The two-story factory is long and drab, a gray rectangle off a quiet street that’s off another quiet street that’s off Crane Street in Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant neighborhood. The windows are coated in dust and cobwebs. The sidewalk out front is cracked, patched haphazardly in spots.
The factory would be easy to mistake for just another empty, old building in a neighborhood full of empty, old buildings.
But inside, Marika and Charles Contompasis are finalizing samples of burgundy and rust-dyed blouses, cardigans and shawls for their fall line. Their employees are making water-based dyes that will be used to color cotton and silk and cashmere tops.
Charles might be drawing by hand intricate botanical prints that will later be stenciled and inked onto the dyed clothing. Marika might be preparing shipments for specialty boutiques in New York City, Boca Raton, Beverly Hills or Seattle, or filling orders for customers around the world.
“It’s Schenectady that made us,” said Charles Contompasis, one half of the brother-sister team that makes up MA+CH, a high-end clothing brand that sells in stores around the world.
“We grew up here. We’re the result of an excellent school system. It’s a wonderful place to work. There are wonderful, supportive people here.”
Electric City Couture Fashion Show
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Universal Preservation Hall, Washington St., Saratoga Springs
More Info: electriccitycouture.com or Facebook
The Capital Region is full of creatives in unexpected places — like this international fashion brand in Schenectady, or a recycled cashmere clothing company in Troy, or a fourth-generation cobbler keeping the trade alive in Schenectady.
All of them will have their clothing and accessories on the runway this Saturday at the 6th annual Electric City Couture Fashion Show, a standing-room-only event in Saratoga Springs that draws fashionistas and business owners from around the region.
In fact, the whole point of the show has been to grow the Capital Region into a not-so-unexpected place to find these creatives.
Founded in 2010
Joleen Button and Corey Aldrich founded the show in 2010 to promote the region as a serious contender in the world of high fashion.
This year’s theme is The Makers Movement in America: an homage to the shift away from consumerism that values generic, mass-produced, foreign-made goods and toward a more thoughtful consumerism that seeks out unique goods made within a reasonable radius by creative tinkerers, designers and inventors.
“We saw it first in food and now it’s happening in the fashion world,” Aldrich said. “People are starting to have more of an awareness of where the things they consume come from — whether it’s food or fashion or the products they use on a daily basis. And I think now there’s a sense of why can’t our goods and services be produced right here in our region? So we’re trying to support our regional and local economies with this show.”
The show doesn’t just support designers. More than 50 models will get paid to walk the runway — an oddity for a fashion show in upstate New York, Aldrich said.
“We’re making the commitment to say that creative people deserve to get paid for their work,” he said.
Move helps gain sponsors
The co-founder of the show is glad they made the move to Saratoga Springs
Hair stylists and makeup artists are also hired to style each model, who will wear only one look on the night of the show.
This year’s show, set for 8 p.m. Saturday at Universal Preservation Hall, will feature six designers and five collections featuring 10 looks each on the runway.
In addition to MA+CH, the runway will feature a collection from `e ko logic, Inc., of Troy; fritelli & LOCKWOOD of Saratoga Springs, paired with The Last Gentleman Co. of Schenectady; Vilma Mare’s Baltic Style of Copake; and Gamakache Black of Queens.
Fritelli & LOCKWOOD will debut the show’s first full men’s line, with a collection of vests, flat caps and scarves hand-loomed in Saratoga Springs. The models also will don wingtip shoes custom-made by Chris Mastroianni, a fourth-generation cobbler based out of Schenectady.
“The look is so hot,” Aldrich said. “You could see these vests and caps in Williamsburg. It’s the look, you know? People are going to flip.”
Marika and Charles will show off their new spring/summer line — a moody mix of tie-dyed blues, and indigos, whites and grays, with a stripe of lime or a pop of pink. Charles makes print designs with the help of Marika and staff — some by hand, some inspired by his own photographs. A long navy tank dress featuring a white floral print was based off a photograph Charles took in his neighbor’s backyard.
“The big trend right now is black and white and navy, but we also did a little bit of pop art based on my photography for this collection,” he said.
About 20 employees work inside the 41,000-square-foot plant, which sits on the outskirts of Schenectady near the town line with Rotterdam. The company has a factory store on the first floor that’s open only five weekends a year. It has a showroom in New York City, and an online store with women’s sweaters, tees, swimwear and accessories ranging in price from $100 to $475.
For the second year in a row, those attending the Electric City Couture show can buy items right off the runway at a retail pop-up shop just after the show on Saturday and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Reach Gazette reporter Bethany Bump at 395-3107, [email protected] or @BethanyBump on Twitter.