For John Bradley, A Fashionable Goodbye

Lucy Gellman PhotoOn the eve of his departure from Liberty Community Services, Director John Bradley got a stylish and tearful goodbye — and promised to continue supporting the organization from outside it.

That goodbye was part of the ninth annual Project Style, a fashion show and silent auction benefitting the Liberty Community Services’ homelessness outreach and housing programs on Thursday. Far removed from its beginnings at Artspace New Haven in 2008, this year’s Project Style packed Alexion Pharmaceuticals’ 100 College St. digs, bringing in a crowd of over 200.

As of Friday, Bradley said. the organization had raised roughly $30,000. He’s expecting it to net a higher amount this year than in years past, as Alexion donated its space for the event.

For Bradley, whose 10-year tenure at Liberty Community Services has included temporary work and job training for the city’s homeless population, growing the organization’s supportive housing program, and new programs like the Sunrise Cafe, the goodbye is bittersweet.

Bradley is looking forward to starting a new chapter in his professional life in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where his wife Elizabeth has been appointed as president as Vassar College, he said. But he will miss his work at Liberty Community Services — more than expected when he took the position, he reported. He recalled sitting in an interview for the position 10 years ago, and getting an unexpected final question from a board member. The board was confident that Bradley could do the work, he had said. But would he enjoy the work enough to stay for four or five years?

Bradley said yes at the time. Now, he said, he has loved the job “more than I ever imagined.”

As a melange of community members and professional models prepared to strut their stuff on the runway, Liberty Board President Jim Travers presented Bradley with a gift “to warm his heart as he has warmed ours” — a throw blanket from the New Haven Museum.

“He has made where we live a much better place,” sad Travers. “He has allowed me to see the face of the faceless ... he has taught me much more than I think he could ever know.”

With two bright spotlights setting the path and music pumping from DJ Dooley-O’s laptop, models and cheering attendees then gave Bradley a fashion-forward sendoff. Sporting fashions from area retailers such as DelMonico Hatter and Idiom boutique, community-members-turned-models marched, glided and danced down one runway and up another, attendees cheering and standing to snap pictures as models passed. 

Then Bradley got a big reveal (announced, per Project Style custom, by newscaster Ann Nyberg). Designer Neville Wisdom‘s newest fashions, worn by both community members like Institute Library Director Valerie Garlick and muralist Kwadwo Adae (pictured at top) and a cadre of professional models, hit the runway.

Black and white animal prints in loose, drapey fabrics floated. Hip-hugging color-block dresses drew oooohs and aaaaahs. Wisdom’s new designs for men — tailored suits in flowing linen and raw silk — doubled as a testament to sturdy craftsmanship as models popped, locked and dropped it like it was hot. A few signature Wisdom-isms — boxy dresses with just-sexy drapes — got new color schemes in deep, shimmering violet and orange-and-blue patterns.

Telling the story of the small, Jamaican community in which he grew up — and “was a boy who wanted to make dresses, which people thought was strange” — Wisdom praised Bradley for the work he did to make some of New Haven’s most vulnerable citizens feel welcome. “Supporting the community, doing things that involve the community is the best way you can grow,” he said.

“C’mon!’ he added. “It’s a celebration 30 years in the making.”

To listen to an interview with Bradley from WNHH Community Radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program, click on or download the audio above.

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posted by: wendy1 on May 1, 2017  2:34pm

Liberty is our most solid local non-profit.  You can be sure your donation will have immediate results in a poverty-stricken community (ours).  I trust them to do the right thing.  They are conveniently located in the middle of town on the Green on the 2nd FL of 129 Church St.——-2 blocks or so from their “Cafe” and close to Safe Haven on State St., a nice antique brick building, home for many homeless.
Goodbye John.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 1, 2017  10:22pm

Bradley is looking forward to starting a new chapter in his professional life in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.,

Hey John.May be you can work with the executive director of Safe Harbors of Hudson Valley.She has a Gentrification Vampire Problem like New Haven .

Gentrification in the Hudson Valley
The executive director of Safe Harbors of the Hudson discusses her organization’s mission — and challenges.

My bad.Good Luck On your new Move.