RIVERVIEW — When Gam Calderon, 19, started making calls in anticipation of his second annual Fashion For the Cure St. Jude Children's Hospital benefit show, the word "no" resonated from the other of the end line often.
Still, he persevered. For the first two months, he booked performers, donors, vendors, hosts, a venue and, of course, planned the fashion, all solo and all out of his own pocket.
Eventually he gained the help of backstage hand turned executive producer, Marisol Perez.
"She's so capable and organized," Calderon said. "If we lose something we have a replacement two hours later."
Perez and Calderon connected through a volunteer match. Now they're just days away from staging the show Sunday at the Regent.
"I think St. Jude's is an amazing organization and I am so glad to be a part of this," Perez said. "Calderon even gave me a segment where I'll present my wearable art collection, the Solimar Collection."
In addition to wearable art made out of paper, the House of Gam founder has created ready-to-wear fashions and evening wear.
"I didn't have the inspiration until I watched (the 2007 motion picture) Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," Calderon said. "A dress may remind you of a rocking horse or a Rubik's cube, something you had when you were little."
That inspiration turned into building the show around a night of toys and fashion, interspersed with live performances by dancers and singers, including Christian Rivera and Virginia Roebuck.
Miguel and Holly from WPOI-FM 101.5 (Hot 101.5) will host.
Last year, the event took up one ballroom.
This year, it will take over the entire building.
"The show will happen in the middle and third ballroom, while the first ballroom will be filled with 23 local designer and retail vendors," Calderon said. "Plus, two food trucks outside and a cash bar."
More space, also means more models.
"I always watch big fashion shows and they have 60 or 90 models, so that's what I wanted," Calderon said. "I want people to be shocked. I want to elevate their expectations with a lot of color, music and clothes."
One shocking element is the life-size doll house, a 24 x 24 Victorian doll house that constitutes the set the 43 models will be strutting down.
Gam describes his own fashion as "ever-changing."
He started his blog, House of Gam, as a medium to get into the Tampa Bay fashion scene.
"I started by going in friends' closets and doing shoots with them at the park down the street," Calderon said. "Then, slowly, I got credibility and stores started to come along."
In 2014, he opened a style house, also called House of Gam, in addition to the blog.
On Sunday, he will take his styles to the runway and use his fashion sense to benefit pediatric cancer patients.
"From the first time I put on the benefit show, I knew I wanted to do it again," Calderon said. "I always want to tie it to something philanthropic because it was important to my grandma to give back to the community that is helping you grow."
Contact Arielle Waldman at [email protected]