Great Barrington — Attention smart shoppers, fashionistas, clotheshorses, bargain hunters and anyone with even a mild interest in great clothes at great prices. BerkChique! is back April 7-9. So, mark your calendars and prepare yourselves for a shopping good time. This year, the event returns to South County, and will be held in the former Berkshire Functional Fitness building at 325 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, just off of Route 7, behind the newly opened Prana Bar Restaurant and next to Catwalk Boutique. This space has been donated by owner John Delmolino.
People who care about the Berkshire Humane Society, Catwalk, Community Access to the Arts (CATA), Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires, IS183 Art School of the Berkshires and WAM Theatre – this is for you, too. BerkChique! is a fashion fundraiser, and all these organizations are beneficiaries this year.
This year’s chair and guiding spirit is Vicki Bonnington, known throughout the Berkshires for her extraordinary fashion sense and personal clothing collection. The retired head of litigation for GE Plastics in Pittsfield, Bonnington has been a major part of BerkChique! since it was founded in 2012 by Nancy Fitzpatrick to raise funds for Berkshire Creative, the precursor to 1Berkshire.
It’s Vicki’s contributions that put the real pizzazz into BerkChique! She traces her fascination with clothing back to the 1960’s when she fell in love with the Beatles. For the first time, she remembers, clothing became costume, and she still has the outfit she wore when she went to see the Beatles at Maple Leaf Stadium in Toronto in the summer of 1965 —a “young Edwardian” dress in red paisley with a lace bib, long sleeves and more lace at the wrists.
Since then, she has loved fabrics and colors. “Seeing someone in a fabulous outfit is a wonderful thing,” says Bonnington. At BerkChique!, people can try on clothes they never would have tried on elsewhere, she says. “If you come, you will go home with a treasure. I promise that!”
Of the clothes and accessories for sale there, Bonnington is responsible for bringing together at least 1500 separate items. Most come from her own personal collection, and the rest are donations she has wrangled from other people’s closets. For about six weeks prior to the event, Bonnington visits her stable of donors, goes with them into their closets and comes away with designer clothes of every size and style as well as stunning accessories. Another 2000 or more items will be collected, processed and tagged by Leslie Weil and Mimi Rosenblatt, who otherwise run the Catwalk Boutique for the benefit of the Berkshire Humane Society. And the other key member of the team is Rebecca Weinman, also a veteran of every BerkChique! since 2012, who is in charge of publicity, promotion and coordination.
This is a “triple win situation”, says Bonnington:
- Win No. 1 is the opportunity for all her donors to clean out their closets (“They all wonder why they hadn’t done it before.”);
- Win No. 2 is the money that goes to Berkshires nonprofits. This year, half the BerkChique! profits go to the Berkshire Humane Society and the other half will be divided among CATA, WAM and IS183. Of the clothes left over, Catwalk will keep what they think they can sell, and Goodwill Industries will be given the rest, either for its retail stores or for its Suit Yourself program that provides free workplace attire to women entering the workforce; and
- Win No. 3 is for the buyers who walk away with their treasures.
In 2012, Vicki’s collection at BerkChique! filled five racks. She had recently retired from GE and donated her entire lawyer wardrobe – some 500 items, or 50 percent of the sale. This year her collection alone will fill more than 14 racks. She has all sizes, from 2 to 16. Her racks will be arranged by price: $20-$40, $60-$80, $100, $150, $200, priceless $250 and up, and finally $500 and up.
What will you find among Vicki’s collections? Eliza J dresses which sell very reasonably, Junya Watanabe who designs for Commes des Garcons, Issey Miyaki, Marithe & Francois Girbaud, Dries Van Noten, Yohji Yamamoto, Aimee Grubel whose brand is Aimee G (lots of people for Aimee’s stuff, says Vicki), Norma Kamali, Karen Millen, a few pieces from Alaia, and a whole rack of Jean Paul Gaultier all 90% off retail.
And on the other racks? Diane Von Furstenberg, Carlisle, Dana Buchman, Ellen Tracy, and lots of just good basics from GAP, Banana Republic and interesting jean jackets.
“There will be a huge volume,” says Vicki. “And,” continues this woman who knows how to use clothes as mood elevators and costumes, “ so many styles. You can dress up as a glamour girl, a girl scout, a pirate, a motorcyclist and a girly girl with lots of ruffles. We’ll have clothes that Marlena Dietrich would have worn. You try them on and you feel like a movie star.”
The sale kicks-off on Friday, April 7 with a First Dibs Shopping Party, running from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for VIP ticket holders and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for regular ticket holders. Attendees will enjoy ‘first dibs’ access to all clothing and accessories and a fun shopping experience. Hors d’oeuvres provided by Prana Bar, wine donated by Domaney’s Beer, Wine & Liquor of Great Barrington and goodie bags provided by Blue Q stuffed with treats will be on hand. VIP tickets are $100. Tickets are $25 for general admission or two for $40. All tickets may be purchased online at berkchique2017.eventbrite.com, at Purradise located at 301 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, or at the door.
The weekend event will continue with free admission on Saturday, April 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.. For those who are interested in donating women’s and/or men’s clothing and accessories, please contact event coordinator Rebecca Weinman at email@example.com.
Besides those mentioned above, sponsors include Ogen Gigli Photography, Doc’s Signs and In Touch Printing/Design. For more information, visit www.berkchique.com.