“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live.”

Gianni Versace

I had the pleasure of going to a sneak peek event this past Saturday for Electric City Couture held in conjunction with a fundraiser for the Vanguard-Albany Symphony. I’ve never been to a fashion show before, aside from some charity shows at my high school a few years back but this was obviously very different. Fashion is one of those things that I find to be so overwhelming. I love shopping and I love looking at new clothes but my knowledge of designers and collections is very limited.

I was drawn to this particular show because of its local connection. The mission of Electric City Couture is “to create a sustainable, fabulous scene that raises awareness for the art of fashion and fashion related industries, specifically regionally produced design and services that can be introduced through local, independent boutiques, creating regional economic development through the Creative Economy.” VanguardFashion1To summarize, many designers from our area sell their designs to stores in New York City and in turn those stores sell designs back to the Capital Region. Electric City Couture wishes to take out that middle man and bring local stores and boutiques together to see a showcase of local designers and keep the business here.

The Stedman House in Loudonville, NY made for a perfect backdrop for this beautifully put together Parisian inspired fashion show. The house was a wedding gift in 1884 to George Woolverton Stedman from his father. The current owner purchased the house in 1997 from SUNY Albany which was used as the President’s Home. The Stedman house is the Vanguard Showhouse for 2013. The members of Vanguard participate in volunteer work on behalf of the Albany Symphony Orchestra and raise funds to make sure that the orchestra prospers. Each room is the house is partly furnished and restored by local companies and is really a sight to see.

The Vanguard Mansion Show is inspired by John Galliano’s 1993 Parisian Mansion Show. We were seated in various rooms throughout the house as models walked a path from room to room with a soundtrack of Petia Kassarova, cellist for the Albany Symphony Orchestra. We saw one-two pieces from each designer and all it did was make me want to see the rest.

The show began with the Marshall Roberts line from Johnstown, NY (designers: Kristen Marshall & Sarah Roberts). They had two pieces, a yellow dress as well as a men’s suit. They could be easily placed in an episode of Mad Men. Very structured, very tailored and though I don’t know the actual fabric used, it looked like mesh peek-a-boo cut outs in the dress. Very cute for office attire!

The second designer was Gamakache Black from St. Albans, NY VanguardShow2(designer: Margaret Persaud) and I was in love with this dress. Persaud’s designs are all in black and if you think that you would need color in a design to grab your attention, you are mistaken. The minute the model, Rhonda Forester, walked into the room there is no way to keep your eyes from that dress. Personally the fabric of the sleeves and bottom is not something I would wear myself, but there is no hiding the flawlessness of the overall design. There is no back to this dress and I dare you to find a noticeable seam, it’s beautiful.

The next design was from Constance Rose Collections from Rotterdam, NY (designer: Nicole Munson). I was able to talk to Nicole and her model Rachel Aurie after the show and was explained that her goal is to make a petite line for those under 5’3″. I loved the black cocktail dress she designed, reminiscent of  the class of Audrey Hepburn’s classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s little black dress and I respect her for making versatile dresses for petite frames.

The next design was from Duchess- Beauty (and the pleat) from designer Danielle Breitenbach & Jessyka Neitzel out of Altamont, NY. Everything from their line was handprinted and painted. The designers featured two dresses, both with incredible lines and structure. The first dress was a black evening gown with a peek-a-boo blue pattern with small blue gems on the pleats. VanguardShow3On the front of the dress, on the chest was a black bow. The second dress was a striped grey dress that, too, could be placed into the 1960s easily. These dresses are beautiful, especially after the fact, knowing that they are handprinted. This was followed by a corset set  designed by the very same Danielle Breitenbach. The corset was beautiful, very intricate. I can’t imagine the patience it takes to put together a corset. My only problem with corsets is that they seem to be, like in this case, too beautiful to just wear under clothing or to risk ruining wearing intimately.

I loved the coat designed by Vilma Mare of Sartorial Goods based in Hudson, NY. Mare focuses on fall and winter attire which is appropriate for our usually cold climate. The winter coat as well as white dresses  had raised lines of fabric as a pattern. It’s hard to imagine wearing these outfits with the recent humid and hot weather approaching but we are in the Northeast and the cold weather is inevitable.

My second favorite designer of the show was Khymanyo Studio designed by Kim Vanyo of Saratoga, NY. If the name sounds familiar it’s because you may be familiar with her designs that are already featured in local boutiques and Circles. The first piece was a mesh top and blue skirt with a feathered detail. It was cute but not particularly my personal style. The second piece was one of my favorites, a two piece suit with a raised collar. The shirt itself was black but with a patterned detail on the inside of the stand-up collar. The structure and detail were impeccable!

Second to last was e’ ko logic designed by Kathleen Tesnakis from Troy, NY. Both of her pieces were made of cashmere  a pink color blocked dress and a men’s shirt. All items are handmade and 99% recycled. The men’s shirt looked great but I wasn’t too fond of the dress. I love the design but I just wish it was in a different fabric. I am interested to see what other pieces Tesnakis brings to the big show to get a better feel for her style. The last designer was Kristina Collins Clothing from Saratoga, NY designed by Kristina Collins. Another of my favorite designers had a high-waisted pant with a short green military-style jacket (that I love and want). The second time around, we got to see the shimmer white blouse underneath.

The entire experience was incredible, something completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced. To be in the presence of Petia Kassarova playing cello alone is something to remember but add in the beautiful atmosphere of this antique house and I wish you all could’ve been there to experience it! If you’re interested in seeing these clothes firsthand, you can go to the 4th Annual Electric City Couture full show this Friday, May 24th at 8:00PM at Proctors GE Theatre, Schenectady for FREE!