Many people go to church to sit in the church pews, listen to sermons, or kneel down and pray. Few could imagine that those same pews would be turned sideways to face a long, white, glitzy runway for a fashion show.
Last Friday, the fourth annual Mass Appeal fashion show was held in Elmwood Village at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church.
The event served as a means of bringing the Buffalo community together by showcasing local talent. The church has been the desired space for the show since the first Mass Appeal in 2007, but this year marked its last time hosting the event.
Located in the heart of Buffalo, the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church has been the venue of choice for four years. With stunning chandeliers dangling from its high ceilings and an open, inviting space, the church sets the precedent of fine art, which is exactly what Mass Appeal produces. However, as a result of its successes and turnout, the event now requires a larger location.
Every aspect is Buffalo-related. From the 10 designers featured, to the seven boutiques all found on Elmwood Ave., and seven of its 10 sponsors, each one a Buffalo native.
To simply call it a fashion show would be doing it injustice. Rather, it is more like a fashion theatrical extravaganza. It is a multimedia fashion experience unlike any other, according to its producer, Erin Habes.
From theatrical performances, configuration dances, innovative ways for models to showcase clothes, and its wearable art, Mass Appeal delivered a night of incredible creativity to its audience.
"I guess the reason why it turned so theatrical was because...you take something that's off the rack, that isn't a solid collection, and...you make it cool on the runway where it's not boring," Habes said. "You add theme to it…[with] hair, makeup, concepts."
Transformation was the theme of the evening, a concept that Habes invented herself. From there, the designers and boutiques that she hand selected portrayed their interpretations of the theme.
Some designers achieved it through dance, like the configuration dance theatre that designer Molly Stoos utilized. Others, such as designer Anna Grace, used ballet to feature her line. Designer Jenna Murray projected large images of her models before they were dressed up as they walked the runway as physical examples transforming.
"You saw the spectrum of just the diversity of our community," Habes said. "I mean for the love of God, we had fetish, bondage, antlers, a gumball dress. I mean it's just those moments…keeping the crowd interested."
After being approached by Elmwood Village Association (EVA) to do a fashion show, Habes has created a sold out event that's only getting bigger. She is an alumna of Buffalo State College and now a fashion lecturer there, as well as fashion writer for Buffalospree.com, creative consultant, and producer.
The event is also an annual fundraiser for EVA. In turn, it truly has become something that benefits Buffalo in every way. Not only spurring revenue to local designers and boutiques, but also a way to give back to the community that has given to so many, according to Habes.
The theme of transformation is also a testament of where the event came from and where it is going.
Mass Appeal started out as something very modest in its first show, according to Habes. Pastor Drew, head pastor of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, opened the first show by walking down the runway in his priestly robes to a backdrop image of candles. This past Friday, Pastor Drew stole the show in the grand finale doing the same runway walk with the same backdrop image and music.
This served as a reminder to those in the audience of where the show started. Had it not been for this venue, it's hard to say whether or not it would have amounted to the success and turnout that it has today, according to Habes.
Having to leave Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church is very sad and has been a major component of impacting the community, according to Habes. Not only has it been a great spot to hold the event in, but also, in effect, has changed people's perspectives on the church.
"I love going into a new space and creating something new," Habes said. "[But] this is like home, I've been here for four years. This place is like home."