COVER STORY: Making Fashion Accessable to Everyone
BY ASHLEY COOPER | PHOTOS BY BRANDON VICK
When Elaine Spaull was approached over ten years ago, to be the Executive Director at the Center for Youth, she had been practicing law at Nixon-Peabody. She had also served as Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at RIT, earning a comfortable living. Joining The Center would mean that her former salary would be cut in half.
Spaull had no reservations about accepting the position as Director.
“You decide that values, making a difference, and contributing to the community are more important than making money,” said Spaull,” I’m the luckiest person in the world. It’s a blessing to be able to do the work.”
Since Spaull has stepped in, The Center has endured a metamorphosis of its own. The organization has grown from 30 employees and holding a 1 million dollar budget, to hosting approximately 150 employees and being granted a 5.5 million dollar budget.
Spaull’s impeccable leadership paired with The Center’s strong, indispensable support staff might have a thing or two to do with the organization’s success.
Spaull describes herself as being, “off-the-charts optimistic, determined, and always hopeful.”
Her optimism proved to serve well when the state’s economic crisis forced budget cuts and The Center lost a significant amount of funding. In times of economic turmoil, homelessness always increases. The Center sought creative solutions to make up for the budget reduction. “I don’t see barriers,” said Spaull, “I see opportunities.”
Since 2008, Dr. Elaine Spaull has been serving as East District Representative for the Rochester City Council and the Chair of the Arts and Culture in Center City Committee. When she is not working she enjoys running and being with her family. Her husband Malcolm is the administrative chair and a professor at RIT’s School of Film and Animation, her son Matthew is a film maker in California, and her daughter Maya is a fair trade certifier in Berkeley, California. “She travels all over the world making sure farmers in third world nations are treated fairly,” Vice President Spaull said of her daughter Maya.
Three years ago, high-profile stylist Meghan Mundy was working at a photo shoot in tandem with local photographer Brandon Vick when approached to serve as a consultant for the first-ever Fashion Week of Rochester.
Enthused about the venture and the opportunity to promote the city itself, Mundy joined forces with local event planner Chantiza Stern; the pairing could not have been a greater move for Fashion Week.
However, Stern only saw the opportunity as a worthwhile investment if a charitable aspect was involved, so she and Mundy set out to find a worthy cause to stand behind Fashion Week of Rochester.
“I actually made the phone call and I reached out to Elaine [Spaull], and Meghan and I went on – we call it a ‘field trip’-to one of the homeless teenage shelters that is located in the city,” explained Stern, “and we said that this is the charity that hits home for us because both Meghan and I are mothers.” Stern went on to say, “When you think about it, you just can’t even imagine that a child, the same age as our children, is not in a safe environment and always feeling that feeling of uncertainty and saying, ‘What is home? Is home safe?’ We said ‘this is it! We do not need to look at any other charities. We’re done.’”
Chantiza Stern owns Table Toppers Event Design in Rochester. “I always loved to make things aesthetically beautiful and be surrounded by beautiful things,” says Stern. Having studied interior design and fashion marketing, Stern feels very fortunate to be able to utilize her gifts of being detail-oriented and creative to encourage others as co-founder of fashion week, as an event coordinator, and wedding planner.
Fashion Week of Rochester has proven to be one of the most unique and successful fund-raising endeavors for The Center for Youth so far in its three year run. The dichotomy of cutting-edge fashion and homelessness heightens community awareness about their responsibility toward the some 1,000 local youths left on the street each year. Not only does The Center benefit from the event, but also community members with an eye for fashion and love for high-energy, quality entertainment.
“It just took off,” said Mundy, “and we had no idea that it was going to be received the way that it had been.”
In its first year, Fashion Week surpassed its goal of raising $20,000 toward programming for The Center. Last year, Fashion Week raised an astounding $50,000, making organizers Mundy, Spaull, and Stern unafraid to set a goal for $100,000 at this year’s event.
Mundy assures that you don’t have to be a bona fide fashionista to enjoy the event-in fact, you can bring the while family.
“It’s been successful because of our philosophy to bring all different types of people together,” said Mundy, “And oftentimes you think of ‘Fashion Week,’ you think it’s exclusive, and that you have to be a high-network socialite, or movie star, or designer to get in but I think it’s been so popular here because anybody can go; it’s accessible to everybody. It has a chic feel to it with an inclusive vibe.”
This year’s Fashion Week of Rochester is poised to kick off Thursday, September 27th and continue each night until Sunday the 30th. Venues such as the Culver Road Armory and the Rochester Public Market will be hosting. There will also be an event at the Memorial Art Gallery on Saturday evening that you won’t want to miss! Visit www.fashionweekofrochester.org for updates.
Meghan Mundy, owner of ‘In the Closet’, has been awarded “Up and Coming Businesswoman” for 2012 by Rochester Women’s Network. Mundy was a fashion scholar at FIT in New York City and later worked at a high-profile boutique on Madison Avenue serving as style consultant to well-known socialites, celebrities, and the like. She enjoys traveling, shopping, and skiing. Connect with Meghan at www.meghanmundy.com.