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May 13, 2013 – Marilyn Bethany – Rural Intelligence:

Think: Clothing swap on steroids. Much to the joy of all who love good clothes at beyond bargain prices, BerkChique, an “alternative fundraiser” for Berkshire Creative, is back.

Berkshire Creative is a non-profit dedicated to sparking collaborations between artists, designers, cultural institutions and businesses. The event, inaugurated in 2012 by Nancy Fitzpatrick, owner of the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, was a huge success. “I was surprised and impressed with how happy it made people,” Fitzpatrick says. “Not just the shoppers, who were getting these amazing bargains, but also the donors. It gave them such pleasure to see their clothes going to people who really appreciated them and would give them a good new life.” One such shopper, a prospective bride, brought in her wedding gown to try on with a pair of Christian Louboutin crystal flats. “At the time, the same shoes were selling on e-bay for $1200,” Fitzpatrick says. “She got them here for $300. Which was wonderful for her and also a very nice sale for us.” The opening night party last year had “a great vibe,” Fitzpatrick recalls. “Live music, good food, people having fun. Then many people came back two and three times over the weekend. On Sunday, of course, all the prices go down.” This weekend the gym at the Stockbridge Town Offices (just a block or two down Main Street from the Inn) will be transformed by the committee into a sartorial souk. Shoes, handbags, scarves, costume jewelry, but mostly clothing, fresh off some of the region’s best-dressed backs, will be artfully displayed and organized by price, most $100 or less. Mind, that’s $100 for recent Chanel, Versace, Armani, and Valentino. Shoppers can expect to pay much less for the sort of immaculate vintage items the nostalgic hold dear. One so-inclined shopper, who happened to get a sneak preview last week, has her narrowed eye on an enchanting item, a vintage raincoat, from the $25 rack. “The majority of pieces are priced between $5 and $40,” says committee member Sarah Eustis, who is modeling here a fitted, double-breasted Armani blazer ($30). Other choice items include a Chanel twin set for $100; a Tasha Polizzi saddle-blanket coat with a raccoon collar, $40, all spotless and freshly pressed. In addition to first dibs on the mountains of merch, the opening night gala on Friday has added allure, including nibbles from the kitchen of the Red Lion Inn, a cash bar, personal shopping assistance from Sarah Eustis, a veteran of Ralph Lauren Inc., now the Inn’s director of business development, and hair-styling demos by pros from The Hair Studio in Pittsfield. Admission on Saturday and Sunday is free. Both then and at the gala on Friday night, there will be specialty boutiques within the larger sale, some stocked by local clothing stores and consignment shop. Fashionista extraordinaire Vicki Bonnington, will again have her own boutique. Last year, by all accounts, her’s caused something of a stampede. “That will definitely be one of the big draws again this year,” Fitzpatrick says. Everyone in Berkshire County who goes out knows that Vicki Bonnington has amazing clothes. The doors open on Friday at 5:30. See you on line out front by 5. BerkChique Stockbridge Town Offices 50 Main Street Friday, May 17, 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tickets sold at the door or in advance through Saturday, May 18, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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