The faces of fashion in Pittsfield

"Here and Now Fashion Show" offers an opportunity to dress to impress, just be yourself

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PITTSFIELD — When 27-year-old Shonda Evette thinks about working with younger models on their techniques, she smiles.

"Watching their confidence go from, `Oh, my God, I can't do this!' to, the third time they're walking, it's like, `Bringing it,' I can't even — my cheeks hurt," Evette said on Tuesday.

The Pittsfield resident was hanging out at the Tyler Street Lab, the pop-up space that has been offering community events and other programming at 730 Tyler St. since March. On Friday, Oct. 11, the building will host the Evette-organized "Here and Now Fashion Show." While auditions have already been held for spots on the runway in gear provided by Omega1 African Fashion, Lipa's Latina and Designer Consigner, among others, anybody can attend the free 7:30 p.m. show in their best get-up.

"I do encourage everyone to dress to impress," Evette said. "I want them to wear something that makes them feel like, 'I am the s---.' pretty much. Glitter, fur, 8-inch heels — I just want it all. I want the dramatics. I want people to ... just play dress-up. It makes you feel really good."

Recycled items are an emphasis. Evette is working on a dress made from black trash bags. Stylists are helping repurpose clothing, too.

"They're ripping and cutting and putting things together," Evette said.

The Brooklyn native started modeling when she was 18. She practiced posing and strutting by watching Youtube videos, walking up and down hallways and using mirrors. Today, she tries to offer useful advice to up-and-comers. It's rewarding for her.

"Just seeing them love it, feel for it, it's like me going through it all over again," she said.

Evette's own modeling work was mostly for local New York City companies, though, she did land a DSW gig once. After moving to the Berkshires in 2018, she booked a shoot with a local photographer.

"I was alive again," she said.

It took a little while for Evette's style to come back to life, though.

"When I moved out here, my wardrobe changed completely," she said. "I don't know what I was thinking, but I tried to fit in with the hoodies and the flannels. Those are really big, and the boots. And it was cute. I could rock it, but it wasn't me."

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Eventually, she began incorporating pieces of her personal chic, such as head wraps, into her outfits. In the process, she became more aware of other area fashionistas.

"I just started changing a little bit, being more myself," she said. "That's when I started noticing other people that did it."

Evette also became involved with Tyler Street Lab, immediately noting its spacious interior.

"I know when I first got here, oh, my God, I was blown away," she said. "I saw the space, and I was just like, 'This is it. I'm going to have groups of people, huge groups of people in here doing all types of cool stuff.'"

Initially, her focus was in the fitness realm. She started leading Zumba classes there.

"There was no doubt in my mind that the community would start flooding in. That didn't happen exactly, though," she said.

Her classes "maxed at like two people." So, she started teaching at Berkshire Fitness and Wellness Center and Berkshire Family YMCA instead.

Evette's experience isn't an outlier. In this pop-up stage, Tyler Street Lab has housed a wide variety of events, from Working Cities meetings to video game sessions, that have had varying levels of success. Learning experiences have been the norm, according to Kate Lauzon, one of the lab's leaders. For Lauzon, the space serves as a "conduit" to experiences and resources that its visitors might not otherwise be able to access. For example, the lab has served as a connecting point to Tanglewood, The Mount and Jacob's Pillow Dance; the Pillow Express stopped at the lab during its summer journeys to the Becket dance center.

The lab has also fostered introspection. Evette is exploring fashion design for the first time because of the "Here and Now" event. Her interest in that creative form has surprised her, encouraging her to keep an open mind about her interests and capabilities.

"I can't wait to surprise myself a little bit more," she said.

Yet, Tyler Street Lab's lease is up Oct. 15. Its future beyond that date is uncertain, both in location and in programming, as its various collaborators try to hammer out a sustainable business plan. Lauzon noted that building owner Mill Town Capital has been one of the groups supporting the lab as it navigates that process. The parties involved understand its importance to the community.

"It's definitely needed," Lauzon said. "No one wants to see it go away."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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