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Making it Work: Runway 3.0

Buffalo State's student designers mount their third annual fashion show

I think people are going to freak out on Saturday!” enthuses Erin Habes, producer of Runway 3.0, this year’s installment of the annual fashion extravaganza showcasing original works by students of Buffalo State’s Fashion Technology Department as well as noted Western New York designers Holly Hue, Aella, Morgen Love, and Adam Lippes.

Her turn of phrase is especially appropriate considering this year’s installment, which promises even more spectacle than in years past, involves the transformation of 20,000 square feet of raw space in Elmwood Avenue’s historic Pierce Arrow Building. Once responsible for manufacturing the early 20th century’s most luxurious ride, the cavernous warehouse later provided rehearsal space for the original Superfreak, Buffalo punk-funk icon Rick James.

There are two shows on Saturday, May 1, at 4pm and 9pm, followed by the requisite afterparty, and of course, the after-afterparty featuring Shock & Awe at Soundlab at 11pm. All proceeds benefit a scholarship fund for the Fashion Technology program.

photos by Cheryl Gorski

Sweeping away shadows of past progress with the promise of contemporary glamor makes perfect sense in light of the event’s theme: “Technology: Progression/Obsession.” Taking its cue from a line by sociologist Beppe Di Donna—“Our society has become more difficult to stimulate and therefore everything is resorting to extremes to be noticed, experimented, and selected”—Runway’s designers were asked to apply this idea to their own collections. “Their designs will play with ideas of extremes in fashion, the role of technology in our culture, and the revolutionary speed of progress in both fashion and the world around us,” Habes says.

Much as Runway 3.0 promises to transform a cavernous raw space into a temple of style (that in turn ironically reflects on the cultural speed that brought it to life and emptied it in the first place), this unique event summons the creative energies of a segment of the Buffalo community that tends to get overlooked in light of the city’s other, often sports-oriented, obsessions. Staging Runway involves consolidating the efforts of 130 models, 10 salons, 20 makeup artists, six judges, a production team of five, 25 volunteers, and 24 participants from the Fashion Show production class.

The Shock and Awe Djs provide a musical backdrop specifically conceived for each individual collection, and a team of lighting designers in conjunction with video artist Frank Napolski promise a stunning visual atmosphere. Work on Runway generally begins a year in advance, although the start of the spring semester brings the disparate efforts into tight focus.

“I have a very close-knit team that I have now been working with for all of my Buffalo State events and Mass Appeal,” Habes says, referring to an Elmwood Village Association-sponsored ready-to-wear runway event that takes place in the fall at Lafayette Presbyterian Church.” This is our fifth show in three years…not bad!”

The first Runway event took placed in 2007, when Habes, a 2003 graduate of the Fashion Technology program, returned from New York, where she had been working in the industry, to serve as an adjunct faculty member at Buff State. The annual department senior fashion show needed an update and Habes had the inclination to bring the production values of New York’s Fashion Week to Western New York.

The first Runway event took place at Clifton Hall at the Albright-Knox. Amazingly for a city that by popular account has little need for fashion, 2,500 people showed up. The venue, however, could only hold 500.

Next year, Runway added a matinee show, and moved to the newly opened Burchfield Penney Art Center, which sold out again.

This year’s twin productions in the Pierce Arrow Building allow seating for 600 at each show, but tickets are going fast.

Fashion, once considered an elite diversion for the fabulously rich and exclusively beautiful, has turned a corner in the 21st century. The television show Project Runway takes the viewer into the workspaces of budding designers and Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model shines a light on the art of looking good. Parallel to these pop cultural developments, the fashion industry has been turned on its ear by the emergence of street style bloggers and commentators from outside the traditional loop of fashion journalism, such as 14-year-old blogging sensation Tavi Gevinson, whose Style Rookie counts more than 50,000 readers since she started publishing at age 11. She is now a regular in the front row of major fashion shows feted by designers and fashion PR.

Not surprisingly then, Buff State’s Fashion and Textile Technology program is among the fastest growing on campus. Unique in the area for providing the only regional baccalaureate program for careers in the textile, apparael and fashion industries, the program also has an exciting arrangement with New York’s venerable Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), which allows students to earn a BS from Buffalo State and an associate’s degree from FIT. In this environment, it’s not impossible to imagine that one of the designers whose lines are paraded down the runway Saturday actually could be next season’s next big thing.

Check out the fruits of their labor at Runway 3.0 Saturday. Says Habes, “I have a vision for our technology theme and I think it’s going to blow people away!”

Tickets are on sale now at Wegmans and the Rockwell Hall box office. Tickets for the 4pm show are $10 general admission and $7 students (only available on campus). Tickets for the 9pm show are $20 general admission; $100 VIP (includes 7pm VIP reception and 9pm VIP seating.)

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