ALBANY — The Capital District’s fashion scene leaves something to be desired, and because of that an all-hands-on-deck approach is culminating into a one-day event at the Times Union Center on Saturday, Sept. 28.
It’s not from a lack of talent. There are dozens of aspiring fashion moguls collaborating with local models and photographers posting on Instagram. Local musicians like Kyle Albano get into the cross-promotional act, too. It’s there, and one should expect it. The talent is cultivated in the several liberal arts schools within miles of each other in this area. Unlike the local music scene, which flourishes with the number of outlets that allow artists to showcase their talents, there is nothing in the Capital City.
Saturday should start the move to change all of that.
Mike Schinnerer and his fashion committee have created Stitched Fashion, what is expected to be the Capital District’s largest fashion event in history. The evening will feature 12 top designers in the industry and will provide a glamorous red carpet experience for all who attend the Times Union Center, starting at 4:30 p.m.
Schinnerer’s name has been associated with the Capital Masquerade, an annual theme party that puts an imaginative twist on your traditional charity gala. As with the masquerade, Stitched serves as a benefit to the Ronald McDonald House. The annual Halloween party has been such a success, Schinnerer said he was asked to try something new.
“Mike’s productions are of amazing quality, and that is a regional benefit,” said Richard Lovrich, creative director at Proctors. I work at Proctors. We bring the best shows in the world to our theater. And, Mike brings the best, best, best quality that you can possibly have. If it’s a Halloween event or it’s a fashion show, so that part excites me tremendously.”
The scope of the event is larger than that of any masquerade party. The number of designers is bumped up to more than a dozen, as work from area student designers will be showcased as well. More than 120 models will strut down the runaway, with a supporting cast of more than 200 people will help run things backstage. It needs to be a touchdown to succeed, and so Schinnerer’s vision involved the home of the Arena Football League Champion Albany Empire.
“Everything that Mike has done, and where he’s come from… if there’s anyone who can pull this off, it’s him,” said Eric Taylor, director of sales and operations at Best Fitness. The gym chain is a title sponsor of the event. Taylor said he always wanted to be involved with Ronald McDonald House Charities. He said he sees fashion and fitness going “hand-in-hand“ together, as both involve making people feel comfortable. As for the scope of this event, he said he didn’t flinch. “I like to shoot for the stars. I’m a bit of a crazy thinker and will always want to go big. When [Schinnerer] told me what it was, I didn’t even question him.”
Ronald McDonald House is the beneficiary to Saturday’s Stitched Fashion, but it’s not the only mission behind the event. The overall mission is to support and elevate the local fashion community and provide opportunities for regional, national and international designers to connect with the upstate audience.
September is a big month for fashion. New York, London, Milan and Paris — the big four capitals of the fashion world — each host a fashion week twice a year, first in February and the other in September. Established fashion houses go to showcase the next look. It’s also a time when meek fashion designers walk away as household names. Philadelphia has recently started its own week. Schinnerer said he wants to see the same in the Capital District within the next few years.
Schinnerer has a passion for the arts and creative collaboration. His first full-time job was at Sports Illustrated where he designed Michael Jordan’s Career in Pictures commemorative and became friends with the magazine’s swimsuit editor. As a trendspotter, he rubbed elbows with the editors of top fashion magazines, and his first hands-on experience was Jay Z’s first fashion show for Rocawear in 1999.
As a resident of the Capital District for the past 20 years, Schinnerer sees the local fashion scene as “poor.” He said, whenever he had then-Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings’ ear, he would advocate for a fashion district along North Pearl Street.
“But, nothing gets any traction,” said Schinnerer. “We do have some talented designers around here, but they never move forward to a storefront.”
In future years, Schinnerer said he plans to grow the evening into a multiple-day format that would be a fashion week concept. This would attract bigger named designers and entertainers each year. The community would be included in the process and there would be workshops in all areas of fashion. The result would ultimately generate enough fashion interest to turn downtown Albany into a fashion/arts district.
The city of Philadelphia was seriously influenced by the 13-year run of Philly Fashion Week. This fall, Fashion District Philadelphia, a new “retail district” consisting of clothing stores and a movie theater will open. Stitched is hoping to eventually make similar changes locally.
The night will include live music from Billboard chart artists Jocelyn and Chris Arndt, and American Idol finalist Madison VanDenburg. For tickets and information, visit https://www.stitchedny.com/pages/tickets/tickets_page.html.
“There are people who dress well,” said Schinnerer. “There’s people who follow fashion. But, there hasn’t been any event to drive them to. That may still be the case, but I’m going to put it out there. This is huge. We have good music. We have good fashion. Please come out. Please support. And, I think that will drive what happens in the next couple of years.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.