Mass Appeal Brings Its Own Spin of Fashion Week to Buffalo

The Elmwood Village Association Raises Thousands for the Elmwood Neighborhood

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The Spectrum

The third annual Mass Appeal Elmwood Village fashion event packed the Lafayette Presbyterian Church to capacity Friday night. Mass Appeal, which has become known as Buffalo's response to New York Fashion Week, is a massive fundraiser for the Elmwood Village Association (EVA).

"What it really does is raise the money for the EVA to be able to do the flower baskets, clean up the streets in the winter, to do Santa events in the holiday season, and to have a Free Summer Concert Series [on Bidwell Parkway]," said Wendy Sanders, vice president of the EVA and chair of Mass Appeal. "It really enables us to carry out our mission, but it gets a whole new audience exposed to the Elmwood Village that may not know about the Elmwood Village."

The costly production was paid off by donations from Sorrento, the presenting sponsor, and platinum level sponsors Palladian Health, LLC and Joseph A. Sanders and Sons, Inc. One hundred percent of the raised funds went directly to the EVA.

"So many people who could professionally get paid thousands of dollars for the lighting work or video work or producing work do it for free to help us build a better community and raise funds for the EVA so we can do all our programming," said Justin Azzarella, the executive director of the EVA.

The first Mass Appeal in 2008 raised approximately $7,000.

"We threw [the first show] together in six weeks; we made $7,000," Sanders said. "Last year, we raised $29,000. This year we are oversold… It's viral and people can't get enough of it."

This year, the EVA's goal was to make $45,000. According to Azzarella, 200 VIPs paid $125 per ticket on Friday, a 100-person increase from last year. Because of the high demand for VIP and $30 general admission tickets, the EVA had to offer $10 standing room tickets.

"We've tried to give everyone a little more room. This space is at least 10 times bigger than the room we had for the VIP lounge last year. It's just come off so beautifully," Azzarella said.

The show opened with models showcasing T-shirt companies from the Buffalo area, including Positive Approach, Celebrate Buffalo, Steven Bales, Dazzle Me Formal, and Lovely Junkie. The models mimicked the 1979 movie Warriors to depict the teenage culture of the Elmwood village-hipster, indie, punk and college students.

After that, The Elmwood boutiques took charge.

Many of the featured boutiques, including Splash Panic, Second Chic, Urban, Half and Half, Anna Grace, Lotions and Potions, Anatomy and Atelier, featured metallics, furs and distinct animal prints. ← Could shorten the list if needed - DS

Sai One took a different approach and featured female models wearing gas masks. The harshness of the industrial equipment and very visible tattoos contrasted with the soft dresses and furs. The final look capitalized on the contrast, showing a jeweled gas mask with a camouflage jacket.

The next section of the show, the "Wearable Art" section, was meant to show couture level creativity. Habes' goal for this year's Mass Appeal was to showcase all Elmwood merchants, even those not selling traditional clothing, according to the press release.

"I think the ‘Wearable Art' is pretty amazing. They're made from merchants on the street… [and they] made really unique pieces," Azzarella said. "[It's] just like on Project Runway."

The crowd favorite appeared to be the design for We Never Close, an Elmwood convenience store. The model wore a shimmering dress structured with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer boxes and Pabst beer cans as rollers in her hair.

Campus Bikes showed an umbrella fashioned from a bicycle wheel, a wire rocker-like skirt with a bicycle peg embellishment and spiked hair. Talking Leaves bookstore showed an origami skirt made from 8,000 pages of old books.

"It was an honor for me, as an artist as well, to see something created out of an unusual substance that normally wouldn't be viewed as a dress," said Nicole Vescio, the Talking Leaves model. "It was really a privilege."

Abraham's Jewelers showed a model surrounded by bodyguards wearing a pointed golden corset with a floor length skirt composed entirely of jewelry in display boxes, amounting to over $100,000.

Café Aroma, Tabree, Elmwood Village Fabric, and Spot Coffee were also featured businesses.

The Local Designers section showed some truly innovative and shocking runway looks.

Holly Hue showed a plethora of military-inspired clothing on '80s fabrics, combining modern fashion movements with looks of the past. Clementiny Clothing showed floral prints, fur and riding boots. Aella presented a number of simple metallic dresses with exposed zippers.

The showstopper was John Mirro of Hand of Doom Tattoo, who spent the past year tattooing eight individuals from the neck down specifically for the Mass Appeal show. His models featured sickly-green hued faces and entered the stage dressed in black floor-length, hooded robes.

One-by-one, the men and one woman removed their robes to expose their elaborately tattooed bodies, which were covered by only thongs and a modest cover for the female model.

The finale of the show featured Morgen Love, a Buffalo native and world-famous fashion designer. Her portion can be described as a Cirque du Soleil act with an Alice in Wonderland theme.

The first model came out crawling on the runway playing with a small doll followed by a man dressed in a suit playing an accordion. Pole dancers danced in the background amid snake charmer and sword swallower tapestries. A juggler emerged with a handlebar moustache and long ringlets covered by a top hat, while another model screamed unintelligible words through a loud speaker at the base of the runway.

Mass Appeal is more than the fashion or the models strutting down the runway. It represents the evolution of Buffalo into a thriving metropolis.

"We have people who come here from the suburbs who may be afraid of the city, and they come down here and they're like, ‘Oh, well, maybe we can go out to dinner here' or ‘maybe I can shop at Urban or Half and Half,'" Sanders said. "It takes the focus off the retail strip and puts it into a context that you never see. It says, ‘we live here and we're proud of it.'"

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