Syracuse businesses commence Fashion Week with live window models

Businesses from all over Syracuse styled and decorated windows at the iconic Landmark Theatre, creating stylish fantasies featuring live models.

The windows lining the corner of Clinton and Jefferson Streets have been transformed from vacant spaces into interactive showcases with live models and decorations, ranging from finger-condoms to cotton-ball clouds, as part of the Third Annual Landmark Theatre Window Project. The event, held Thursday, Sept. 10, kicked off Syracuse Fashion Week’s Fall 2015 festivities and raised money for the Food Bank of Central New York.

Syracuse businesses Beauty Nation and CNY Mode collaborated on this window to portray an actress channelling old Hollywood.

Eighteen businesses and organizations purchased a one- or three-window space to advertise their services or advocate for causes, like New York Optometric and Cuse Pit Crew, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about pit bulls. The only rule for participation was to include a live mannequin in the displays.

“It’s a fashion project, but it’s also a local project,” said Lisa Marie Butler, executive director of Syracuse Fashion Week and the creator of the window project. “We want to encourage local businesses to buy a window and show Syracuse who they are and what they do.”

Brewery Ommegang, a farmhouse brewery located in Cooperstown, New York, used the space to promote Nirvana, its new beer launching in the Upstate New York market. David Mevoli, the regional market manager for Duvel Moortgat, and his niece and nephew, Alexis and Alec Dufore, created a "slice of heaven” within the window by filling it with fluffy, white cotton. Alexis Dufore, who works full time at a call center, performed a series of yoga poses as the model.

Mevoli attended the event in the past and said he enjoyed experiencing the city in a different way, so he decided to buy a space this year. “Who would think that we’d have windows with live models?” he said. “That just doesn’t happen outside of a large metropolitan area, but we can do it here too and that’s what I love.”

Susan Fix, owner of Fashion Fix Designs, also participated in the window project for the first time this year. Fix, who has taught art in the Syracuse City School District for 30 years, started to hand-paint clothing two years ago. Her daughter-in-law Heather, who works for Catholic Charities, modeled one of Fix’s creations, a black blazer with large strokes of yellow, blue and pink paint on the sides and sleeves.

The window project provided many independent business owners with a chance to connect with the community. Ashley Hansen, owner of the event-styling company Beauty Nation, partnered with CNY Mode, a model management company and magazine, to create an old Hollywood-style display. This was also their first time sponsoring a window.

“I think tonight is a really great opportunity to let Syracuse shine and show that we’re not just some small city,” Hansen said. “We have a voice, and we have small businesses, and we have a vision.”

Although most windows advertised for local businesses, bars and restaurants, including Empire Brewery and Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen, several organizations used the opportunity to bring awareness to their missions.

“We are really trying to spread the word that we have an initiative to end AIDS by 2020,” said Lanika Mabrey, a counselor from ACR Health. Mabrey and her co-worker Moe Harrington attached artificial penises to their window, which was filled with a variety of condoms, to draw-in individuals and start a conversation about sexual health. The event allowed them to share resources and information with the community.

The project attracted several hundred people this year. “This corner is usually dead,” Butler said. “This event makes this corner alive.”

Butler, who worked as a live mannequin in college, started the project after seeing human models around New York City at Christmastime. She noticed the empty windows at the Landmark Theatre and contacted the staff to propose her idea. Danielle Bianco, manager of the Landmark Theatre, agreed and remains involved with hosting the event.

The Landmark Theatre, Butler’s favorite building in Syracuse, inspired her window this year. The artwork on the building’s windows and walls led her to design and create a “modern interpretation of a traditional Indian outfit” for her model, Ally. Butler decorated the window with jewel-toned lanterns, elephants and lotus flowers.

The models stayed in the windows from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the event ended with an afterparty in the Landmark Theatre. Fashion Week continues Thursday, Sept. 17 with Syracuse Style, a runway show in Armory Square, featuring clothing from local boutiques and designers.

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