In 2011, GQ magazine labeled Pittsburgh one of the “worst-dressed cities in America.”
Seven years later and some of us clearly still aren’t over it.
But a lot has changed since then, not least in terms of Pittsburgh’s emerging and evolving style identity. No longer is Pittsburgh’s only prominent fashion accessory a repurposed canary yellow dish towel. No longer is Pittsburgh, as GQ so callously put it, known for indulging a style that “could be referred to as ‘Game Day Casual’ or ‘Meth Lab Formal,’ depending on your preference.”
Pittsburgh’s style scene is growing and the city’s tastes are changing, aided by the rise of style-conscious and brand-building apps like Instagram, a growing creative class and a host of wildly motivated city entrepreneurs.
Here, in our latest Who’s Next class, presented by S&T Bank, we highlight 14 such fashion-forward and style-adroit individuals, from interior designers to fashion and costume designers to manicurists and more, all of them changing Pittsburgh’s own sense of style and the outside world’s sense of our style, as well. (Nominate someone for our upcoming class: Who’s Next: Tourism.)
For proof that things are changing, we return to GQ, which just last year appeared to soften its stance on Pittsburgh’s sartorial savvy in a piece lauding the food and drink and clothing options here. And with people like these in our Who’s Next: Style class driving the change, it’s no wonder why.
Join us as we celebrate The Incline's Who's Next: Style class, a group whose sense of style defines them, influences others and best represents the city. Who's Next, presented by S&T Bank, is a monthly series honoring under-40 Pittsburghers shaping the city. Your ticket includes appetizers, beer, wine and spirits, as well as your chance to meet some of the most stylish Pittsburghers.
Where: Avenu workspace Paramount Pictures Film Exchange Building at 544 Miltenberger St. (Bluff — a.k.a. Uptown)
When: April 25, 2018 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
How much: $25 for public | Free for Who's Next: Style honorees
By day, Anthony Allgeier is an independent contractor with a thriving interior design business.
By night, he’s better known by his drag persona, Alora Chateaux.
As a designer, Allgeier said his intent is to “change the concept of design as a luxury and instead be viewed as a necessity for creating functional spaces, and enabling a more productive and aesthetically pleasing lifestyle.”
Allgeier said Alora Chateaux is an extension of “all creative aspects of my life.”
“Through the power of makeup, sewing, styling and construction, [Anthony] is able to perform both locally and throughout the country, spreading inclusivity through the art form of prancing with a smile!” Allgeier told The Incline. "Pittsburgh is our home which keeps presenting new opportunities of creative expression for us.”
Anthony — and Alora — are residents of Point Breeze.
Nisha Blackwell is a self-taught CEO, a one-woman bowtie renaissance and founder of the Homewood-based sustainable lifestyle brand Knotzland Bowties.
Blackwell previously told The Incline that she “stumbled into entrepreneurship” and quickly recognized the transformative power locally owned businesses had in communities like hers.
Her focus on creating a more inclusive maker movement in Pittsburgh, and specifically in her native Homewood, has prompted a slew of media profiles. Her bowties, meanwhile, speak for themselves: They’re handcrafted with fabrics and materials rescued from local designers and upholstery shops and are wildly popular.
“It’s been underinvested for a very, very, very long time,” Blackwell said of Homewood in speaking with Next City in August, “but I’m looking forward to the growth of businesses, and not just business as a whole but minority-owned businesses, black-owned businesses, and the residents of the community benefiting from some of the changes.”
And while bowties may be a throwback, Blackwell hopes her business approach is very much the future. Blackwell’s Knotzland was even selected as one of 12 companies nationwide for Facebook’s Small Business Council.
Blackwell went to Edinboro University and lives in Homewood.
Jason Bray came to Pittsburgh by way of Portland, Ore., and is now costume manager with the Pittsburgh Opera — his work a crucial component in the transporting of audience members either forward or backward in time.
Bray has worked with the Portland Opera and for Theatrical Designer Michael Curry on the opening gala concert of the Shanghai Disney theme park and shows for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan. He’s also worked on costumes for a number of productions at Oregon theaters and made his independent design debut in 2008, creating puppets for Boxcar Children’s Theatre’s production of “Where the Sidewalk Ends” in San Francisco. In his spare time he designs and creates custom costumes and clothing for private clientele.
Bray’s costume career began at the University of Hawaii Manoa, and he has a Bachelor’s in Apparel Design from The Art Institute of Portland. He lives in Avalon.
Founder of the “hair meetup group” It’s a Natural Thang, Tamiah Bridgett has one goal in mind: getting women to “embrace their natural hair.”
Bridgett, a “therapist turned stylist/educator and natural hair specialist,” said she first went natural as a grad student in 2001, a decision she credits with changing her life. In the years since, she’s helped other women follow suit, and created the It’s a Natural Thang group to provide a forum for those considering doing the same.
Bridgett has also created tools to assist in that process. “After years of working with natural hair and all kinds of curl configurations, I realized what was missing. Tools made especially for curly haired humans!”
Bridgett filled this void with the creation of her own hair tool line called Diversame, which consists of tools with “natural/afro textured, coiled, and curly hair textures at the center of the design.”
The rest, she said, “is hairstory.”
She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Carlow University and a Master’s in Social Work from Pitt. Bridges lives in Pittsburgh.
Adrienne Capretti Burke never planned on becoming an interior designer. Instead she was majoring in pre-pharmacy at Pitt when that career option presented itself.
After her first year of college, Capretti Burke said she discovered her passion for design, “which drives me and has brought me a rewarding and exciting career.”
That career has led to her being featured in an episode of HGTV’s “Restored by the Fords.” She’s also developed a loyal following.
“Adrienne is a fantastic interior designer with impeccable personal style as well,” a client and Capretti Burke’s Who’s Next nominator told The Incline. “She’s warm and personable, and very gentle when helping clients navigate furnishing their spaces. She isn’t heavy handed and listens well. She’s able to take the best of her clients' personalities, combine it with her skill, and create chic, incredible spaces that speak to each client.”
Capretti Burke attended Pitt and received a BS in Interior Design from the Art Institute. She lives in Highland Park.
Expressions of individuality through hair are having another moment, whether through quirky coloration or cuts that defy gender norms. In East Liberty, stylist Shyloh Hadley specializes in just this type of approach.
“Behind the chair I specialize in creative color and cuts for all ends of the gender spectrum,” Hadley told The Incline. “I have a passion for finding out who my guests are at their core and helping them express that through their hair, whether it's a stay-at-home mom looking for an edge, a grandmother who doesn't fit the mold or someone just beginning to explore the space in between the gender binary.”
When she’s not behind the chair helping clients to find themselves, Hadley, a resident of Friendship, can be found coaching or skating in the Steel City Roller Derby league or playing with Colonel Eagleburger's Highstepping Goodtime Band, her nominator told The Incline.
As for her personal style, Hadley describes hers as “bright, geometric and just a little bit punk.”
Hadley attended the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Friendship.
As of Monday, Jamie Hamilton, FKA Jamie JeTaime, had roughly 40,000 Instagram followers. And that’s a huge amount, in case you weren’t sure. So why are all of these people glued to her account?
Hamilton bills herself as a “plus-size style aficionado and body-positive content creator” and has cultivated a following by using social media to “empower women to develop and embrace their personal style for any size and age,” her nominator told The Incline.
Hamilton said she believes in the power of social media to encourage body positivity with body-positive representations and wants to share that belief wherever — and whenever — possible.
She has been featured in media outlets from HuffPost to Buzzfeed France to Yahoo Style, and has served as a “guest influencer” at events nationwide.
Hamilton graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and lives in Pittsburgh.
Meridith Kula arrived in Pittsburgh by way of New York City, bringing with her a load of vintage wears and unique custom patterns.
As owner of Kula Industries, the Hawaii-native continues to emphasize an easy-going style and wearable clothing “for women of all sizes,” her nominator told The Incline.
“In addition to her vintage collection, she sources vintage bed sheets and upcycles them into extraordinary casual attire,” the nominator added.
Kula’s work has been featured at the Joan shop and studio on Butler Street (formerly Mid-Atlantic Mercantile) and pop-up shops across the city. Kula also uses Instagram to connect with clients.
“She has incredible style and talent, represented by her flawless curation of a vintage collection, as well as in her own designs (both new and reworked vintage pieces),” the nominator said. “Some of my favorite clothing items were either made by or found by her. She's frequently able to instantly recognize something that would fit and flatter those around her, much to the benefit of her friends and customers.”
Kula said she's been sewing since she was 8 years old. She went to Smith College in Massachusetts and now lives in Morningside.
As co-founder of the Share Closet app, Sara Longo helped people show, swap and sell apparel, shoes and accessories, revolutionizing how fashion ideas and products spread.
Longo is now working with CMU startup Airviz but keeps a foot firmly rooted in the city’s fashion scene.
She is also a committee chair for Style412, where she recently organized a partnership with Lunar Gala at CMU. This included working directly with producers to set up a professional design critique, coordinating local Pittsburgh brands within a Style412 passport, covering the event for Made in PGH, and arranging a collaboration with WVU’s fashion department and CMU to have students work together on day-of production for the event.
Longo has also joined the founding board of the International Center for Free Expression.
Longo received her Bachelor of Science degree from Allegheny College and lives in Hampton.
Elysia Newman describes herself as a connector of dots, a fanatic of fashion and a resource for all things brand-driven.
For over 8 years, she has spearheaded communications projects from beginning to end, working in the fashion, design and entertainment industries. She’s also built her own brand, Identity Crisis, and worked with the branding design firm Wall-to-Wall Studios, working with clients of all industries and sizes.
Newman is also helping to lead the community discussion of Pittsburgh's evolving fashion industry through her work with Style412.
“Elysia is a fashion crusader in Pittsburgh!” Newman’s nominator said, adding of Style412’s mission, “It started as a discussion series among industry professionals but has progressed to serving as a forum and one-stop-shop for all fashion and design professionals to turn to for jobs, networking, professional development and to bring awareness to Pittsburgh's potential and validity in the fashion and style industry.”
Newman received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Point Park University and currently lives in Highland Park.
With more than 12 years of experience in the fashion industry, Aire Plichta Reese calls herself an energetic and enthusiastic “fashion marketing professional.”
This means she helps other designers and brands navigate market trends, media relations, product placement, partnerships and celebrity/entertainment outreach. It’s a crucial part of any company’s commercial ascent.
In Pittsburgh, she’s applying these skills as a member of ModCloth’s dedicated in-house PR team. Outside of her normal 9-to-5, Plichta Reese said she’s “an experienced personal stylist working with clients like the Pittsburgh Steelers, for their Steelers Style Fashion Show.”
She’s also a style blogger and council member at Style412 and on the board at Carnegie Library of Homestead.
She has one motto: “Life is too short to save your sparkles, sparkle every day!”
Plichta Reese lives in Lincoln Place and received her Bachelor of Science degree in fashion merchandising from Kent State.
In her work in apparel development for two major Pittsburgh-based companies, Dick's Sporting Goods and Littlearth Inc., Caroline Suh was tasked with overseeing manufacturing, working with partners, studying market trends, and applying an aggressive timeline to meet industry standards.
Suh went on to work with Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia and has since returned to Pittsburgh, where she now works as a stylist for StitchFix and as a self-employed consultant for styling, arts and culture marketing, as well as apparel development.
Suh also is on the council for Style412.
She told The Incline, “I am a Pittsburgh transplant, having lived all over the East Coast, and am excited by Pittsburgh's rapid growth.”
Suh received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Pitt and currently lives on the South Side.
As founder of Style & Steel, an event planning and marketing firm, and Style Week Pittsburgh, an annual multi-day event that showcases fashion and style-focused brands, Wadria Taylor has dedicated her life to showcasing what she calls the “gems” that call Pittsburgh home.
The importance of her Style Week brainchild is hard to overstate, providing a platform to businesses, brands and designers where there traditionally wasn’t one. In 2017, the fifth annual Style Week Pittsburgh was held.
Taylor is a transplant to Pittsburgh from Brooklyn, by way of Jamaica. She holds a B.A in Philosophy and Politics from The University of Pittsburgh and an M.B.A from Carlow University. Taylor currently lives in Highland Park.
For those looking to beat the winter gloom in Pittsburgh, Kate Zarvis’s Maniküre nail salon on Butler Street offers a respite.
“Maniküre,” one of Zarvis’s Who’s Next nominators explained, is less winter gloom and “much more like Palm Beach [in] bloom.”
Beyond the atmospherics, the business has quickly become a cosmetology powerhouse. Since opening the doors in January, the appointment calendar has remained solidly booked and the 25-year-old Zarvis has emerged as one of Lawrenceville’s up-and-coming business owners.
“As a fellow business owner myself, I know an extraordinary entrepreneur when I see one,” Zarvis’s nominator said. “Katherine is poised for success and I will not be surprised to see more locations arise in the years to come. In the meantime, she'll continue to remain a staple in the heart of Lawrenceville, delighting every woman that walks through her front door.”
Zarvis, the nominator added, is “beautifying this city one nail at a time.”
Zarvis attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and the Bella Capelli Academy and currently lives in Mt. Washington.