The year in fashion: Pittsburgh makes a stylish splash in 2013


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From the runways of New York to the streets of Pittsburgh, fashion and style inspired many memorable moments in 2013.

At home and abroad, a few women stood out for their tasteful, attainable sense of style. The style community also focused on social justice, working to improve conditions for those who help designers create and promote their collections.

In Pittsburgh, fashion continues to come out of hibernation, with a growing number of fashion-focused events, businesses and education programs coming to fruition.

Here are some of the year's top moments in fashion. Thanks, 2013, for the memories ...

 The Michelle Obama fashion effect: The first lady's influence on fashion continued to fuel trends -- and sales -- in 2013. All eyes were on her wardrobe during inauguration events, from the rich blue shift dress and matching cardigan by Reed Krakoff worn at the private swearing-in ceremony, to the Thom Browne navy coat and dress at the inauguration parade. She also stunned at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball in a red chiffon-and-velvet halter dress by Jason Wu, the same designer she selected for inauguration balls in 2009.

Whatever Mrs. Obama wears turns to profits for designers. David Yermack, professor of finance at New York University's Stern School of Business, researched the correlation between the labels she wears and shifts in their stocks and found that she has generated more than $2 billion in value for companies whose clothes she has sported. And now daughters Malia and Sasha are following in her fashionable footsteps, turning heads with their fresh yet affordable style.

■ Retail powerhouses promote Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh: In the wake of the garment factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers in April, several major global retailers signed a pact to help improve the conditions of factory workers overseas. Some retailers that supported the initiative include H&M, Benetton, Inditex (parent company of Zara), PVH (parent company to Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) and Abercrombie & Fitch.

About a dozen other big-name chains, including Wal-Mart, opted not to sign, claiming their companies are working on their own safety programs. Critics argue, however, that some of these other safety measures are weak compared with those outlined in the accord. Plus, the problem persists: In November a 10-story garment factory in the Bangladesh town of Gazipur was gutted by fire.

■ J.C. Penney saga continues: After more than a year of big ideas gone bad, Ron Johnson was out as CEO, leaving the 100-year-old-plus company financially crippled and out of favor with many once-loyal customers. Mr. Johnson's predecessor, Myron Ullman, was reinstated in April as CEO.

Since Mr. Johnson's departure, the company has worked to erase all remnants of his initiatives, such as plans to create dozens of in-store boutiques connected by "streets" and the elimination of coupons and promotions in exchange for everyday low price points.

Responsibly, and admirably, J.C. Penney launched an aggressive social media and commercial campaign admitting its missteps and welcoming feedback. On Twitter, people were encouraged to share their comments with the hashtag #JCPListens, and someone would reply. (And they did -- I tried it!) The store also reverted back to its old logo and full name (after Mr. Johnson shortened it to "JCP"). To shoppers' delight, the store brought back coupons and sales.

A cautionary tale or one of the great comeback stories in retail history? 2014 will tell.

 Law offers underage models legal protection: It was a long-awaited victory, a law that recognizes models younger than 18 as child performers. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation, and the press conference in October was attended by top models, including Coco Rocha and Arlenis Sosa.

As a result, new limits and regulations will be placed on when and how often they can work and likely will impact the casting process for New York Fashion Week, which often features teen models on the runway.

■ Kate Middleton's style, post-baby belly seen 'round the world: The Duchess of Cambridge's rise to royalty is the stuff of fairy tales: Common girl meets prince, falls in love, becomes a member of the royal family. While most of our lives won't follow the same path, we can at least channel Kate's style.

For every high-end designer ensemble she flaunts at a special appearance, there's a photo of her in a casual pullover or leggings, showing off a more effortless, everyday style. Even the fuchsia V-neck dress she wore in the first family photos of her son, Prince George, was available to the masses for $79 at seraphine.com (until it quickly sold out).

Speaking of motherhood, when the duchess left the hospital, her post-baby belly was visible in a blue-and-white polka-dot dress, rather than dressed to disguise. In a culture where cosmetic surgery and airbrushing tend to run rampant, it was refreshing to see.

■ Big changes announced for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week: Once upon a time, landing an invitation to a Fashion Week event in New York was like earning the right to walk the red carpet -- virtually impossible, except for select industry insiders. While the biannual fashion foray that forecasts trends for the upcoming season still is selective, the invite list in recent years has been expanded to include bloggers and celebrities.

But now it's time to tame the style circus, event organizers say. In February, fashion shows under the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week umbrella will become "increasingly exclusive," according to a statement by IMG Fashion, the world's leading producer of fashion shows. Additionally, makeshift venues (most of which are situated outside Lincoln Center) will be renovated to allow for larger attendance or a more intimate audience experience, depending upon the designer's needs. Four blocks away, event organizers will set up another venue dubbed The Hub, designed with the vision and budget of up-and-coming designers in mind.

How much longer Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week will call Lincoln Center home also is in question. Throughout the year, speculation continued to build about whether it will relocate in the coming years to Hudson Yards, a development at 10th Avenue and 30th Street on Manhattan's West Side.

From the Pittsburgh fashion and beauty front ...

■ Mobile boutiques roll into Pittsburgh: Fashion became the latest thing on four wheels with the arrival of four mobile boutiques: Roadie (Roadie Fashion Truck on Facebook), Broke Little Rich Girl (www.brokelittlerichgirl.com), Style Truck (Style Truck on Facebook) and the Vintage Valet (thevintagevalet.com). These fashion trucks brought shopping to Market Square and parking lots of restaurants and boutiques across the city.

 Pittsburgh holds first Style Week: For five days in August, the local style scene came together to promote its own at fashion shows and networking events organized by Pittsburgh-based event planner Wadria Taylor. About 600 people turned out for gatherings at venues such as Perle in Downtown and the Pittsburgh Winery, CAVO and Savoy in the Strip District. Inspired by the initial success, Ms. Taylor plans to expand the event to seven days in the new year.

■ Efforts initiated to revive local Fashion Group International chapter: Decades ago Pittsburgh had a chapter of Fashion Group International, a nonprofit that helps unite and promote fashion insiders from around the world. Interest and leadership faded, but the local style scene's fresh faces want a fresh start. Since summer, exploratory meetings have been held to garner interest. For the city to establish a chapter, it has to present to FGI headquarters in New York a need for starting one.

■ Mayor-elect Bill Peduto envisions a "grand boulevard" featuring fashion Downtown: Mr. Peduto has his sights set on rejuvenating shopping Downtown with a thoroughfare of businesses along Smithfield Street. In addition to new sidewalks, lamp posts and small shops, local boutiques would be a big part of the plan.

■ The Art Institute of Pittsburgh fashion program graduates first students: About three years ago, the school added to its curriculum a fashion design program. The first crop of graduates was recognized this summer. Four students -- Elizabeth Stephens, Kayla Bannon, Allison Bailey and Elaine Healy -- showcased a portfolio of their work in a fashion show in June at the Mansions on Fifth, Shadyside. The program, under the direction of Stephanie Taylor, attracts students from the Tri-State area.


For more from PG fashion writer Sara Bauknecht, visit her Stylebook blog at www.post-gazette.com/stylebook. She can be reached at sbauknecht@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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