Cure by Design – Charlotte

This past Saturday night Mari and I were asked to donate our time and talent to help photograph the American Cancer Society’s Cure by Design event at the Ritz Carlton in Uptown Charlotte.

From the Cure by Design Facebook page:

“Cure By Design is Charlotte’s premiere gala that brings together world-renowned designers with local fashion retailers to raise money to fight cancer; proving that together we can save lives and create more birthdays by helping people to stay well and get well, find cures, and fight back against a disease that has taken too much.”

It was so much more than that.

In early February our dear friend Luis Machicao asked us to attend a meeting with some “very important people”. It turned out that he had invited us to one of the final planning meetings for the Cure by Design fashion show. There were a few familiar names and faces at the meeting. Effie Loukas was in charge of organizing the fashion show here in Charlotte and many of the designers and fashion retailers involved were familiar names. But the one thing that set this fashion show apart from all the others we’ve been to was that all the models that were to walk in the show, 30 of them, were cancer survivors. They were of all ages, the youngest being 3 and the oldest 74. None of them were runway models. To me, these were the very important people that Luis had described.

Fashion designer and one of the driving forces behind Cure by Design, Alex Garfield, was at the meeting. As he spoke of the concept and of the upcoming event and what it meant, I remember him saying, “You will cry”.

It tuned out that Cure by Design already had a photographer on board for the event, but we were so moved by, and loved the concept of Cure by Design that we volunteered to help in any way possible. Later that week we received an email from the American Cancer Society asking us if we would be the photographer for the “red carpet” photos for the evening. Of course we said yes.

The afternoon of the event we entered the Urban Garden of the Ritz Carlton. There were already dozens of volunteers on hand, setting up silent auction tables, working the guest registration tables and making themselves available in any way needed. Music was blaring as the models and designers made the final preparations for the highlight of the event, the fashion show. There was a lot of excitement in the air. We knew that this was a big deal. We spent about 2 hours photographing the guests on the red carpet as they arrived.

Mari and I have been to a lot of fashion shows in the past few years. But this one was different, very different. Fashion shows are usually about the designers and the models that wear their designs. This show was about survival. This show was about happiness. This show was about joy. This show was about birthdays. This show was about LIFE. As the models walked the runway there was excitement in the air. Joy was in their faces as they walked the runway. They had swagger (thanks EP), they were ALIVE. As Natalie Pasquarella introduced each model and told their story one could not help but feel sadness for what both they and their loved ones went through and overwhelming happiness for their survival. But I did not cry.

Sunday morning I began my post-shoot workflow. I got through all the red carpet images just fine. But when I reached the images that I took of the fashion show the significance of the event hit me like a ton of bricks. My eyes started to get heavy and I could feel the tears start. Yes Alex, I cried. They were not tears of sadness, but overwhelming happiness for the survivors and for the joy of life that they emanate. It’s taken me over a day to get through writing this and I still haven’t been able to finish looking at the images from the fashion show. I have never felt so privileged to have been part of an event.

Alex Garfield speaks to one of the youngest survivors as Natalie Pasquarella looks on.


A mother and daughter who battled cancer at the same time walk the runway together.


If you were at the Cure by Design event and we took a photo of you on the red carpet as you entered the Urban Garden, you can find the images HERE. Feel free to download your images. If prompted for a password, enter ‘curebydesign’.