The lights dim, electronica music builds, heads crane and cameras swivel toward the runway entrance. One by one, models with emotionless faces saunter toward the throng of photographers and spectators. Movers and shakers from the fashion industry are in attendance at a venue in the chic neighborhood of Chelsea for events spotlighting independent and emerging designers from around the world for New York Fashion Week. Two shows — the first displaying the latest styles from Chinese designer YangLu and the second from design house Elf Sack — included notable guests from the military community receiving a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Seated prominently in the front row of these award-winning events is a different sort of group, one that has temporarily traded their everyday sights of camouflage and combat boots for silks and sashaying: military spouses.
“This is my very first fashion show ever,” said Flossie Hall, a Navy wife and entrepreneur. “I didn’t know what to expect, but it was just beautiful.”
Grateful and gorgeous
Hosted by Nolcha Shows in collaboration with InstaSleep Mint Melts, the shows were a chance for independent designers to showcase their wares to a global audience, and for companies to say thank you to military spouses for their sacrifices. The entire day was a VIP experience for six military spouses, which included professionally-done hair and makeup, lunch by an NYC chef and swag bags replete with goodies from ECRU New York, another sponsor.
“I truly just love military spouses,” said Nolcha cofounder Arthur Mandel. “Their quiet sacrifices must be acknowledged — having to uproot their lives to support their military family and deal with a constant stress of deployments and temporary duty assignments. Without them and their sacrifices, we would not be able to host events [like] these.”
ECRU New York’s team of hair professionals were equally thrilled to be on board. Carmen DePasquale, the brand’s CEO and founder, is an Air Force veteran, giving him a front-and-center look at what both military members and their spouses go through. It’s important to him and his employees to recognize and reciprocate when possible.
“It is a privilege for ECRU New York to have the opportunity to express our gratitude for their sacrifices,” he stated in an event press release.
Backstage, the gratitude was in full swing as makeup artists from AOFM dabbed foundation and colored lips while curling irons sizzled and hairspray flew at the hands of ECRU New York’s stylists. It was the sight, sound and smell of success for Moni Jefferson, an Air Force wife and entrepreneur.
“This is such a great opportunity for organizations to learn about what we do, because having conversations like these with the sponsored brands, they’re more aware of things that we’re doing, and how things like this can give us a feel-good, fun day,” she said.
When Jefferson says “we,” she’s not just talking about military spouses in general. She’s also referring to the team at the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, a launching-in-October organization that connects military spouse “impact advocates,” as AMSE calls them, with other organizations that want to make an impact through their products and services in the military community.
Hall and Jefferson cofounded AMSE together because of their passion for military spouse entrepreneurship. After noticing a “disconnect” between corporations and military spouses, the duo teamed up to create an organization that will work with companies and brands through a variety of career-building activities, including recruiting, communications, marketing, branding and more.
“AMSE is acting as a voice to let the corporate world and beyond know that military spouses need to be heard,” Hall explained. She pauses, then adds, “A very loud voice.”
To that end, she encourages military spouses to join AMSE’s email list and watch for the organization’s full rollout next month. Exciting opportunities, she says, are just around the corner.
New York Fashion Week VIPs
But in the moment, it’s all about fun and fashion. “This [partnership with Nolcha and InstaSleep] has been a great opportunity to bridge the gap between the military and civilian worlds,” Hall said. “The whole point of this is to bring advocacy to the sacrifice that military spouses make for their active duty military member.”
Dee DeLuca-Mattos, ECRU New York’s vice president of business development, declared her company more than willing to participate in that goal. All of ECRU New York’s products, she points out, are made in the USA. If it weren’t for the military keeping the nation safe, would such a feat even be possible?
“Once [our employees] heard that we were going to serving military spouses this year at the shows, everyone rose to the occasion,” DeLuca-Mattos said. “Everyone’s connected to the military in some way.”
Not to mention that supporting the military community — especially the often-ignored spouses — is one of the very few activities everyone can rally around, she says.
“No matter what your political affiliation, this is about being grateful to those who are risking their lives for you,” she said. “It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you sit on.”
A perfect marriage, in other words, from two industries that have never been known for their ease nor unity.
“The spouses were thrilled and excited, feeling beautiful and empowered and having a good time,” Hall said. “But almost as important is the excitement this partnership creates in other companies to want to do the same thing, to recognize the need to take notice of the military spouse community.”
Go to Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs to learn more about upcoming opportunities.Read comments