AARP Eye Center
From Dave Singleton
With a very bass-driven remix of The Rolling Stones' song Sympathy for the Devil blasting from two huge speakers, Carmen Marc Valvo's fashion show began. Gorgeous, willowy tall models in long flowing gowns glided across the stage one by one.
Valvo, the American designer of Spanish and Italian descent whose dress designs and accessories have been a favorite among celebrities for more than 15 years, introduced himself to the rapt AARP audience via fabulous, colorful frocks. But over the next 90
minutes of his presentation, the audience really got to know him through his fashion statement about colon cancer.
If some designers are known for sticking to certain colors and styles, Carmen Marc Valvo mixed it up with this new fall collection of striking multicolored fabrics, adorning everything from sequined cocktail mini dresses to long evening gowns with flowing scarf trains.
Of course, there was the requisite black, long a fashion show staple. But Valvo added hot orange, blue, pink, gold, and silver to the mix. And lots of sequins. Yes, lots of sequins, sometimes comprising the entire dress but mostly just as sexy trim.
If there's one common theme of all dresses is that they shimmer. He clearly loves mixing up fabrics and styles but the man is all about the shimmer. Every dress seemed to appear with its own personal spotlight, with Valvo accenting each woman's features in a sexy, stylish way.
Happily, stylish didn't equate to the stick thin models we've come to expect. While some of the models were thin, not all of them were. That resonated with this largely 50+ audience.
"Thank you for indulging me in my platform of fashion to bring home a much more important message," Valvo said. "I am a fashion designer, but I am also a colon cancer survivor. I am six years clean."
Cancer and fashion aren't two concepts you think about in the same breath, but Valvo wants to change that, and he's one of the first fashionista men to try. He wants to carry on the tradition of other fashion leaders such as Liz Tilberis, the former editor of Harper's
Bazaar magazine, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer several years ago bringing her cancer fight to the fore.
Several years ago, at 48, Valvo was diagnosed with colon cancer. He underwent his operation quietly and didn't share his battle. He's quiet about it no more. He wants to make it commonplace, fashionable even, to talk about colon cancer, especially ways to prevent it, such as regular colonoscopies.
He shares his own story in hopes of inspiring others. He knows colon cancer is a touchy subject for many, and he readily admits he wasn't always such a bold advocate."
"I had to convince my doctor to give me a colonoscopy, if you can believe it," he said. "Sometimes you don't listen to yourself. You need to be your own best advocate. Find a doctor who really hears you."
During his talk and subsequent Q&A, he shared his hope that people will raise their awareness of colon cancer now.
"This is the third most prevalent cancer and second most common cause of cancer deaths," Valvo said. "Screenings are so important since early detection is key to recovery."
While Valvo might have introduced himself as a man of style, he quickly showed the audience that he's a man of substance, too.