Fashion Blog

January 2018

"Fitness Fashion": January 2018 Fashion Show + Brunch @ Yotel

By Mandira Bahl | Edited by Catherine Schuller

Instead of lazing around the house on the 14th of January as I usually do on any given Sunday when the weather is freezing and the cozy blankets are beckoning, I decided not to watch the last episodes of my favorite Netflix series or attack the hamper loaded with last week’s dirty towels and sheets. No, even though the weather was still frigid, this afternoon I planned to head over to the Yotel Hotel in Times Square to check out Runway the Real Way touted as “the most consistent fashion brunch in New York City.” I needed to see this food, fashion and fun extravaganza for myself and figured I’d get some inspiration for the new year with the fitness-themed fashion event I had heard about. As I left my apartment, the weather was much warmer than I expected, although a wintery chill was still in the air, it was not the single digit degree weather that had been so piercing cold on New Years Eve lingering for many days thereafter.

The upbeat vibe that greeted me upon entering the Green Fig told me I was going to be in for a “fiesta” type affair. There were many things to tantalize the senses besides the scrumptious, mouth-watering brunch entrees and refreshing mimosas. Everyone seemed electrified in the whole place. The vibe was so charged that it was contagious and palpable. I instantly felt welcomed by everyone I met.

The doors opened at 12:45 and live music was performed during the opening seating and ordering time. Two guitarist/songwriter musicians performed original songs about not being perfect and even a body shaming issue themed song entitled “Thin.” With lyrics like: You don’t know what it’s like to me; I don’t know know what it’s like in your skin. I’ll never know what it’s like to be you cause I don’t know what it’s like to be thin… The mood was set for dealing with the daunting task of fulfilling everyone’s most typically pledged resolution - to get in shape for the new year. But this was not your average, typical event. It was truly motivating and got my blood pumping and my interest peaked. Courtney Paul of Workout New York, endorsed by Puma and Liftonic, greeted everyone as the host and challenged everyone to get their groove on and win prizes and giveaways. Perhaps a way to bribe and entice the audience, goading them into participation. It worked in the most engaging way and I was hooked on his effusive delivery. The 50/50 raffle had the designated recipient as Divabetic, a charity for women living with or affected by the epidemic of diabetes. The winner came up to gather her winnings of the raffle split and instantly gave it back in her father’s name claiming he was living with diabetes and she wanted to donate it to the charity-of- choice that day.

The spacious-yet- intimate Green Fig restaurant space was the focus for the fashion and fun, divided into two areas - the backstage (where the models prepared for the show) and the central focus of the restaurant where the action took place. These areas were visible with their usual boiling pot of stylists working tirelessly with the looming “countdown to the catwalk” at 2:30 when the fashion show itself would start. The glass partitions divided these two worlds only to be merged eventually into a giant energy ball that blurred the lines between the runway and the guests. The audience poured in - excited family, friends, colleagues, strangers who were interacting with each other almost instantly upon arrival. The fashion show featured models of every size, shape, gender and height imaginable.

As a photographer and blogger, I frequently show up at runway events with a backpack full of equipment and this case was no different. It appeared to be the usual media platform, although this, too, was part of the scene only divided by a short distance but on the same level. The realism and “seams showing” added a definite air of authenticity and surprised me for sure. This wasn’t snooty or off-putting, but a delight to put my camera’s shutter to work on real people with real sizes and real clothing. I could definitely see myself wearing some of these looks, too. The outfits were accessible and the makeup was fresh and not overdone. Watching people like me walk the runway was a fresh approach that balanced the diversity with the predictable, perfectly sculpted professional model types. Everyone was sporting the latest fitness forward fashions from Puma, Next Level World and Rebel Pink. But this was not your usual yoga wear necessarily, street wear and activewear are practically interchangeable these days in our “overly casual” dress code environment of late. This activewear was urban in feel but wearable, colorful and bling-tastic. These were look you could wear from class to club! This was not your usual “gym-bunny” wear, because this was not your regular fashion show. The hotel was transformed that afternoon into a diverse blend of models and talent, all aimed at getting the year off to a rousing start with this activity-infused celebration. Alvin Ailey’s Robin Dunn and her hip hop protégé and colleague, Jamee Schleifer, demonstrated with her dance routine that “movement is ageless” inspiring everyone to keep grooving through life - everyday in everyway.

Curated by Catherine Schuller who created Runway the Real Way with the tagline “Fashion Diversity on the Inclusive Catwalk”, this platform brings together all walks of life from all expressions of artistic endeavor - models, designers, performers, photographers, entertainers, promoters…you name it.

The show ended with an explosion into an after party of networking and vital exchange. Groups of known and unknown people shared contact info, discussed topics of interest all the while sipping their cocktails and champagne. This gathering truly brought people together, especially those who didn’t feel part of the fashion or workout crowd. Everyone felt validated, included and honored for who and HOW they are.

This is the watering hole you want to be at every month. I was so glad my pile of laundry was left undone and my binge watching plans had been abandoned. I left with a smile on my face and a pocket full of cards of new friends and acquaintances I had met and enjoyed the day with.

The chilly wind outside was a stark contrast to the warm vibe inside that permeated the afternoon and made me feel as though I’d been in the presence of like-minded, compassionate and passionate individuals who came together to make the party-with- a- purpose atmosphere come to life. Check out my photos and also their website for more upcoming events at Like them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at runwaytherealway. They post on Eventbrite every month so just go under Runway the Real Way to register as a model, designer or just audience participant for their upcoming shows. They aren’t kidding when they say, “Don’t just DO brunch….EXPERIENCE it!”