Spotlight on Amy Shumaker & Runaway Runway



By Haley Sprankle

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Local president of Columbia Design League, Amy Shumaker takes this idiom quite literally as she spearheads the return of Columbia’s 8th annual Runaway Runway, an unusual fashion show which features clothing designs completely composed of recycled materials. The show is explicitly designed to raise awareness of “greener” environmental initiatives.

“Rhett Anders, a former Columbia Design League board member, brought Runaway Runway to us. It was an event the board believed would be a good fundraising event to support CDL programming with a powerful message about sustainable design,” Shumaker explains.

With pollution becoming a rising problem as cities grow and deforestation increases, Runaway Runway offers a small solution to this big problem in the world of fashion.

“This year, CDL is bringing Runaway Runway back home to the Columbia Museum of Art, of which we are an affiliate membership group. All of competition judges have been involved in past CDL events so they are familiar with our design-focused mission,” Shumaker says. Despite the return to the smaller confines of the museum, though, this year’s show promises to be the largest ever, with 45 planned entries into the competition.

Returning judges include Anna Felicity Friedman, body art content expert and tattoo historian; Jeffrey Keyton, Senior Vice President for On-Air Design and Off-Air Creative for MTV and MTV2; Jillian Owens, writer, designer and eco-fashion revolutionary who shows off her own creations on her ReFashionista blog; and Timothy Westbrook, fiber artist, sustainable fashion designer and former Project Runway contestant.

“Designers and models arrive hours before the show for preliminary judging. Each designer individually meets with the judging panel and judges have the opportunity to see each entry up close and discuss it with the designer,” Shumaker elaborates. “An entry’s scores are averaged to come up with the entry’s overall score. There are a handful of different awards designers are vying for including the Bruce Bahr award for the top design, the most ready to wear entry, and the model who best rocks the runway during the show.”

In past shows, designers have truly found a way to surprise the judges and audiences with their creativity.

“There have been designs over the years that have blown us away. People who enter this show are highly creative and the recycled items used have been unique:  bicycle parts, library card catalogs, yogurt containers, romance novel covers, videotape, CDs, beach umbrellas, telephone books, bones, packing materials, ballet shoes, soda cans, dog food bags and even a mummified bird. Last year I invited co-workers in the media business from DC, New York and Los Angeles.  They thought the show was fantastic and are still talking about it. I think a few of them are coming back,” Shumaker says.

Although the show is returning to more familiar territory, exciting new seeds are added to the mix this year as well.

“We also have a new host this year, Ty McFarlan. Ty is a Columbia native and a former ringmaster for the Ringling Brothers Circus so he will no doubt be a great fit for this fun and funky event,” Shumaker divulges. “Not only do we have Ty as host, the always creative designs and models will be featured on an incredible stage designed by Jim Hunter, a CDL board member and renowned stage and lighting designer. Wade Sellers, also on the board, is the show director and is incorporating a few new surprises in the show. Jodi Salter is the CDL programming chair and will serve as co-host. DJ Gldfngr is bringing the music.”

Runaway Runway is this Saturday, April 11. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time for $25 at, or at the door for $40.

“Runaway Runway is an entertaining show that puts the spotlight on recycled design. We’ve learned that men enjoy it as much as women,” Shumaker expresses. “It’s big fun and presents a great message.  It makes me very proud to be a part of the Columbia Design League.”


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