Sarah Pauley in Ae'lkemi. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Fashion is often dismissed as a frivolous preoccupation but a great deal of money has been raised for charity over the years through fashion events and the Perth Fashion Festival has got in on the act.

Giving Back is the New Black was the festival's closing event.

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More than 350 guests filed into the opulent surroundings of Government House ballroom last night to watch two stunning parades by 17 of WA's finest designers

After an intense week of fashion activity, it was the perfect opportunity for festival-goers to have fun.

The audience watched a parade of bespoke black evening dresses and cocktail frocks by Wheels & Dollbaby, Ruth Tarvydas, Ae'lkemi and Morrison, to name just a few.

The dresses will be auctioned and the proceeds will go to charity organisation Ready to Work, which helps disadvantaged and disabled women enter the workforce.

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Governor Malcolm McCusker's wife Tonya said she was "thrilled" that the fashion festival had incorporated a charitable event into its schedule.

"I'm proud to see so many high profile West Australian designers donating their time to support Ready to Work," Mrs McCusker said.

"It's a wonderfully compassionate initiative."

Festival director Mariella Harvey-Hanrahan said she hoped to make the charity event an annual affair.

"We recognise the powerful language of fashion and we're delighted to be able to make a positive contribution to the community," she said.

There was an unexpected second parade later in the evening featuring outfits by the same designers - but in bold, bright colours.

Event organisers turned up the fun factor before the official proceedings got under way, with groups of masked and suited actors from the WA Academy of Performing Arts on the red carpet, serenading guests and handing out long-stemmed red roses to the women.

Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour look-alikes roamed around inside the venue and fake paparazzi snapped away at the fashionably dressed crowd.

Former face of the festival Sarah Pauley, who moonlighted as The West Australian's guest tweeter all week, was a standout in her long black Ae'lkemi gown.

Ahmi Narkle also wowed the crowd in a Jaime Lee dress custom-designed for Kiwi pop star Kimbra.

The 17 black dresses on show last night will be on display at Claremont Quarter until October 14 and will then be auctioned.

The West Australian

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