Pittsburgh Fashion Week No. 3 debuts with splashy eco-chic

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, 11:20 p.m.

Opening night of the third annual Pittsburgh Fashion Week started, well, fashionably late.

But it was worth waiting for.

Once things got underway about 20 minutes after the scheduled time, the 350-plus guests were treated to a show with eco-chic flair. “The O.N.E. Opening Night Extravaganza: Green is the New Black” took place at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland.

After a heart-moving video from the evening's charity, Free Wheelchair Mission, a company that provides wheelchairs to disabled people across the globe, the runway shows began.

The evening showcased three fashion designers – all with Pittsburgh ties. More than 50 models took part.

Brazilian native Lana Neumeyer of O'Hara is known for her colorful, lively pieces and bold designs because, to her, it is always “carnival time.” She instructed her models to dance down the runway in their dresses, skirts and coats made from everything from a Brazilian fabric called Chita to burlap.

Next up was designer Mary Margaret Stewart, a Squirrel Hill native who lives in California and is creator of the line Iman B. Her clothing is all hand-painted, made in the USA and features slimming silhouettes in darker, more subdued colors, some practically see-through.

A dance performance -- choreographed by Katie Alexander with costumes designed by Angie Fec of Sew Addicted! -- followed.

Next up, Mt. Lebanon native Faith Pongracz, who lives in New York, showcased her unusual headwear which is inspired by street fashion and punk rock and do-it-yourself style that comes across as extremely edgy. Her models moved robotically down the runway, most wearing all black -- even covering their faces -- to bring the attention to the hat or head covering showcasing her Faith n' Khaos line.

Pongracz is obsessed with trash and uses everything from bottle caps to broken mirrors to trash bags.

In the audience was Emmy-award winning stylist David Zyla, who has helped dress soap opera star Susan Lucci and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and is author of the book “Color Your Style.“

“I thought the entire show was great,” Zyla said. “I thought all three designers were masterful in what they were trying to accomplish. There was great variety and they all pushed the boundaries.”

This was not the first time Soldiers & Sailors hosted a fashion event, but it was the first time for Pittsburgh Fashion Week to bring its style to the Oakland venue. Marjorie Henderson, director of development for Soldiers & Sailors hopes it's an annual partnership.

“I love fashion so this was so exciting to me,” said Henderson. “I am glad they decided to have opening night here. ... I love seeing professional models and imagining myself in one of those dresses.”

Opening night show producer Charissa Livingston said having this show at such an historic venue was unbelievable and she hopes to be back here again.

“I love the diversity in opening night too with the designers,” Livingston said. “This event can create jobs for designers and give them the opportunity to pursue a career in this industry without having to go to New York.”

Fashion week executive director Miyoshi Anderson says she thought the evening went exactly as planned and the three designers complemented each other.

“I believe we showed eco-chic in a very positive light,” she said. “From Lana's festive designs to Mary Margaret's sleek elegance to Faith's avant-garde.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or 412-320-7889.

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