Life of the Party: Behind Fashion for Paws

by Editorial

Behind the scenes, Syzygy Events International was an integral part of Fashion for Paws.
By John Arundel

The Syzygy Events International team at Fashion for Paws.

If you were one of the 1,700 bug-eyed attendees whose collective jaws dropped once inside the National Building Museum for the 6th Annual Fashion for Paws fundraising extravaganza Saturday, you have Syzygy Events International to thank.

It was not the yapping chihuahas or Marie Osmond‘s uncommonly sparkly chompers that stole the show. It was that runway, that crazy quilt of exploding signage wrapped inside a Miami sunset, and all of those miles of elegant draping, that lifted you by the lapels and instantly transported you to some Victoria’s Secret wonderland of runway fantasy and whimsical fun.

Syzygy conceived and produced DC’s biggest animal charity event – known in the Twittersphere by its handle as just “F4P” – which benefitted the Washington Humane Society. The event featured 90 vamped-up “models” who accompanied their equally stylish canines down the runway for a revel-filled fashion show and gala where socialites raise money for the honor of walking dogs down the runway.

Ashlan Gorse of E! News flew out from L.A. for the party, and Marie Osmond came in from Las Vegas, to first serve as Grand Marshal of the Cherry Blossom Parade earlier in the day, then to headline F4P that night. Onstage, Osmond chuckled about how she would have liked to trade her eight brothers for eight Dalmatians growing up.

“Is this the most fun event I’ve ever been to?” said Osmond, who adopted a shelter puppy named George before the evening was over. “What’s better than fashion and animals?”

Syzygy donated nearly $100,000 in goods and services to this year’s Fashion for Paws, with Design Cuisine nearly topping that with its donation of catering. By April 14, the day of the event, they had helped the Washington Humane Society reach a milestone of $720,000, an all-time record. Nikki Burdine, a TV reporter who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, hauled in the most, about $43,000 for the event.

Marielle Shortell, a Principal at Syzygy Events International, became involved in Fashion for Paws in 2009. A dog-lover herself, Marielle dedicated herself to the event and over the years has helped transform it into one of DC’s hottest and biggest fashion events of the year. In 2011, she moved the event to the National Building Museum and began painting her palette.

“It is truly a personal accomplishment when you can apply your professional passion with something you believe in,” Shortell said. “I have always enjoyed working for Fashion for Paws.”

Syzygy’s Founder Julie Shanklin added that her entire team was proud of Shortell’s work on behalf of the Humane Society. “We love animals at our office,” she said. “We bring our dogs to work every day. There are seven of them in total — five of them are rescues.”

Each year, the event displays a single theme. This year, the theme revolved around a Miami sunset.
“We were inspired by the very sexy Victoria’s Secret Campaign,” Shortell said. “We try and change the look dramatically each year. Last year, it was Georgetown and Cherry Blossoms. This year is all about the bright neon colors that are gracing the runway and fashion spreads for spring.”

Syzygy is a boutique event production company which bills itself as “creating unimaginable event environments,” from intimate gatherings to elaborate charity galas and corporate events. “Where we excel is in producing seamless, innovative event décor,” Shanklin said. “We cater to each client to create a personal look for each individual event.”

Fashion for Paws, which raises money for homeless animals, was launched in 2007 and is now considered one of DC’s biggest animal charities. This year, the Washington Humane Society surpassed its goal of $625,000 several days before the event. Since 2007, Fashion for Paws has raised a total of $2.2 million.

“We did it,” said Tara de Nicolas, Fashion For Paws executive director, upon surpassing record highs for fundraising. “But we couldn’t have done it without the amazing support from our sponsors, especially the people at Syzygy, our biggest.”

Pamela Sorenson, Syzygy Principal Marielle Shortell and Syzygy Founder Julie Shanklin.

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