As a young child, Meredith Bogardus Skinner designed dresses for her dolls. Today she sews to save lives. “I have sewn ever since I can remember,” shares the uber-artist and hobbyist fashion designer. “I had a paper route and would use all the money I earned to go to the fabric store to make dresses for my dolls. It’s something I’ve always done.” Now, Meredith’s using her crafting skills to cure cancer, one stitch at a time.
“It’s amazing to be able to use my hobby to fight cancer,” she admits. “It’s devastating to lose someone. You never get over it. The hole is enormous.” Realizing she’d never fill the crater cancer left in her life, Meredith simply blazed a way around it by co-founding Couture for a Cause.
Greenville is still abuzz over the high-style fashion show that filled the West Village Lofts at Brandon Mill in September. The runway competition featured 20 designers presenting creations made from repurposed materials—including used panty hose and old tires, vintage felt and plastic Legos. As odd as the pattern pieces sound, the finished gowns were elaborate and stunning wearable works of art, floating down the catwalk before a sea of admirers.
Meredith and friend Brooke Barlow committed to founding an uplifting event, one that provided a creative outlet while giving back to the community, after participating in a recycled runway show in Columbia. The duo knew they wanted to fight a disease that had stolen loved ones from both of their lives, and partnered with Blair Barneycastle at the American Cancer Society. “We were looking for something to create cancer awareness that utilized art when they came to us,” Blair recalls. “Greenville is unique in that we have a heavy presence of arts and culture, and tying in fashion brought it full circle.”
Love & Loss
The center of Meredith’s circle was her father, adman Michael Bogardus. Their bond was so tight, she followed him into the advertising business, successfully working in the art department at various firms before starting her own company. Her little brother, Ted, was her biggest cheerleader both professionally and personally. “I called my dad every day on the way to work. My brother lived one block away. I’d swing by and have a beer with him.”
Her circle split wide open ten years ago when Michael died quickly of a cancer that had grown so invasive, doctors weren’t sure of its origin. A few years later, her brother suffered a week-long headache that turned out to be a grade III glioblastoma. Ted passed away in 2016. Meredith reflects, “How they saw me as a person was part of who I was. No one knew me better. I had to redefine myself when they were gone.”
Paper Flower Tribute
The grieving daughter and big sister channeled her helplessness into doing something. She not only co-founded Couture for a Cause, but designed a dazzling showpiece for the event, as well. The strapless gown features thousands of paper flowers, decoupaged and glue-gunned to a sweetheart neckline, pencil underdress, and peplum train. “Flowers are in every part of our life, whether we’re celebrating or mourning. They bring us joy that seems important,” she reveals.
What’s more, the flowers are all cut from TOWN magazines. “The idea is the flowers are made from stories from other people’s lives. It’s a tapestry of the human experience. One beautiful bouquet.” A spectacular homage featuring an endless seam of art, fashion, and philanthropy. She sums up her efforts saying, “To do something, even in the smallest way that can bring comfort to a family impacted by cancer and ease their burdens, that feels great. Now, finding a cure? That’s the big picture.”