Setting the Stage

Leslie Patrizio Brings the Glamour of Fashion Week to Local Communities

To Leslie Patrizio, fashion is a language through which we communicate. Fashion provides social connectivity and is a force for building confidence and supporting our communities. 

Patrizio, the owner of Style Matters with Leslie Patrizio, which produces fashion shows for a variety of clients—from boutiques and designers to nonprofits and high schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania—has even seen lives change. 

The Warren mother of two adult sons was inspired to use her talents as a special event planner to create fashion shows when her children were attending The Pingry School. “I used to produce women-inspired events for casinos that had a focus like fashion or cosmetics,” she says. “Pingry hosted a fashion show as a fundraiser every year, which I ran. Then, other schools started asking me to do the same. Stores took notice and that’s how my business evolved.”

Fifteen years later, Patrizio now produces about 12 shows annually, using professional models as well as members of the community—including children—to showcase the latest looks. “Who models the clothes depends on who the client wants to see on the runway,” she says.

In addition to promoting designers—such as Sareh Nouri and Dennis Basso—and local boutiques and department stores, Patrizio produces a number of shows to fundraise for nonprofits, such as Sapphires & Sequins, which benefits the Hunterdon Health Care Auxiliary, and the Go RED fashion show, presented by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital–Somerset and the Bridgewater Commons. Her biggest fashion show is The Red Carpet Party, which benefits Family and Children’s Services. She also creates other events like fashion seminars. 

Patrizio picks out the clothing, selects the music and choreographs the fashion shows. She pays special attention to amateur models. “Foremost, we want the models to be happy with what they are wearing. If they don't feel good, they will not have confidence and poise,” she says. “It might take hours for us to find the perfect outfit, but the most important thing is that models feel good about themselves.”

For novice models, she always does a rehearsal to allow people to get comfortable walking the runway. “I tell them that when they approach the runway, they should stop, relax, throw their shoulders back and lift their ribcage. I tell them to pose—because usually they are getting their picture taken at that point—and then walk that runway like they own it. I find that even the shyest person will morph into someone with fantastic self-confidence,” she says. “The boys are fun because a lot of times they steal the show.”

Some shows celebrate resilience. “At the Go RED fashion show, one of the models had had a heart transplant and another had recovered from a stroke the day after her college graduation. They had to come back from that and are fighters,” she says. 

Whenever she can, Patrizio likes to support local boutiques. “I want to make sure that people in the audience could potentially be a customer—either geographically or economically,” she says. 

So, what is in style this fall? The refreshing answer: Everything. “There really are no mistakes. You'll see everything in the stores: wide-leg bell bottoms, skinny jeans, cropped jeans and high-waisted and low-waisted jeans,” she says. “You are going to see more long, flowy floral prints, but you will not look out of style if you wore a short dress.”

Trends recycle, as we know. So, expect a continuation of fashion from the 1990s and 2000, Patrizio says.

Fashion, according to Patrizio, is a great communicator. “People might come up to you and say, ‘I like your dress.’ Or you might go up to someone and say, ‘Oh, I love your shoes.’ Fashion gives us something to speak to,” she says. “I am so fortunate to I do what I love; for me, this is not work. Sometimes, I think, ‘Wow, this is my job. I’m getting paid to do this.’”

See more runway style at LesliePatrizio.com.

Photos of Leslie Patrizio taken by Donna Gioia Volpe at Boutique CALIA, Bernardsville. Patrizio wears dresses from Prabal Gurung, jeans from Moussy, leather jacket from Mauritius, cami from Gold Hawke and necklace from R. Weiss Jewelers in Bernardsville Centre.

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