Rochester’s 10 most stylish people of 2017 – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Family night at Fashion Week.
10 locals who define Rochester style: picked by Meghan Mundy, co-founder of Fashion Week of Rochester.
Alyssa Whitfield has a sassy elegance to her style. As founder and executive director of Dress for Success, Alyssa dresses beautifully but also helps women in the community dress well, too—the nonprofit provides clothing and coaching to women in poverty who are preparing for job interviews. As a couple, Alyssa and Mike have a style that blends beautifully. When you see them together, they have such a strong presence that draws you in and makes you want to hang out and chat.
Alyssa says, “It kills me when people say fashion is frivolous. Being styled head to toe gives me confidence, and confidence gives me power. The sidewalk is my runway, honey! I love it when someone stops me asks how I pull it all together.”
Mike Whitfield has been a great dresser since he was a kid. “My mother always said, ‘It takes the same amount of time to dress well as it does not to, so why wouldn’t you use that time to look your best?’ Mom’s advice worked, because I hooked my beautiful wife!”
I heard about Courtney Cunningham Winslow before I met her. When helping clients with their wardrobes as a personal stylist, I heard Courtney’s name more than once as someone whose style my clients wanted to emulate. When I finally met her, it was clear to me why Courtney is a fashion icon in our community. Courtney doesn’t stick to just one style: She wears what she loves, and that always works! Courtney worked in the L.A. fashion scene where she helped new moms select clothing that was functional but also made them feel glam at the same time. When we were talking about packing for a trip, “I always pack some unnecessary fancy dresses.” I love that.
Courtney says, “I love following fabulous fashion photographers and bloggers. Street style is the new runway. And it’s so much more fun to mix styles, designers and trends.”
Doug Hendee is one of the most creative and stylish dressers I have come across in Rochester. From his socks to his tie, every inch of his look is perfectly put together. His flair brings happiness to those who see him out and about, whether it be at the gym, the office or a party.
Doug says, “I do not believe that anyone should define fashion for anyone else. I think staying informed on trends is nice, but it should only be used as a loose guideline.” Otherwise, there are pitfalls. “I have seen countless occasions where people are clearly uncomfortable with what they are wearing because they’ve allowed something that was ‘defined’ as fashionable dictate their choices.” Instead, he says, “Wear what you like, what makes you feel good and have some fun with it. I have a great person in Peter Roberti at Adrian Jules who helps me make choices, and then we collaboratively introduce my personality on the things I wear. I tell people I wear a tie to work every day, so believe me, I’m going to enjoy it.”
Gretchen Bye is creative director at Partners and Napier, and she exudes creativity in her fashion sense as well. After having the pleasure of working with Gretchen on the rebranding of Fashion Week, I was lucky to observe her fabulous style on a regular basis.
“The fabulous Bill Cunningham said, ‘Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.’ And I couldn’t agree more. I love to play to my mood or the weather or a song that came on while I was getting dressed that day … I like to dress up, down and everything in between. It’s not about narcissism—maybe more about a healthy dose of give-a-$%#. I think that fashion is what’s served up to us by a bunch of fhaaaabulous marketing divas in New York, Milan and Paris, but personal style is how you choose to celebrate you.”
When it comes to style, Glenn William is a chameleon. I have known Glenn and seen him on a daily basis at Midtown Athletic Club. You can’t miss him: His office as general manager is right as you walk into the club. Glen has a rocker look when he is playing in his band, Significant Other; a fun, preppy look with cool bow ties, shorts and loafers with no socks; and a chic, sporty look. Whatever fashion statement he’s making, he has a youthful, fun twinkle in his eye to go along with his look of the day!
Glenn says, “I’ve always gravitated to ‘what feels good to me.’ ” He tells the story of hitchhiking during college from Michigan to New Jersey and getting a ride from a Golden Gloves boxing coach and his student, who was wearing a pair of jeans and saddle shoes. Glenn says, “They looked cool, and I figured, ‘Heck, if a boxer can wear those, so could I.’ I went out and bought myself two pairs, and I’ve been wearing black-and-white saddle shoes ever since.”
Nita Brown is owner and fashion designer of MansaWear on Park Avenue in Rochester. She was born in Ghana, and her shop is as unique as she is: It sells custom-made clothing that blends Ghanaian and U.S. styles.
Nita says that MansaWear’s clean and simple looks mimic her own fashion sensibilities. “The line’s minimalist style complements the bright, bold and sassy colors of the fabrics. The style philosophy is simple: Mash up your MansaWear piece with other items in your wardrobe to create a refreshing look.”
Nita says her passion for fashion was inspired by her mother. “I grew up surrounded by the constant interactions of my mother and her tailors … My mother’s flair for color, quality fabrics and tailoring have influenced MansaWear’s structured silhouette, bright colors and bold fabric prints.”
Online and at her modeling gigs, she’s “Modish Dav.” Davanique Collier has modeled for Fashion Week for several years now. I had first seen her in a runway show six years ago, and she was captivating. I instantly cast her for the Fashion Week runway that year. For the cover of the Fashion Week Look Book, she captured the look we were going for with perfection.
Davanique says she doesn’t have one style: “I really dress as I feel.” And fashion “definitely builds your confidence.” To prove it, she organized the first Walk the Wave Teen Fashion Show last April at Brown’s Race, with 40 models, and she saw first-hand how some shy teens transformed on the runway.
Diane Hardgrove’s fashion style is polished and elegant. Equally impressive is Diane’s lifestyle—she’s constantly helping people in the community better themselves. As busy as she is, I’m always amazed how she manages to always look stunning.
“From the time I was a little girl, I loved fashion,” Diane says, seen here in a dress provided by Panache Vintage & Finer Consignment in Brighton. “Fashion is wearable art created by brilliant designers to show our personality.” To her, personal style is about each person’s own best qualities. “When you look good, you feel good. Coco Chanel, that icon of modern fashion, said, ‘The best color in the whole world is the one that looks best on you.’”
Leonard Urso, the amazingly talented artist, is just straight-up cool! Once he was wearing a wool jacket and I loved it so much that I asked him if I could have it. That about says it all. (And no, he didn’t give me the jacket off his back!)
Leonard sees a connection between art and fashion. “As an artist, I find that fashion is a natural extension of the creative experience, which enables me to fluidly reshape a personal image in an impromptu manner. I have always found great pleasure in looking at art, jewelry, clothing, colors and shapes.” In the end, there’s no need to overthink it when it comes to style: “Simply stated, I am having fun.”