Fashion Story's achievements are telling

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, 7:04 p.m.

Even though Hurricane Ivan nearly swept the Pittsburgh Fashion Story event away in its inaugural year, it has managed to survive to see its 10th event.

The date was Sept. 17, 2004. The storm battered the city with 9 inches of rain. Guests weren't able to make it through the flooded streets and highways to reach J. Verno Studio on the South Side.

So, organizers made calls, and the show went on — the following night. Most of the original attendees were able to make it, as well as models, boutique owners and volunteers.

“That first year was an enormous accomplishment that we even had any show,” says Mary Mitchell, director of Partners for Quality Foundation, the show's beneficiary. “I think that really bonded all of us. We were committed to making that show happen because of all the planning and hard work that went into it. And the show did go on, thanks to everyone working together.”

More than 350 guests are expected to attend this year's show, Sept. 13 at the Power Center Ballroom at Duquesne University. The “story” or theme this time is jazz. Guests are invited to come dressed in their favorite jazz-inspired looks. Jazz singer Etta Cox and the band Silencio will provide the entertainment.

There will be 13 female and five male models showcasing fall's hottest trends from local boutiques: e.b. Pepper, Eons Fashion Antique, Glitter & Grit, Kristi Boutique, Charles Spiegel for Men, Threadz Boutique and Roberta Weissburg Leathers. Hair and makeup will be provided by Izzazu Salon, Spa & Serata.

Net proceeds since the show's inaugural year have exceeded $185,000.

This year's show will benefit Allegheny Children's Initiative, which is a subsidiary of Partners for Quality, a private, nonprofit organization that supports adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and children with mental health challenges.

“We have had so much support from the organizers to the stores to the models to the sponsors to the volunteers,” Mitchell says. “Everyone is committed to the cause, which helps so many families. They all enjoy being part of a fashion event but they all also see the bigger picture, and they have for 10 years, which is wonderful. There are many families in need, and this partnership has helped us help those families.”

The show is the brain-child of co-chairmen John Lamberson and Douglas Tjelmeland. They decided on a different venue this year.

This is the only fashion show in which Charles Spiegel of Charles Spiegel for Men in Squirrel Hill participates.

“It's very professionally done, and it's a great crowd that is very excited about the event, plus it's for a wonderful charity,” Spiegel says. “I am honored to be a part of it.”

He says he enjoys the intimate setting of the show, which is part of the event's ambiance.

“I think it has also survived because many of the original planners and organizers have stayed committed to it and have put so much time into it,” fashion-show coordinator Tori Mistick says. “And it has grown every year. The guests really support Partners for Quality, and we try to give them a fun night of fashion, all to help a good cause.”

Being part of helping such a wonderful charity is why Erin Szymanski, owner of Glitter & Grit in Lawrenceville got involved.

She says she loves when fashion can bring people together to help others. She tries to offer dress lines that are unique, earth-friendly and that don't make the brides look “like cake toppers,” she says.

“It is such a worthy cause,” Szymanski says. “I think people like to know they are contributing to a good cause. The event has lasted for 10 years, so they must be doing something right. That is why I wanted to be a part of it. It should be a really special evening.”

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

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