Pittsburgh Fashion Week hosts panel


Gemma Sole, COO and co-founder of Nineteenth Amendment, discusses fashion designers and their access to wholesale connections at PGH Fashion Week “The Future of Fashion Panel” Wednesday night at the Union Trust Building. (Photo by Maria Heines | Staff Photographer)

By Charlie Garcia-Weger, Staff Writer

The phrase “Fashion Week” often elicits visions of high-end designers like Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Calvin Klein gracing a glamorous runway in New York City or London.

The Pittsburgh fashion community crafted its own version Wednesday night with a discussion of fashion’s future — including the integration of technology. After this panel, one might look forward to wearing a high-fashion, electronic jacket that will answer emails and tell the time.

Pittsburgh Fashion Week’s panel, titled “The Future of Fashion,” took place Wednesday night at Truefit in the Union Trust Building Downtown. It featured Canadian journalist, entrepreneur and fashion professional Amanda Cosco, the COO and co-founder of Nineteenth Amendment Gemma Sole and the senior marketing manager of PPG Industries Dee Schlotter.

“The Future of Fashion” was the second of three events making up the 2018 Fashion Week. The annual event kicked off on Monday with a networking event called “The Social” and will finish up Thursday with a big runway show.

Before the panel began, Anastasiya Maksakova — a Robert Morris University graduate and outreach director for fashion week — spoke about her excitement for the expansion of the Pittsburgh fashion scene through the evening’s panel event.

“Pittsburgh Fashion Week is here to extend an opportunity for everyone in the fashion community to get together,” she said. “I’m excited for the fashion and to see the innovation of fashion.”

The guests at the panel spoke to an eager — and sold-out — audience on the future of the glamorous world of fashion, how it can intertwine with technology and the importance of business and marketing within the fashion industry.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about the Pittsburgh fashion scene and sharing some of my insights into the future of fashion,” Cosco said. “I specifically focus on the intersection of technology and fashion. So obviously, Pittsburgh is really known for the technology component and now they’re trying to bring in the fashion component and that’s great.”

Cosco is the founder of fashion business Electric Runway, which started in 2015 as a “wearable technology runway show curated for the Maker Festival in Toronto,” according to the organization’s website. The brand has now gone global and is well-known for its futuristic fashion decisions like incorporating smart glasses and electronic rings.

Cosco was excited to visit Pittsburgh and share her ideas and prospects on the fashion scene, as she visits cities to talk fashion pretty often.

“I always like to come to cities and learn a lot from the local people, but I think my area of focus in fashion is really looking toward how emerging technologies are shaping the fashion, but we don’t really realize how they’re impacting the fashion industry,” she said.

One of the final objectives of Pittsburgh Fashion Week was to incite thought on the expansion of fashion through technology, and how a small, less fashion-driven city like Pittsburgh can embrace that expansion.

“I’m hoping to show the audience how this stuff can affect their businesses, whether they’re in retail or a fashion designer or [an] aspiring designer,” Cosco said.

Cosco did so by sharing her thoughts on how technology has impacted her career — both positively and negatively. She believed the impacts were largely positive, especially since she was able to build her brand on the idea of wearable technology. Her idea of negatives came from the realm of social media and the potential of data and privacy invasions. But overall, she spoke very highly of technology.

The second speaker — Gemma Sole from Nineteenth Amendment — spoke on how the company allows designers access to better wholesale connections and other fashion outlets as well.

Nineteenth Amendment is a designer-direct fashion company, so most of Sole’s comments in discussion related to connecting the dots of her business with the help of technology and media, stating that working with social media, influencers and online tags has been a great way for the company to get its name out.

“Instagram influencers are the new magazine,” she said in her panel discussion.

The third speaker of the evening — Dee Schlotter from PPG Industries — discussed the importance of colors in a fashion business, as she works closely with PPG Paints. Schlotter cited studies on colors and their influence on a person’s mood and how fashion companies can use that to their advantage when selling their products and increasing their online presence.

“Getting the right colors to the right people is an important thing in fashion,” Schlotter said.

Pittsburgh Fashion Week received many sponsorships this year, but despite that, the event still took many hours of planning. The event’s creative director, Point Park alum Elysia Newman, took on the huge responsibility of organizing the event — and did not take it lightly.

“Large-scale events like this typically take about half a year,” she said. “We started in March and next year I’m hoping to start even earlier, just to refine and rework some of the branding. I have a marketing background so that’s my natural inclination.”

For this year’s Fashion Week, Newman and her staff approached the event with many goals in mind — the most important being to spread the word about the Pittsburgh fashion community.

“There are a lot of goals that we’re trying to accomplish this year, but if I had to pick [the most important one] it would probably be to boost awareness of fashion being in our City,” Newman said.

The Panel proved to be a successful event for the fashion buffs of Pittsburgh, and there is still one more event left to go for Fashion Week’s festivities. Tomorrow’s runway event will bring dozens of local fashion designers and artists to the forefront of Pittsburgh’s fashion scene.

“One of the most important ways that we can raise awareness of fashion here is to showcase the local talent,” Newman said. “A lot of our designers for tomorrow are emerging, local talent who have never been out on the runway before, and it’s exciting to get them out there.”

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