On May 24, when the Electric City Couture Fashion Show returns to downtown Schenectady, 70 models will sashay down a runway in the GE Theatre. Eight designers from our region will showcase their fall collections in the home-grown but sophisticated event, which is known for its far-out fashions and exciting atmosphere, including heart-pumping music and high-tech lighting.
This year is the fourth time for the show and, as in previous years, the free event is expected to draw a standing-room-only crowd to Proctors.
Joleen Button of Schenectady, the artist and fashion designer who came up with the idea and put together the first event when she was 26 years old, will be in audience, but for the first time, she won’t be showing any of her House of Lady Button designs.
Electric City Couture Fashion Show
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, May 24
WHERE: GE Theatre, Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: www.proctors.org or 346-6204, www.joleenbutton.com, electriccitycouture.com or on Facebook
Button, who is also known as Lady Button, is taking a break this year to take care of her 15-month-old daughter, Claudia, and get ready for a second child, who is due in less than two months.
“I love being a mommy. That really comes first,” she says.
Button grew up in Indiana and moved to the Capital Region was she was a young girl.
After graduating from Averill Park High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree from The Sage Colleges, where she concentrated in painting and was awarded a scholarship to Parson’s School of Design in Paris.
A freelance graphic designer who teaches digital media arts at Mildred Elley College, Button has judged many local art exhibits, including the Capital Region Media Arts Festival at Niskayuna High School.
She has exhibited her paintings in solo shows in Albany at the Wine Bar, the Spectrum Theatre and Upstate Artists Guild and in Proctors’ Delack Guild Gallery; and in group exhibits at Albany Center Gallery, Art Night Schenectady and Troy Night Out.
She is married to Mike Button, a graphic designer who works for the state.
Q: What is Electric City Couture?
A: It’s a platform for aspiring designers, models, stylists and others who want to build a portfolio and experience for a career in fashion.
Q: How did it get started?
A: I participated in a lot of local fashion shows. There wasn’t a scene or platform for designers, so I decided to make one.
Q: How did you launch the fashion show?
A: For the first two years, I single-handedly coordinated the talent and I worked with Proctors: the technical team, the creative team, the director, Richard Lov-rich. But in the third year, because I had a newborn, I brought on a co-producer, Corey Aldrich. He had been stage manager for the first two years. We did two shows together, the airport show in the fall and then last year’s show. Together we started building a bigger team because there was more interest, more people wanting to be part of it. (Last year Electric City Couture went on the road, appearing in the 2012 Eclipse Aviation Show at Albany International Airport).
Q: What are you doing this year?
A: This year, with a toddler, I’ve taken a serious back seat, and I’m pregnant again, and I’m due in June. There’s no way I could dedicate the time and effort needed. But with the team that we built, it’s going to be even more fabulous. I’m still in the loop of information but not actually coordinating anything this year.
Q: The fashion show is standing-room only, a must-see event. Why has it become so popular?
A: It’s something to do out of the ordinary. It’s not like going to a sports game or a movie. But really what I think feeds the interest is the popularity of fashion modeling that’s been brought on by TV shows over the decade.
Q: How has the show evolved since the first event?
A: The participants, the level and quality. The designers and models realize that they can make a portfolio out of it. It’s not just something fun to do. Seeing all the photographers, reporters, TV, video that gets involved. Everybody wins.
Q: Q: Can people purchase Electric City Couture fashions in local stores or online?
A: Yes. We’re working really hard with local boutiques. Getting them VIP seating to see it first hand. We have a staff member dedicated to just this area, who works with boutiques and designers. Last year, Frivolous Boutique bought Kim Vanyo’s Circle line. There’s been a few of us, including myself, who have had work in Ursula’s [Ursula of Switzerland], and Rockabella. As far as online, the designers have websites. I get quite a few commissions that way.
Q: And you’ve done some modeling?
A: I have. Oh my gosh, I’ve done so many things in different fields of interest in the arts. That’s why I generally call myself an artist. This year, I’m Miss October for the NAPA Auto Parts classic car calendar. One thing leads to another. I’ve done some local independent films.
Q: How would you describe your fashion designs?
A: Ever-changing. Last year, I had the coral and the lime green and bikinis. Now I’m really interested in heirloom items and accessories. My color palette has changed. It’s a neutral or a white or a gray, it’s not overwhelming and intense. It’s more elegant and feminine, with pastel colors, ivories, seafoam and blues. I see myself as a artist, and always changing, based on my life and emotions.
Q: Fine art, graphics and film. Do your other interests influence your fashion designs?
A: Everything is interconnected. Things just pop up and one thing leads to another. In my fine art, I used to be really into still life, dark neutral backgrounds with intense pops of colors. Now it’s the same colors as my heirloom. I’m a fine artist at heart. I always have been.
Q: What are your first memories of sewing, knitting and crocheting?
A: I’ve been doing it since I was real little. My mother trained my sister and me. Practically every woman on my mother’s side has been a seamstress, whether professionally or just doing it for themselves and their family. We grew up with “Mommy and me” outfits. I always loved going to the store and picking out the fabric.
Q: What else were you interested in?
A: When I got to be a teenager, I focused more on fine art and music. I played the flute for a long time. I did private lessons, NYSSMA. It was a struggle for me to decide: “Am I going to go to school for music or art?” I decided on art. And it was good thing.
Q: Do you make your own clothes?
A: Yes, and for my daughter. I love making things for her. I’ve made her little rompers and dresses. I made myself some maternity pants out of this beautiful turquoise and brown houndstooth material and then a little matching dress for Claudia. I just made her a big summer hat and cute little summer dresses. And I’m so short, I have to hem my pants. I’m only 5’3.”
Q: What do you think of the younger generation returning to sewing, knitting and crocheting?
A: I’ll be in public places, working on something, crocheting, and women will be interested and ask me what I’m making. Yes, they are coming back, which is fantastic, because it also makes things available. A lot of colors. Yarn has come such a long way. There is so much beautiful yarn, colors and textures, that are easy to care for. Machine washable. There’s a universal interest in fashion, so products are more widely available, better quality, more creative. And there’s the Internet. You can see pictures of what other people have made. Great inspiration for artists in any field.
Q: What’s your advice for someone who wants to be a fashion designer?
A: It takes hard work, dedication, education, experience and connections. When I was a child, there was the mentality that you can be anything you want to be, which is a great mentality. But it has seemed to evolve, and I’m sure it’s with the help of social media, that kids think that if they say that they are something, then they are. You have to be educated, not just decide what you are going to be that. Even if you are emptying the trash at some design firm, you make connections, and when people see your work ethic and what you can do, that’s how you work your way up. It’s not something that’s overnight.
Q: Button is such a great name for someone who designs clothes. Is that your married name?
A: It is. How perfect is that? I have a lot of people say “Is that really your name?” And Lady Button, it was just sort of coined for me. And I really got involved in the local art scene when Lady Gaga was popular. Even my students call me that. It’s catchy.