For a relatively small city like Buffalo, the high-end fashion weeks around the world are just something most people dream about. But, with the Mercedes-Benz of Buffalo Fashion Week, Western New Yorkers get a taste of what a professional fashion show looks like.
Behind the scenes at last week's main event held at Statler City, there are models and clothes everywhere. My best friend, Caroline Duszynski, a junior at Nardin Academy, and I walked shyly into the dressing room. A few women were getting their hair and makeup done, others were getting changed. There were picture boards hung on the walls for inspiration on makeup and hair. Being a petite, 5-foot-3 teen, I was at first a little intimidated by the stunning 6-foot models in 3-inch heels. I finally gathered up the courage to talk to model Ericka Miner, as well as the runway coach and the director of model marketing.
Miner, a Buffalo native, is signed to Wilhelmina Models, the same modeling agency that employs Kendall Jenner and many other celebrities. She started modeling at 16, and her impressive resume includes names like Oscar De La Renta, Versace, Baby Phat, Roberto Cavalli, the Britney Spears Circus tour, Maxim magazine and more. She says her favorite thing about her job in the fashion industry is meeting new people, and despite how hectic it gets, she really has no complaints. She says she "has jokes all the time" and "provides the comedy" backstage.
Gwen Beloti, one of the four New York City designers at the show, also was backstage. She is a Brooklyn native who describes herself as "not the typical designer." She received a master's degree in psychology before returning to study design at the Fashion Design Training School in New Jersey and the New York School of Design. She has been making her own clothes since she was 7 years old.
She has done quite a few fashion shows.
"It's really exciting when all the girls are dressed up and lined up and ready to hit the runway, that's the best part for me," she says. "I don't actually get to see the show ever, because I'm working backstage, but I love to see them dressed and walk out."
Another highlight of the fashion show was Alexis Bellino, one of the cast members of "The Real Housewives of Orange County," showing her collection. I sneaked backstage and watched the show from behind the scenes. Afterward, Bellino was busy taking pictures with the models before heading to an interview.
She said she draws inspiration from being a mom.
"I know what I want to wear when I'm with my children, and it has to be something I can wear on the soccer field or to the grocery store or to drop them off at school," she continued. "For my evening wear, I want people to look and feel sexy and confident in a comfortable manner.
"Buffalo is one of the most amazing cities, and it has a lot of fire," she said. "People think it's quiet, but it's not. It's full of energy and life, and they really know how to do a fashion night out."
If a Real Housewife from Orange County says it, then there's hope for Buffalo.