Fashion Week Rochester to highlight area landmarks as part of ‘Product Runway’

This year’s Fashion Week Rochester will not only feature political leaders and business executives modeling fashions from up-and-coming local designers, but it will also highlight Rochester-area buildings and landmarks, from the Eastman Theatre to the Roc City Skatepark.

One mainstay of the annual event is the support it receives from the local business community.  

Elaine Spaull

“Businesses have always embraced and supported this event, and this year is no different,” said Elaine Spaull, executive director of The Center for Youth and a Fashion Week organizer.

Fashion Week of Rochester launched in 2010 to engage the community in an event that would spotlight local designers, boutiques, businesses and artists while shining a light on youth homelessness.

In its thirteenth year, Fashion Week 2022 will include three nights of runway shows and continue to bring awareness and financial support to The Center for Youth’s homeless programs. 

The event kicks off on the evening of Oct. 13 at the Dome Arena in Henrietta. This is the second consecutive year the venue has hosted the event.

With an overall theme of Restore the Love, each night focuses on a different aspect of both fashion and the work that our community does to help vulnerable youth. 

A description of each night is below:  

  • Restore the Energy, starting at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, will be the most edgy, with urban and gritty designs.
  • Restore our Community, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14, will highlight the community, culture and diversity of Rochester. Several recognizable individuals will walk the runway this night, including Rochester Mayor Mailk Evans, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Michael Mendoza, MD, Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health, and
  • Restore the Grace, starting at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, which closes the show and features wedding and lingerie designs.

One of the highlights on Friday will be a Product Runway show from AIA (American Institute of Architects) Rochester and the local chapter of IIDA (The International Interior Design Association).

The two organizations held a similar show in 2019.

Product Runway consists of teams from local interior design firms, architectural firms and design schools in a fashion design competition where each team creates handmade garments out of standard architectural finish materials.

Each fashion design will be based on an iconic Rochester building using materials offered by manufacturers/representatives assigned to them. 

Rendering of "Aqueduct Bridge" fashion design using iconic images that blend the historic with the new, as evidenced in the use of graffiti that now adorns the interior of the old aqueduct. (Rendering provided)
The “Aqueduct Bridge” concept fashion design incorporates iconic architectural images that blend the historic with the new, as evidenced by a nod to graffiti that now adorns the interior of the old aqueduct. (Rendering provided)

Danielle Lewis, interior designer at LaBella Associates D.P.C. and one of the organizers of the Product Runway show, said the event is a way to pay tribute to the city’s various landmarks, as well as support a worthy cause.

“It gives us a chance to be philanthropic and creative at the same time,” said Lewis, whose team is designing a piece inspired by the city’s historic aqueduct.

The designs will be on display after the event at The Metropolitan downtown and Lewis is hoping Product Runway can be held at future Fashion Weeks.

The annual fundraiser for The Center for Youth funds awareness for youth homelessness, youth shelters and emergency programs, organizers said. 

The Center for Youth’s services include support for families and children, including two crisis nursery locations, Chrysalis House for parenting and pregnant teens and their children, an LGBTQ and trafficked homeless residence, multiple youth shelters and more. 

The fundraising event brought in some $1 million in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic began and brought its own challenges.

Organizers anticipate this year’s event will raise at least $750,000 to support the agency and its programs.

It got an early boost this year with help from Career Start. Employees at the staffing and workforce management firm in Rochester raised funds through a walk and donations were matched by Career Start founder and CEO Lindsay McCutchen and her family. 

McCutchen is a long-time supporter of The Center for Youth, which she said provides an invaluable service to the community and should, in turn, be embraced and supported.

“I believe in our community and our social and personal responsibility to support it,” she said.

McCutchen – who is not only attending the shows with her family but will also walk the runway with her two daughters at Friday night’s show – said the relationship between businesses and nonprofits is imperative.  

“When we have that relationship, we can make a big impact,” she said. “There’s no better payback than giving back to the place where you live.”  

Go to for more information on the event.

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021 

Four projects approved for Imagine Monroe incentives

Imagine Monroe has approved incentives for four projects expected to create nearly 40 jobs in the coming three years.

Crown Castle USA Inc., a Pennsylvania telecommunications company, plans to expand and relocate its Brighton facility to the Riverwood Tech Campus in Henrietta. The company plans to build out 56,000 square feet of leased space to accommodate growth. The $2.7 million project will impact 190 full-time jobs and is projected to create 15 jobs over the next three years.

Crown Castle will receive sales tax exemptions on construction materials, furniture, fixtures and equipment related to the project.

Vigneri Chocolate Inc. plans to purchase and renovate 1199 E. Main St. in Rochester to expand production and distribution. The second-generation confectionery manufacturer also will dedicate a portion of the space for an education center, café and gift shop. Vigneri will invest $2.86 million and create 20 jobs.

Imagine Monroe approved sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions and JobsPlus property tax abatement for the projects.

Following a fire that destroyed Reliant Staffing Systems Inc., dba Career Start’s Corn Hill office, the company secured a short-term lease within the city. Career Start has been approved for the GreatRebate program through the agency, as well as the EquiPlus program. The incentives will help retain 47 jobs and create two.

Real estate holding company 125 Howell Street LLC responded to the city of Rochester’s request for proposal to purchase and redevelop 125 Howell St. within the Inner Loop. Five market-rate four-story townhome rental units will be constructed.

The company will receive sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions and JobsPlus property tax abatement for the construction. The $1.42 million projects is expected to create one job.

During the first half of 2019, Imagine Monroe approved 24 projects that will create 608 jobs and retain nearly 1,000 in Monroe County, officials said in a statement. The projects are expected to generate some $239 million in private investment.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

A decade in, Career Start steps into the spotlight

Fresh out of St. John Fisher College in 2007, a 24-year-old Lindsay McCutchen took the daunting plunge of starting her own business. A staffing firm setting up employers with potential employees called Career Start, the young firm started with humble roots, and, as is the case of almost all young entrepreneurs, with the daunting specter of failure always hovering in the periphery.

Now, a decade later, from its small home-style headquarters on South Plymouth Avenue with a trail of potential clients leading out the door, McCutchen’s startup has been launched into wild success. It was ranked 970th on Inc. Magazine’s 2017 Top 5,000, and also checked in at number 50 on the Women President’s Organization annual top 50 fastest-growing woman-owned businesses, with 18,291% growth in the past five years. McCutchen also held the distinction of being the youngest person on the list, as the average age of honorees is 50.

Career Start chief operating officer Kendell Schmitt.
Career Start chief operating officer Kendell Schmitt.

With McCutchen out on maternity leave, Chief Operating Officer for Careerstart Kendell Schmitt spoke about the new recognition and the future of Career Start.

“Our goal since the beginning was getting people on social services into the workforce,” Schmitt said. “Basically, to take them from using taxpayer dollars to contributing.”

Recently, the firm grew from manual labor jobs in manufacturing and printing to navigating more high-level positions in IT, accounting and finances. The accolades began to pour in amid that shift, with the company first being ranked number 11 in the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce’s Top 100 list.

“Things just kind of blew up,” Schmitt said. “We were really so tied up in the day-to-day operations that we hardly knew things were getting bigger.”

The accolades piling up for Career Start and McCutchen came as no surprise for Lidestri Foods Director of Human Resources Sarah Miller.

Career Start headquarters on South Plymouth Avenue.
Career Start headquarters on South Plymouth Avenue.

Career Start provides temporary employees for all of Lidestri’s locations in the Rochester area, mainly in production.

“They’re just a pleasure to work with,” Miller said. “I can’t say I’m surprised that they’re getting so much attention, Lindsay is a great businesswoman, and I have to imagine she provides great leadership. Aside from that, she’s just fun; she makes the whole process enjoyable.”

Miller said Career Start provided a large amount of temporary employment for the Fairport-based packing and bottling company, and also provides on-site management.

“We have a true partnership with them; they’re on-site with us,” Miller said. “They listen to our needs, they respond very quickly, they are always open to any new ideas or suggestions. I find Lindsay and her crew to be very creative in helping us solve our labor problems or issues. I have a lot of respect for her business model, they’re very connected in the community and with a lot of different programs that the city and the county run.”

Collaborating with organizations such as the Rochester Workforce Consortium, Career Start works to provide employees with resources to obtain GEDs, education, training, licensing and education.


Schmitt called Career Start’s inclusion on the Women President’s Organization and Inc. Magazine lists “humbling,” but the company’s impact on its community is more noteworthy than just a spot on national rankings. In 2016 alone, Career Start help navigate careers for over 2,500 people, the majority in Rochester.

“We’ve become somewhat of a household name; people come to us often who know someone who have worked with us and had a good experience,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt notes the unique programs Career Start offers which benefit both employers and employees.

“We have one program where we’re actually able to subsidize an employee’s wages,” Schmitt said. “Meaning, for the first 30 days, we’ll cover an employee’s salary. It’s a win-win; the employee gets paid, and the employer basically has someone work for free for 30 days.”

Through wage subsidies, Schmitt said, Career Start was able to put millions of dollars back into the Rochester economy.

Now with a slew of accolades pouring in, this small business, employing just 17 full-time staff, is looking to the future. While the company has in the past consulted for non-local firms, the bulk of Career Start’s business has remained consistently in Rochester. Schmitt hopes for that to soon change, first taking on the region and then the nation.

“Our next big step is to expand in Western New York, in Buffalo and Syracuse,” Scmitt said. “After that, we’re looking to expand across the United States.”

For Miller, she sees the future as bright for Career Start.

“I’m thrilled for them, and I know that they’ll continue to do great things and [McCutchen] will continue to do great things,” Miller said.

[email protected] / 585-653-4022