The bulk of the 600 guests at next week’s fashion show for Catherine Malandrino and Mary J. Blige’s first full-blown FFAWN collection will be paying top dollar to be in the house.

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Eighty percent of the guests will have to drop $1,000 to secure a seat at the June 15 Museum of Modern Art event, but all those greenbacks will be used to cover college tuition for a group of high school graduates in the Bronx.

Save for the occasional multibrand fashion show for humanitarian relief efforts or for cherry-picked American Express customers, big-name runway shows have pretty much remained a gated community for fashion insiders.

This all-are-welcome gathering will feature an array of well-known women on the catwalk as well as ones whose paychecks rely on actual modeling. The debut show for Malandrino and Blige’s FFAWN ready-to-wear collection has Elle as the media sponsor and the title will spotlight the event in its July music issue. Video footage from the show will be posted on Malandrino’s Web site, as well as Elle’s shortly after the event.

But the real impetus for the MoMA event was a charitable one, according to the designer. All proceeds from the $1,000 tickets will be used for what they hope will be enough money to cover college tuition for 30 graduates from the Women’s Academy of Excellence in the Bronx, a beneficiary of Blige’s Foundation For the Achievement of Women (FFAWN). “It’s very important to keep this integrity with this initiative. It’s about women and helping women,” Malandrino said.

Friends for the past 10 years. Blige and Malandrino debuted a girl-power FFAWN T-shirt collection in February at Bloomingdale’s flagship. After selling out of 700 tops, the pair resorted to signing blank T-shirts for other credit-card-ready fans. “We felt we had to continue and do more,” Malandrino said of their 25-style collection. “But with Mary, when we try to do something, we always have a longtime picture in our minds. We wanted to build more awareness about her charity and opening the show to the public through ticket sales would be the best way.”

Sales from FFAWN r-t-w, which will wholesale from $200 for a T-shirt to $3,000 for a studded leather jacket, will benefit Blige’s foundation. Aside from the charitable component, the show, which will include a cocktail party in the The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, will draw back the curtains for nonindustry types. “We wanted to give back to the public and make them dream about something they have not really had the chance to be part of,” Malandrino said.

Blige has not been at fittings or designing the resort collection but she continually “feeds” Malandrino’s imagination by referencing iconic moments in music, fashion and film. The Pointer Sisters, Diana Ross, Grace Jones, Tina Turner and Chaka Khan are among the musicians whose personal style is being considered.

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