Cover Story

Wear The Wild Things Are

Syracuse Fashion Week showcases creative clothing with plenty of style.

In cities like New York City and Los Angeles, the words “fashion week” call to mind rail-thin models in clothes you wouldn’t dare to wear (and that you can’t afford), hordes of photographers with flashing lights and celebrity-studded shows. If you’re not an A-Lister, you might as well stay home with a copy of Vogue or W magazine.


In Syracuse, Fashion Week is a more down-to-earth, accessible, twice-a-year event designed to offer something for everyone. The spring edition kicks off Tuesday, April 25, with a “Sip and Shop” event downtown and offers a variety of shows nightly through Saturday, April 29. Several events take place in some nontraditional locales, including a CrossFit gym and a brewery in the Madison County countryside.

Kathie Morris of the Changing Room. Michael Davis photo | Syracuse New Times

Syracuse Fashion Week, now in its fourth year, is an extension of Syracuse Style, an event that put local fashion front and center on a runway under a huge tent on Walton Street in Armory Square. Fashion Week, which supports the Food Bank of Central New York, is Syracuse Style on steroids: a five-night celebration of the visual and tactile art of fashion.

Lisa Marie Butler, 57, a theater production manager turned costume and clothing designer, is the driving force behind Syracuse Fashion Week. She and her team have created an event that is “always inclusive, never exclusive.” That means everyone is invited to the party, from those who create fashion, to those who model it, to those who sell it, to those who fill their closets with it.

The focus is women’s fashion, but men also get their due. Models of all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities walk the runway. Clothes from retailers like L.L. Bean and lululemon share the spotlight with more upscale and custom fashions from local designers and shops.

Is it unusual for a mid-size city like Syracuse, with a popular mega-mall that dominates the retail landscape, to have a fashion week? Not really. Cities that aren’t necessarily fashion capitals, including Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis and Cleveland, have annual fashion-focused weeks. Rochester, our neighbor to the west, has hosted a Fashion Week for seven years.

Central New York embraces its Fashion Week. The event grows each year in terms of participating merchants and attendance and is a source of community pride.

“I think, initially, people were surprised to learn there is a Fashion Week here,” says Kathie Morris, owner of The Changing Room, a shop with two locations (downtown Syracuse and downtown Baldwinsville) and a focus on vintage-inspired clothes and accessories. “Right now, no. People know about it. Fashion is big. It’s big everywhere and Syracuse is on it.”

“I hear over and over again from people that Fashion Week is exactly the kind of thing Syracuse needs,” Butler says. “It’s creative culture, put on the forefront.”

The spring edition doesn’t feature an outdoor show in Armory Square — April weather is too unpredictable, Butler says — but it does feature several new event venues. Runway Reps on Wednesday, April 26, a show mingling fashion and fitness, will take place at Urban Life CrossFit, 1003 W. Fayette St.

Marisa Fusco and Shannon Fleming of Marisa’s Fortress of Beauty. Michael Davis photo | Syracuse New Times

On Thursday, April 27, Farm Fresh Fashions will strike poses at the Empire Farm Brewery in Cazenovia, where Butler’s husband, Tim, serves as brewmaster. Butler says the Madison County show will have a green, organic vibe and feature some “upcycled” fashions as well as styles from designers and shops outside of the downtown area, including some new designs by Butler herself.

If you haven’t yet made plans to attend Syracuse Fashion Week, you had better do so quickly: It’s a hot ticket. VIP tables have already sold out for the annual Fashion Week Gala at the Landmark Theater, the most formal and glamorous of the week’s events, with just a few general-admission seats still available for the Friday, April 28, event.

Meanwhile, a second show has been added to the Underground Show, the popular Fashion Week finale on Saturday, April 29, at Marisa’s Fortress of Beauty, on Walton Street. Each year, Syracuse Fashion Week creative consultant Marisa Fusco transforms the space beneath her hair salon into a seductive setting to show off lingerie and fantasy fashions, with extravagant hairstyles and makeup to match. Shows will be offered at 6 and 10 p.m., and both are expected to sell out.

“It’s more like performance art than a fashion show,” Butler says of the Underground Show. “There’s just nothing like it.”

Margaret McCormick is a freelance writer and editor in Syracuse. She blogs about food at Follow her on Twitter, connect on Facebook or email her at [email protected].


Tuesday, April 25: Syracuse Sip, Shop and Stroll

Grab a parking spot and stroll, shop and sip your way through downtown, with merchants, restaurants and pubs offering sales and specials from 3 to 7 p.m. The evening ends with a 7 p.m. performance by Just Joe at Empire Brewing Company, 120 Walton St. Participating merchants include Jet Black, Showoffs Boutique, Projex214, the Changing Room and Indie Kids.

Syracuse Fashion Week coordinator Lisa Marie Butler at Urban Life CrossFit. Michael Davis photo | Syracuse New Times

Wednesday, April 26: Runway Reps

Fashion meets fitness at this event featuring athletic, “athleisure,” yoga and casual wear at Urban Life CrossFit, 1003 W. Fayette St., fourth floor. On the menu: healthy snacks, smoothies and adult beverages. Retailers include Mr. Shop, lululemon, Syracuse Sport Shop, L.L. Bean, Fashion Fix. Doors open at 6 p.m. for social hour and visiting vendors; a runway show, set up among the weights, barbells and other fitness equipment, begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Thursday, April 27: Farm Fresh Fashions

This family-friendly event takes place inside and on the grounds of Cazenovia’s Empire Farm Brewery, 33 Rippleton Road. Organizers say it’s the first fashion show in New York state at a brewery. Guests will enjoy a tasting menu of locally sourced foods along with beers made on site; Madison County farmers will have some baby animals out front for the kids to visit. Models showcasing “fabulous fashions found outside the downtown Syracuse area” will hit the catwalk. Doors open at 6 p.m.; runway show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45.

Friday, April 28: Fashion Week Gala

The fanciest event of Syracuse Fashion Week in a venue to match: the Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St. The evening begins with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from Modern Malt and features a runway show with day wear and evening wear for men, women and children from mostly downtown and Syracuse retailers, plus bridal wear and custom couture. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; runway show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45.

Saturday, April 29: The Underground Show

Lingerie, fantasy fashions and sexy silhouettes — with extravagant hair and makeup to match — are the stars of this annual show at Marisa’s Fortress of Beauty, 220 Walton St. This year’s theme is “sugar skulls.’’ Two shows at 6 and 10 p.m., with doors opening at 5 and 9 p.m., respectively. Tickets are $30.

Ticket information for all events:

More information on Syracuse Fashion Week:,

Spring Awakenings For Ladies

After months of bundling up in fleece, flannel and heavy coats, it’s time to shed some layers and lighten up our wardrobes. What’s in style?

  • Bell sleeves
  • Ripped jeans
  • Lace
  • Off-the-shoulder tops and dresses
  • Sassy polka dots and stripes
  • Fresh florals
  • Embroidery
  • The colors pink and powder blue

Source: Kathie Morris, The Changing Room

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