It was so incredible to be featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s article last week by Sara Bauknecht, about three Pittsburghers at New York Fashion Week. To be recognized and supported by my hometown validates all that I do and all the sacrifices and hard work I’ve put forth to get here in my career, and motivates me to reach for the stars, no matter how unsound and impossible it may seem.
You can read it online at the Post-Gazette.com, or see below!
The Big Apple will get a bit busier when the who’s who of the fashion world descend on Lincoln Center Thursday for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, eight days of runway shows and presentations previewing the trends that will make a splash in stores next fall and winter. Meanwhile, hotel suites, galleries and rooftop terraces across the city will be transformed into makeshift showrooms for other New York Fashion Week festivities.
For many, the biannual affair is synonymous with VIP parties, runways and industry powerhouses such as Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley surveying the scene from the front row. But behind the glamour and glitterati are thousands of models, stylists, makeup artists, designers, writers and volunteers who make it all possible. Meet three of them from Pittsburgh:
Fashion Week or not, beauty and style are always on Julia DiNardo’s agenda.
When the 30-year-old Highland Park native isn’t working as a freelance writer (she’s contributed to media outlets such as Redbook, GQ, BeautyHigh.com and AOL StyleList, among others), she’s refining stories for her Fashion Pulse Daily blog or prepping for the course on style and society she teaches at New York University’s Gallatin School. She’s also the creator of Neighbor Teaze, a line of T-shirts with slogans and graphics inspired by Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
During Fashion Week, her workload intensifies. Now based in the Astoria neighborhood, she covers about 60 shows for her blog and a handful of other beauty sites. Backstage interviews with stylists also dot her days.
“It’s just a matter of splitting my time, hopefully successfully, between being backstage and coming around to the front of the house to see the shows and the looks as they come down the runway,” she says.
Ms. DiNardo is a seasoned pro at balancing the long days of shows and the late nights of writing, having covered Fashion Week for almost a decade. Plus, she’s passionate about what she does.
“I always knew I wanted to do something in fashion,” she says. “Sometimes I forget, being here and going to a lot of events, how amazing and special it is.”
When she needs a hand, she taps friends in the industry or current or former students to write a piece.
“I’m glad I can offer them that opportunity,” she says. “I think that the blogging community seems to have a strong cohesion. … Sharing tips and information about how to better things isn’t considered as much of a trade secret. It’s ‘I don’t mind helping you. Let me help you,’ which has been a breath of fresh air.”
She’s watched Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week relocate from its midtown home at Bryant Park to Lincoln Center and start to treat online media more like print’s equal by providing more resources on-site for digital journalists.
“It makes me feel things are definitely starting to move in a more online-friendly format,” she says.
Vivienne Tam, Kati Stern, Jillian Lewis, Benjamin Cho — all names one may expect to see on a Fashion Week roster. But for Philip Pelusi, they’re memories of past collaborations.
“We’re adding on to the list, but you can only take on what you can handle and do well,” says the Bloomfield-born hairstylist and product developer, who is in his 60s.
This weekend, Mr. Pelusi, who has salons in New York City and across Pittsburgh, will rekindle his collaboration with Ms. Stern, the Venexiana designer whom he’s worked with for five or six seasons. This time around, he’s planning a “neo-Renaissance” look for her over-the-top couture gowns that “will be modern but will have some soft, interesting wave patterns going back into a top knot,” he says.
Prior to the big day, Mr. Pelusi and his team of stylists — many from Pittsburgh — practice executing the look planned for the models and meet with the designer for approval.
“If they’re feeling something else, we have to be able to come up with an answer for them,” he says. “You have to be ready for everything and anything.”
Even a well choreographed plan can be tested by the backstage chaos. Models can be late, conditions are cramped and there are interviews with reporters to do in between styling. But one of the greatest challenges is creating the same look on multiple models with different features and hair textures, he says.
To help refresh a model’s hair that’s sodden with sprays and gels from other shows, Mr. Pelusi uses products from his Tela Beauty Organics and P2 lines, which he also uses for styling. His philosophy is that hair is a fabric and adding healthy ingredients to it makes a better fabric, and ultimately a better design.
“It’s a process,” he says of Fashion Week. “When you’re going through it, it’s like having a baby. … When it’s over, a lot of good things happen.”
For 20-year-old Alexis Katsafanas of the North Hills, fashion isn’t just something she sports for a photo shoot or learns about at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. It’s in her genes.
“I know it sounds silly, but I feel like it was just an interest I was born with,” she says, recalling childhood photos of her dressing up and posing for the camera.
Since graduating from Hampton High School and moving to New York to study fashion merchandising, her childhood fascination has flourished into a lifestyle of juggling school, test shoots and blogging about menswear for StyleSegment.com.
“Some days I wake up in the dorm room and I look out the window and I can see the Empire State Building and I feel so lucky,” she says. “It’s so crazy. I live here!”
She’s also interned with Elite Model Management and Karen Lee Group and witnessed the hustle and bustle of the holidays in New York firsthand as a seasonal employee in the men’s department at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Fashion Week provides even more learning opportunities. In recent seasons, Ms. Katsafanas has volunteered backstage, and this time she plans to report on shows for StyleSegment.
She also has been invited to model for New York-based women’s label DEIVIE, which she has walked for in the past and posed for its lookbooks.
“I guess I’d be most happy if I could find my dream job and successfully model on the side, even just as a commercial model” for a catalog or health magazine, she says. “Right now, it’s just more whatever job I can get, and I’m having fun and going to school.”