ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Master hairstylist Joseph Saavedra will harness the forces of fashion to help ease homelessness in Albuquerque.
Saavedra and his army of volunteers are creating a Sunday garden party at Hotel Albuquerque for its annual Pennies for the Homeless High Tea and Fashion Show, with a boutique shopping fair before and after the runway show. Proceeds benefit more than 25 agencies in Albuquerque and around the state.
“The recent drama of homelessness in Albuquerque has brought even more awareness,” he says. “There is a new face of homelessness. Homeless people are up and down Montgomery, along Pan American freeway. It’s not the stereotypical image of a homeless person anymore. It’s your niece. It’s someone you know.”
He referred to the police shooting and killing of James Boyd in March and the brutal murders of two Native American men in July. All three were homeless.
The High Tea will feature the award-winning creations of Beverly Hills designer Kevan Hall, who has dressed Vanessa Williams, Katherine Heigl, Debra Messing and other red-carpet stars.
One embossed golden evening gown, planned for the High Tea runway, features a halter high neckline and a trumpet skirt with a train.
On his website, Hall describes his elemental style as one that features impeccable tailoring and sensuously draped silhouettes.
Another dress planned for Sunday’s runway is a knee-length sheath in a splashy sangria shade with three-quarter length sleeves and ruching to flatter curves.
Saavedra says he connected to Hall’s designs through a Phoenix model he knows, Tanya Barnes.
“The designer asked for cultural entertainment, so that’s what we’re going to do,” Saavedra says. A 9-year-old Albuquerque flamenco dancer in a bright yellow traditional dress will perform at the High Tea. Albuquerque has a long history of flamenco through one of the best known flamenco schools in the country, National Institute of Flamenco.
In 1990, Saavedra returned to Albuquerque after working for many years with celebrity clients in California. It disturbed him to see so many more people who were homeless and living on the streets.
A desire to help prompted Saavedra, along with retired District Court Judge Diane Dal Santo, to create Pennies for the Homeless in 1993.
The all-volunteer nonprofit organization considers its core mission to provide education for the public and direct support to shelters, meal sites, day-care centers and other services for the homeless, he says.
For the first years of Pennies for the Homeless, schoolchildren collected pennies and other change, but the nonprofit evolved into the fundraising tea and fashion show. Last year Saavedra started a foundation for the organization with $19,000 that came from the sale of a donated classic car. Donors have given 10 acres of land west of Albuquerque to the foundation this year, he says.
“It can be done with zero administration. We have sponsors who pay for everything for the High Tea, so the $65 tickets can all go to help the homeless.”
Sponsors include Valero Gas and Oil, Wells Fargo and New Mexico Federal Credit Union.