Fashion, beauty and health walked hand-in-hand on the runway Monday for the inaugural night of Fashion and Beauty Week at the in West Orange.
The two-day glamour event spotlighted the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI), with proceeds benefiting the organization that aims to find a cure for the disease.
Dressed in a black-and-beige lace dress, 26-year-old Lindsey Inserra stood on the runway, her hair and makeup perfectly crafted. Inserra was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago and partially lost her hearing and vision to the disease, and is now in the first stages of kidney failure.
But Monday night, Inserra beamed on the runway — her passion for finding a cure to diabetes and her passion for fashion had become one.
"This is cooler than I could ever imagine, it's beyond anything we could have ever imagined," she told Patch. Inserra has been involved with DRI since she was diagnosed but has always had an eye out for fashion. "I'm a social worker but I've always wished I could be in fashion," she said.
The charitable fashion show was organized by Jack Panico of Panico Salons and Spas.
"I come from the beauty business," Panico told Patch. "Beauty has a lot to do with fashion ... I wanted to put a little light on what goes on behind the scenes."
Inserra met Panico a year ago at his salon. At the time, she had just undergone a total of 25 surgeries for her vision and hearing and felt uncomfortable. "I couldn't see my hand in front of my face ... I couldn't put my makeup on." She said her mother took her to the salon for pick-me-up, where she met Panico.
"Jack started making fun of me," Inserra said. "But it made me feel better, and then he asked me, 'What can I do to help?'"
Panico said finding a cure for diabetes is a cause that is close to his heart — his wife's family has diabetes.
"You have to be touched by it, that's where the passion comes from," he said. "I wanted to do something good with this and give DRI a great platform for awareness and a fun platform."
Founded in 1976, the DRI is a research-based organization trying to find a cure for diabetes.
"This is a natural partnership," said Lily Scarlett, director of special events for the Long Island region of DRI. "With beauty is health, it's all related."
Seven designers — both emerging and seasoned, local and global — graced the runway with their latest trends. Polish designer Teresa Rosati wowed the crowd with her sleek, elegant dresses and men paraded down the runway in designer ARI's apparel.
It was standing-room only as 80 models strutted down the runway to a crowd of 600 guests.
Celebrities from Bravo's The Real Housewives of New Jersey and The Style Network's Jerseylicious sat front row. Hip-hop artist DMC ended the show with a special performance.
The event also included a silent auction, wine tasting, dinner and a beauty bar. Tickets ranged from $100-$350. The event concludes Tuesday night.
Panico co-founded last year with Donnella Tillery. He said the duo decided to go their seperate ways this year and host different events.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Inserra had a "bump" on her side. Inserra has an insulin pump on her side.]