NEW YORK — Red is Christie Brinkley's color.
The veteran supermodel is set to return to the runway Wednesday night for the Red Dress Collection fashion show, an annual New York Fashion Week kickoff event that aims to draw attention to women's heart health by putting celebrity catwalkers in a parade of gowns by some of the country's most famous designers.
Brinkley is a supporter of the Heart Truth campaign, headed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and has participated in this event before. This year, though, she hesitated before deciding to don a dress again. Her own mother is suffering from serious heart disease, having experienced five strokes and a heart attack, and right now Brinkley says she feels like she should be spending quality time with her parents.
But they're the ones who actually nudged her to do it, she said in a teary telephone interview Tuesday. "My parents understand more than anyone about the importance of getting the right care. They're proud of me that I've reached a place where I can give back."
Something else she's learned from them is to maintain a healthy lifestyle with daily exercise and a careful diet. That wasn't always easy when she was a young model, jet-setting from place to place and trying every fad diet that came along, Brinkley, now 58, said, but she's learned the best way to have the good life is to live it. "I make time for this. I used to always put myself on the back burner, but I want to be strong and able for my kids, myself and my parents."
She said she also finds strength and camaraderie within the modeling world, and she hopes the first-time "models" at the Red Dress show will feel that way, too. "I've always felt the catfight thing is a cliche, but especially when we're all together and subject is the heart, we're all united."
It's also a parade of great dresses, and red looks good on so many people, said Marchesa co-founder Georgina Chapman. Marchesa is once again lending a dress for the event, to be worn by model and actress Rebecca Romijn.
"I love the color red. It's such a passionate color and it's a fabulous color when you want to make a splash," Chapman said. If she were on the catwalk, she said she'd probably wear it probably with black heels or neutral makeup. "There's no matchy-matchy with red," she advised. "I especially love to wear black with a hint of red."
Jenna Elfman, making her Red Dress debut, planned to wear a strapless Alberta Ferretti on the catwalk. "I love fashion, I love performance, I love charity," she said.
She said she has wondered what models think about while they're strutting in front of hundreds of people, but she planned to repeat her mantra of "take big steps."
"Thank God I'm tall," Elfman said. "I will get to the end much faster."
Brinkley's advice to the newbies was simple: "You can't take a bad step when you're on that runway. You're there supporting this worthwhile, meaningful cause. And if you slip and fall, you'll make the news and spread the word even more."
Samantha Critchell tweets fashion at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion