When it comes to a runway fashion show, the clothes aren’t the only thing on display.

Local models from all walks of life participated in Fashion on the Shore 2014, where they had the chance to wear unique pieces created by some of the most innovative new designers of their generation.

Models from Southwest Michigan, Northwest Indiana and Chicago gathered in St. Joseph on May 9 to play a very essential part in getting this successful show off the ground.

Event organizer Dani Lane says the models showed professionalism and experience the day of the show.

“We used half of the models from last year, and got about 15 new models from our model calls in early 2014,” she says. “Varsha Shivakumar is always amazing, along with Sarah Dwight, Deanna Affeld, Emily Hoge and Kaitlin Pentecost.”

“Varsha and Sarah have done all three shows,” Lane adds.

Shivakumar, of Chicago, began her modeling career in college.

“A few agencies in Chicago reached out to me,” Shivakumar says. “I heard about Fashion on the Shore through Shore magazine and thought it would be a fun experience.”

She enjoys the true collaborative atmosphere provided by Fashion on the Shore.

“My favorite part of the show is getting to work with all the artists involved,” Shivakumar says. “From the designers, photographers to the make up artists...the environment is filled to the brim with artistic talent and creativity. It is wonderful to be immersed in it.”

Models not only represent a wide area along the Lake Michigan shore, but also a wide range of careers and interests. Shivakumar works full time at Allstate while she finishes her MBA. Other models go to college full time; some are even younger.

A few designers bring their own models with them to the show, but most rely on the event organizers to pair their clothing with the perfect model to showcase the design.

“I generally choose models to fit the clothes as best I can, but there will always be some switching around and refitting clothes,” Lane says.

Since each designer brings about five pieces to the show, each model must wear several different designs; sometimes models go through three or more clothing changes during the show. A dresser was on hand to facilitate these quick changes and keep the show running smoothly.

Out on the runway, Shivakumar kept the show running smoothly as model coordinator for 2014. As an experienced model who previously participated in Fashion on the Shore, she was able to provide guidance to other models and help them develop their skills at a runway show.

“I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience of being in the industry for 8 years. The challenge is knowing when your advice is going to be received,” says Shivakumar.

“This industry at times doesn't tell the individual exactly what to work on and just provides a general comment. Some of the girls were so thankful that I actually pointed to the parts of their body they needed to focus on instead of just saying ‘you need to have a stronger walk.’ It is difficult as a person to get better without pinpointing your weaknesses.”

Fashion on the Shore models are at their best when they are ready and willing to collaborate with designers; similarly, the designers do their best work when engaging with the models to showcase their designs.

“The designers and models truly work very hard together and are very supportive of each other,” Lane says.

“The city and the individuals who attend and make the show happen are some of the kindest souls you will encounter in the fashion industry,” Shivakumar says. “I drive to St. Joseph every year to be a part of this wonderful, happy experience.”

“I hope to continue to be a leader and help each model feel comfortable, beautiful and rock the runway,” she says.