Stop by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts on a Sunday afternoon, and you’ll find Dianne C. Lemon and her son Jaylee training who they hope might become the next generation of top models in Pittsburgh and beyond.
Since June, the pair’s image consulting and personal transformation business ReFined Culture has been holding weekly classes at the center where women and men are welcome to drop in and learn what it takes to have a polished presence on the runway and in life. They also were the runway coaches for the second annual Style Week Pittsburgh last month.
“It doesn’t have to be about fashion,” says Ms. Lemon, an ordained minister whose fashion vitae includes jobs with Sephora and the now defunct Lord & Taylor, Downtown, where she was one of the first African-American counter managers for Clarins Cosmetics. “Sometimes you just want to move to the next level.”
They came up with the idea for ReFined Culture, which launched last year, after Mr. Lemon worked in runway production in other cities and noticed some of the personal struggles of the models he met.
“A lot of models I’ve worked with had a lot of issues,” he says, such as lack of family support or jealousy and abuse from partners. “There has to be some space for someone to come in and have a comfort zone.”
“Going after your dreams takes courage, especially if your family wanted you to do something else,” his mother adds.
ReFined Culture considers its signature service “transformation inside and out.” Ms. Lemon can help clients makeover their closets, their look or a single outfit for a big event, while her son offers tips on walking with confidence.
In the runway classes, students watch a PowerPoint presentation about the dos and don’ts of modeling technique and view footage of a runway show.
“Then I tell them, ’Let me see you walk,’” he says. “It surprises them how much technical work actually goes into it.”
Some classes also prepare models-in-the-making for worst-case scenarios on the runway, including turning off lights and music to mimic a power outage during a fashion show. In the “model down” obstacle course, Mr. Lemon teaches how to step over a model who has fallen down while maintaining proper posture.
“But pick her up on the way back,” Ms. Lemon says.
He shares in the classes insights he’s learned through his experiences in the fashion industry, which he got his first taste of as a teenager working at his mom’s consignment store in Wilkinsburg. He was responsible for arranging window displays, styling shoppers and laying out the schematics of the shop. He went on to study fashion and market merchandising and worked in intern and assistant capacities for runway events in Los Angeles and New York City before returning to Pittsburgh. During New York Fashion Week this month, he will join designer Donna Karan’s team as an intern.
The Lemons hope to infuse into Pittsburgh’s fashion scene some of the standards of showmanship and style they’ve observed in other cities and to turn ReFined Culture into a firm that produces workshops and fashion shows around the world.
“I think that everyone is trying to make a name for themselves, and we need to make a name for the city,” Ms. Lemon says. “We have to all do it together.”
Runway classes are 1-4 p.m. each Sunday. Single classes are $50 per person or $40 for those who register in advance online at www.Refined-Culture.com. Sign up for a three-pack of classes for $120 to receive a bonus one-on-one session with Jaylee Lemon. ReFined Culture also runs a blog at PureStyleEdition.wordpress.com that covers the history of prominent fashion figures.