Pittsburgh's Fashion Week is already ready for reset
To Miyoshi Anderson, the glass is always half full.
She sees positives in negatives, opportunity in obstacles. This founder and executive director of Pittsburgh Fashion Week walks — in high heels, mind you — with confidence, putting one foot in front of the other just like she's done thousands of times on runways all over the world.
She never stops thinking about what's next for the weeklong event she created four years ago.
“I don't get discouraged,” Anderson said in an empty ballroom following the Hall of Fame luncheon. “I press that feeling down. I feel like we are creating each year from a blank canvas, and there are ways to change what we have sketched. We all have do-overs and can reinvent. That is what creating art is all about. And I see fashion as art.”
Anderson is already focused on year No. 5. It's scheduled for Sept. 22 to 28 and will be a seven-day affair. This year was six because of a scheduling conflict with a venue.
“I feel like the first few years were kind of surreal,” she said. “There were times I could not get my head wrapped around what was happening, because I wasn't sure if it was for real. I believe we have established some roots in the ground. The fifth year is going to earn five stars. I feel like we have landed, like we have settled in. There will always be challenges.”
Being able to face those challenges head-on has kept this event alive and growing, say those who know Anderson, who does not get paid for her work with Fashion Week.
“It's about paying it forward,” said Anderson, owner of iModel System, a company that helps models launch and/or take their careers to the next level. “I see this as an investment, a way of giving back.”
In those early years, there were venues that didn't work well and fashion shows that weren't successful. Past issues included traffic problems causing guests to be late and a confusing last-minute hotel name change.
But there have been many things to celebrate, she says.
“Everyone involved in Pittsburgh Fashion Week is making it a success and helping to bring to life my dream, my vision for Pittsburgh to have its own fashion week,” Anderson said. “This event is here to stay in our fashionable city.”
With two multiple-day fashion events within a few months of each other — Style Week Pittsburgh was Aug. 7 to 11 — founders of both support each other and feel their events bring attention to the wonderful fashion scene in Pittsburgh. Anderson says she and Wadria Taylor, founder of Style Week Pittsburgh, have worked on events together.
“I would be interested in looking into future ways where we can impact each other's events,” Taylor said.
They agree the initiative for a Pittsburgh Chapter of Fashion International would help create a greater local fashion connection. The group is an international organization for contemporary issues in the business of fashion, being worked on by Stephanie Taylor, department chairwoman of fashion retail management and fashion design at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, “I know that Pittsburgh is known as a sports town, but it's great to have a wonderful designer who is connected to sports in this town — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's wife, Kiya,” Stephanie Taylor says. “She is a big supporter of fashion in this city.”
There have been roadblocks, says Dottie McAllise, director of business affairs for fashion week.
“Each year, there are mistakes, but we have learned from them so,” McAllise said. “The first year was somewhat traumatic. There was so much pressure, but by year four, things were much more relaxed because now we have experience.”
Opening night was held at the new Highmark Stadium on the South Side.
“The whole thing came together very nicely and was extremely visually stimulating,” event manager Sara Guffey said. “The designers really put forth some excellent pieces and had some very striking models. It was really great for the stadium to be a part of an event such as this.”
It was the second year for Tanger Outlets in Washington County to host a show. General manager Jodi Dague said she's already looking forward to next year. Fashion week was also well-received by Macy's, Downtown, The Pittsburgh Winery in the Strip District and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh — all first-time venues.
Jacqueline Capatolla, owner of Jacqueline's Hair Salon, Downtown, and Lakisha Pattin, owner Fashion Focused Consulting, are looking toward 2014.
“Pittsburgh Fashion Week is definitely on course,” said Capatolla, who has been involved with styling hair and doing makeup for the shows since the first year and was honored at the luncheon with the Exceptional Artist Award. “You learn as you go. It keeps moving forward, and that is a credit to Miyoshi.”
The last week of September is already blocked off, said Pattin, whose Pittsburgh-based company helps style models and assists designers. She started as a volunteer. It takes time for people to want to be a part of it, Pattin says, but more and more people want to be a part of it.
Putting together such an event requires a dedicated team. McAllise says. And you can't always please everyone.
“Sometimes, we create controversy because we might not conform to what some people want,” McAllise said.
What fashion week needs for next year is something distinct, said Tom Julian, a fashion expert, trend analyst, author and television personality who was inducted in the Pittsburgh Fashion Hall of Fame. He has attended fashion weeks in many cities.
“Such events need corporate support, consumer involvement and creativity,” said Julian, a Robert Morris University graduate. “Pittsburgh Fashion Week does not have to have a big-name designer, but it should work to introduce new designers who would be candidates for national shows such as “Project Runway” so they would be connected to something outside of Pittsburgh. The fact Pittsburgh has a fashion curriculum at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh is a wonderful tool to discovering young talent. The week also always needs to be evolving.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7889.