The woman behind the hair

Local hair stylist Shannon Fleming takes on Syracuse Fashion Week, again.

When Shannon Fleming was only 11 years old, she did her mom’s hair for her wedding. Now, 27 years later, Fleming is still the go-to person for event hair except the up-dos and color treatments aren’t just for her mom, they’re for runway models at Syracuse Fashion Week.

The Baldwinsville native said she always knew she wanted to be a hairstylist.

Photo: Kayla Boyd
Behind the scenes of the costume design for Syracuse Snarl at Marisa's Fortress of Beauty.

“Its not just doing their hair, it’s making them feel good about themselves,” Fleming said. “It goes hand in hand with therapy.”

After graduating from Phillips Hairstyling Institute, she started working at Marisa’s Fortress of Beauty, 220 Walton St. She has worked there off and on for about 15 years, and Fleming said the salon’s owner, Marisa Fusco, has been a great mentor.

“Whether she goes out of town for a little while or just leaves for a while, she always comes back here,” said Fusco. “She’s been one of my constant people that has been here at my shop, so we are more friends than anything.”

Fleming said working on a client is much more than just styling hair, it becomes a personal relationship.

“When your client is comfortable they trust you," she said. “When you are trusted, you have more creative control and with that I tend to help the person step outside the box.”

Fusco said Fleming is very fun to work with and has done a lot for the salon. They often participate in fashion shows together, which Fusco said helps promote their business and also gets them out from behind the chair.

“Shannon and I get into a lot of mischief together for fashion shows and that has always been fun,” said Fusco. “She is crazy and sometimes I have to take her down a couple notches so that her mind doesn’t go everywhere.”

Fleming is not afraid to help her clients get out of their comfort zone—she might even convince them to “add a piece of pink somewhere and live a little,” she said.

In addition to working at a local salon, Fleming is also the hair and makeup coordinator for Syracuse Fashion Week (SFW). Twice a year she and SFW executive director Lisa Butler put together a string of fashion shows and charity events to showcase the community’s retailers and designers.

“Shannon's hair design expertise is second to none,” Butler said. “The creations that she comes up with constantly amaze me. She loves a good challenge, so when I throw something at her like ‘Do a version of Rapunzel,’ her imaginative mind gets to work and comes up with something completely unexpected.”

Previous shows that Fleming was a part of include February’s Blowout Fantasy Hair Show and last month’s Syracuse Style, an outdoor runway show.

Nadine Prince, a local model who has been in several of these shows, has had her hair done by Fleming many times. At the Blowout Fantasy Hair Show, Fleming formed Prince’s hair in the shape of Maleficent’s horns. With dramatic makeup and a costume to match, the team took home an award for “Best Performance” and the overall “Second Runner Up.”

“When I come in to see Shannon, I usually tell her what my idea is and she will tell me ‘okay that sounds good, just trust me,’" Prince said. "She gives me a mini panic attack and then my hair looks 10 times more amazing than I ever thought it could."

Fleming will take an idea and run with it and every time it looks incredible, Prince said in regards to the many different looks they have tried.

“I’ve never been unhappy with it and I don’t trust anyone else with my hair like I trust her… which is a lot because I have a lot of hair,” Prince said.

Fleming typically coordinates a team of five hairstylist and five makeup artists for a runway show but for special circumstances, such as the upcoming Syracuse Snarl show, she builds a team double that size.

Snarl is an annual Fall Fashion Week event in Syracuse that takes place before Halloween. Every year there is a new theme that the local designers and boutiques will use to create full costumes for a runway show. This year’s theme is “fractured fairytales.”

This show will be a special one for Marisa’s Fortress of Beauty because Fleming and her team are not only doing hair and makeup but also designing their own costumes for the first time. The featured outfits will not be for sale, instead the head-to-toe fairytale looks are being designed as a way to show off their styling talents.

“Our hair and makeup team will go wild,” Fleming said. “I’m not a real bossy boss, I try to give them guidelines and then they can run with it.”

Snarl will be taking place tomorrow at the Landmark Theater, 362 S Salina St. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are currently on sale at the Landmark box office and it costs $10 for standing and $20 for sitting.

For Fleming it is about transforming her clients not just on the outside but also on the inside.

“Getting a good haircut can completely change your day,” she said. “I want them to take that inner diva that we all have and let it break through.”



This inspiring women sounds like my daughter Alivia Love. Had to share this article for her so she could see her future. The best gift you can give to a woman is something that makes her feel beautiful.
I feel like our stylist and artist that specialize in beauty do not get the props they deserve. They are doctors of confidence and there specialty is beauty.
This article is inspiring and highlights this beautiful lady that makes women and men everywhere feel beautiful and handsome. Sad inside that I cannot experience their work and attend this event but enjoy to all who do!!

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