Fashion and opera take flight to benefit The Yard, Michael J. Fox Foundation


Cutting edge fashion will be on parade to the beat of a different drummer on Thursday, August 12, at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. The Island’s own Stina Sayre, the popular designer of realistically-priced European-style couture apparel and accessories, will unveil her fall collection accompanied by world-class opera singers on loan from The Yard, the dance and performing arts venue in Chilmark. The Sweet Life Café in Oak Bluffs will provide refreshments and hors d’oeuvres at the 5:30 pm cocktail party preceding the show.

Billed as Runways Merge: A Fashion Opera Extravaganza, the one-time event will benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and The Yard. Ms. Sayre’s edgy Swedish-inspired collection will be modeled by dancers and friends fueled by the promise of a dramatic finish from eight New York City opera singers who perform regularly at the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera.

Runways Merge is sponsored by Ms. Sayre, Wendy Taucher, artistic/executive director of The Yard, and Susan Guerin, co-owner of The Sweet Life Café. It is the group’s second fundraising collaboration, following last year’s successful fashion event held at The Sweet Life. This season’s event, far more ambitious and imaginative, pools the resources of these three creative forces from divergent fields. And, although they represent fashion, performing arts, and gourmet dining, their goal to give back to the community will come together under the roof of the privately owned Big Hangar at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

According to Ms. Sayre, she, Ms. Taucher, and Ms. Guerin decided that both the clean, simple industrial atmosphere and the abundant square footage of the airport hangar would suit the larger-scale event and the results they are hoping to achieve.

“We approached Herb Roskin, the owner of the hangar, and the Airport Commission and both were extremely supportive,” Ms. Sayre said. “I’m excited about presenting my clothing in an unusual venue and I love opera.”

Rather than donating proceeds to The Yard alone as they had last year, the trio decided to share the funds with Michael J. Fox’s foundation. Part-time residents of the Vineyard, Mr. Fox and his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, have become familiar faces to the women entrepreneurs.

“He has inspired us and it’s nice to give back,” said Ms. Sayre. Ms. Guerin and Ms. Taucher echoed her sentiments.

“I know more and more people who have Parkinson’s disease and it’s in my family,” Ms. Guerin said. “I don’t recall seeing any events to raise funds for Parkinson’s on the Island, so we decided to incorporate it in our plans.”

The Swedish-born Ms. Sayre designs her line of clothing from a studio at 13 Beach Street Extension, across from The Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven. A former world-champion windsurfer, she combines a streamlined athletic aesthetic with a sophisticated flirtatiousness to create two collections each year. Her signature design elements include asymmetry, lush fabrics, and timelessness. She is as likely to introduce an iridescent print “Edwardian-style Rock & Roll Coat” as she is a severely cut solid black jacket with high collar and an almost industrial precision. Her clothing is distinctive and has earned her a loyal following both on Island and around the globe.

Ms. Taucher, at the helm of The Yard since 2006, has dramatically increased the breadth of programming presented at the pastoral Chilmark landmark. Once known only for innovation in dance, Ms. Taucher has worked tirelessly to produce high-quality offerings in virtually every facet of performing arts: theater, music, opera, poetry, and performance art. Opera, she says, has taken off, selling out during the past two seasons and on the schedule for two weekends in August.

Both Ms. Sayre and Ms. Taucher credit Ms. Guerin, the “foodie” among them, for her countless hours as the behind-the-scenes coordinator of the upcoming Runways Merge. Now in her fourth season as manager at the critically acclaimed The Sweet Life with her husband and co-owner, Pierre Guerin, and their chef Scott Erlich, Ms. Guerin has applied her skills to the event’s planning phase and to the cocktail party.

Tickets, priced from $50 to $300 (front row seats) are available on the web at, by phone at 508-645-9662, at Stina Sayre Studio, or at the door.

Runways Merge: A Fashion Opera Extravaganza, Thursday, August 12, 5:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Airport, 71 Airport Road, Vineyard Haven. Follow the signs to the Big Hangar. Proceeds will benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation and The Yard.

Karla Araujo, a frequent contributor to The Times, divides her time between Oak Bluffs and Washington D.C.