashion.

Robert's line consists exclusively of one-of-a-kind pieces, usually catered to a specific client or event.

"I'm the anti-designer's designer. I like to work with and for my clients. I like to take the time to sit and learn who the person is. Sometimes people come to me with an idea in their head based on current trends or what's 'in', and they think that's what they have to wear because that's what everyone else is doing. I don't believe in that at all. No disrespect to any other designers whatsoever, but I like to get my clients away from thinking they have to look a certain way. I approach it by finding out what that person likes; what are their interests, favourite things, etc. We collaborate together and build that garment together. It's not a quick process. A prom dress, for instance, might take anywhere from three weeks to a few months to come together," says Robert of his process when creating a garment tailored specifically to the personality of each client.

"For me, what inspires me and makes me so passionate are the people wearing my pieces. To see a shy 17-year old girl smile like never before and be the bell of the ball and come out of her shell, rocking her prom dress, that's what it's about for me," says Robert.

Along with special guest Daytime Ottawa Host Julie Beun walking the runway, Blackmon's fashions were modeled by his local clients.

"The most exciting aspect about the show for me was the fact that all the models were my local clients. I wanted it to be about them. These people and this community keep me going. They let me play dress-up, they come out of their comfort zones sometimes, and we all have a lot of fun. It was so important to me to include them in this event," says Robert of the decision to use local clients as models for the show.

Choosing to launch his line as a fundraiser for The Spencerville Mill Foundation was an easy choice for Robert.

"My husband's family has been involved with The Spencerville Mill Foundation for over 25 years; this is a cause that is very close to our hearts. When my husband first brought me to Spencerville, the Mill is actually the first place we went. I developed a real affinity for the Mill after that. We'd been wanting to do an event at our home in support of the Mill for years, but it had to be the right event, as we're very private people. They actually approached me earlier this year about being an MC for a fashion event, and a lightbulb just went off. I knew this was the perfect opportunity for us to do something for the community, and a great way to launch my line," says Robert of the decision to host the fundraising event.

The event was an all-around success for Robert, as well as The Spencerville Mill Foundation.

"I think one of the biggest successes of the event was the exposure that the Spencerville Mill received from people outside of our immediate area. It was wonderful to hear response from people who knew very little about what purpose the Mill serves to the community. I want to thank all of the volunteers who make up the Spencerville Mill and Museum. They work silently with such dedication," said Robert.

"I know that people walked away from this event feeling inspired. They learned about the great sense of community we have in Spencerville and our continued commitment to one another. This event reinforced in my mind that if you believe in others they will believe in you. My friends stepped out of their comfort zones putting their trust in me. Trusting that I would not make them look foolish. That kind of trust is immeasurable," concluded Robert.

For more information on Robert's many projects, visit www.gaygroomrobert.com

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