Runways closed, Pittsburgh Fashion Week wraps up in style
Nicole Couch knows how to take an old piece of clothing and make it new again.
She scours East Coast thrift shops, consignment stores and any place she can look for vintage items.
Couch's fashions appeared in one of 10 runway shows Friday and Saturday in Pittsburgh's inaugural fashion week. The event ended Sunday with a Pittsburgh Fashion Hall of Fame luncheon.
"Hopefully, the city is more stylish because of it," says LaMont Jones, assistant director and marketing manager for Fashion Week, in which Pittsburgh was treated to seven days of runway shows and a weekend of shopping. The runways were filled with collections from local designers and boutiques as well as the Spring 2011 couture line of internationally renowned designer Zang Toi.
Couch says it was an opportunity she wasn't going to miss.
"What's neat about what I do is everything is unique," Couch said. "If someone else sees it and wants it, they can't have it, because there is only one. There are so many things that are mass-produced these days that it's great to know you can find something that no one else will have."
Couch sells her clothing online at www.crazyhotclothes.com .
"I don't have a store so I thought this would be a great way to get some exposure," Couch said. "I have so many great people I work with from models to photographers to makeup artists that I wanted to give them the opportunity to experience an event like this. "
Judy Bixler of Judy Originals in Beaver Falls, featured her custom designs modeled by their owners. Included was a coat with 10 zippers and two faux furs. A lot of her work is hand-embroidered and she enjoys making a hat to complete the look.
Carabella in Oakmont and Capriccio in Squirrel Hill kicked off Friday's shows and featured everything from animal print to a sophisticated white blouse and black skirt combination.
"This is fashion, and we want you to put these clothes in your closet, right?" asked Miyoshi Anderson, founder and executive director. "So go out and meet the designers and support the local boutiques."
The nightcap was a petite-and-plus perfection show by Steinmart in Ross, Dales Maxima in Squirrel Hill and Diane Dube Lindblade from Shadyside who does a combined plus/petite line. Having plus and petite models was important, said plus-size model Danielle Jackson of Johnstown.
"This is the start of something phenomenal," Jackson said. "There was a time when plus size was not acceptable, but plus size is beautiful. And modeling plus-size fashion is all about how you wear the garment. You don't have to be small to model."
You also don't have to be quiet and reserved when you walk down the runway. On Saturday, Brazilian native and Fox Chapel resident Lana Neumeyer presented a show where models danced, twisted and turned in a collection of vibrant colors. She uses burlap, pure silk, satin, lace and tulle.
"I tell all my models to have fun in the clothes and to make an entrance on the runway," Neumeyer said. "I want everyone to feel good when they wear my designs."
Brian David from Peters is a vintage-inspired designer who is self-taught. He said his collection is "vintage-inspired clothing for the modern woman." David said he was inspired by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." His line can be found at Sugar boutique in Lawrenceville.
"I love a woman who has curves," he said. "Because the clothes I design are made for women with curves. If you are going to dress up, why not go with a full skirt, something with some volume?"
In between shows, attendees browsed Fashion Avenue, where vendors satisfied shoppers.
Attendance was low at the first show Friday because people were having trouble finding the venue. What was a Ramada in Green Tree last week because a Clarion hotel and all the Ramada signs were covered. But by the second show, there were good crowds of 150 plus.
By Saturday, each show had at minimum 100 guests, but most had more than that.
The day began with a show of fashions from designers Laurie B. Allen and Katie Wolfrum who showcased remarkable pieces including embellished clothing, one-shoulder designs, open backs and feminine lace over a black dress. The feature event -- the Eco-Chic show, of reusable and recyclable fashions -- followed by an auction to benefit Operation Santa Claus -- drew an estimated standing-room-only crowd near 300.
Shows that preceded the Eco-Chic event included Pandora in Ross Park Mall, MarkAve by Mario Lyles and Spoiled Chics the Boutique in Sewickley that showed you can wear the same black top and bottom, but change the look with a handbag, scarf or other accessory.
"Both days of shows did pretty well in attendance," Anderson said. "And the Eco-Chic show was a great way to end the evening. My hope is that this event made Pittsburgh more fashionable. I was so pleased to see so many different body types on the runway and appreciate the designers, boutiques, sponsors and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this happen. It's been a great journey."
Jones says it took a certain amount of courage for designers and retailers to step forward and be a part of this first-time event.
"Some people are wait-and-see-how-it-goes kind of people before they become part of something, but those who were part of this week-long event are part of history," Jones said.
Claudia DiNardo of Highland Park bought a week-long pass and attended five of the seven days. Her daughter, Julia, who lives in New York, designs Neighbor Teaze, a Pittsburgh-based T-shirt line of Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
"I wanted to support Fashion Week the minute I heard about it," DiNardo said. "I had faith in what organizers were going to do. I have been to New York, and I would say Pittsburgh did pretty well. And it will get better every year.
"I kind of have a selfish reason, too," she said. "If we have more fashion events in Pittsburgh then my daughter might be back and so will other young designers. We need to support our young designers."
PITTSBURGH FASHION WEEK HALL OF FAME
Pittsburgh Fashion Week inducted its first Pittsburgh Fashion Hall of Fame recipients at a luncheon Sunday at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown.
Inductees are Joseph Orlando Sr., owner of Joseph Orlando men's clothing store, Downtown; the late Naomi Sims, a Westinghouse High School graduate and one of the first black supermodels, credited with paving the way for others; Nijole Ungethuem, former fashion publicist for Saks Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh, who is now with the Linda Bucci boutique in Shadyside; Jane Vandermade, former fashion director for Joseph Horne's department store, who organized the former Symphony Fashion Gala that gained an international reputation for 25 years; Barbara Cloud, former fashion editor and columnist; and Arnold Zegarelli, acclaimed hair and beauty stylist, who currently works for Izzazu Salon and was named one of the top 30 haircutters in the U.S. by Self magazine.