On October 13th, I travelled to Tucson, AZ. as I was invited to attend, cover and experience Tucson Fashion Week. A close friend of mine, fashion designer Richie Rich of Heatherette fame, was scheduled to headline the event with a runway show and asked if I would consider being his weekend plus one, helping with the model fittings, and the pre-show/back-of-house production. I’m always game for a fun fashion filled weekend away, and as I had no idea that Tucson presented an official Fashion Week, my curiosity was peaked. When I think of “Fashion Week”, I think New York, London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo and even Los Angeles, but Tucson, to my knowledge, was not particularly known as a fashion-centric city. Yet, mini “Fashion Weeks” seem to be on trend and popping up in smaller cities across the nation from Palm Springs to Pittsburgh and Detroit to DC. Omaha Fashion Week claims to be “Midwest’s premiere fashion event”, so why not Tucson I thought…
I was also invited by Paula Taylor, Tucson resident, and the co-owner/ producer of Tucson Fashion Week. Like me, Paula is a long time fashion show producer who wrote and published a textbook titled “How to Produce a Fashion Show from A to Z”. Yes, she actually wrote the book on fashion show production, so when I asked Paula to tell me what sparked her interest in producing a fashion week in Tucson, she replied: “Five years ago, I knew the original owner of TFW, (Elizabeth Albert), and I wanted to put a national spotlight on our city… the art, the fashion, and the food. I wanted to create an event that was fashion focused, but also supported other creatives.” I asked: “What does TFW mean to you?” and she said: “Tucson Fashion Week is meant as a platform for creatives and business people to gather, network, and showcase their work and brands. The idea is to bring in big name global designers, while simultaneously supporting regional and local brands and have them all show on the same runway. I knew I could not do it without a partner, so I reached out to Melanie Hebron Sutton who spent years in marketing for large retail centers, we joined forces, and here we are!”
Presented in downtown’s beautiful Rialto Theater, the opening night of TFW was coined “City Chic”, a collaborative catwalk presentation of boutique-wear and local emerging designers. Event guests meandered through the lobby, cocktails in hand, gazing at art while snacking on freshly baked Betty’s Wood Fired Oven Pizzas. Like a Broadway play, the lights flickered off and on, instructing the audience to take to their seats for the start of the show. As a rock band performed stage right, Richie Rich, on stage left, hosted the Del Bac Whiskey Bar, where lucky VIP’s were able to sit on stage with the legendary Club Kid turned fashion designer, have a whiskey and coke, and watch the show.
The evening’s guest of honor was Cesar Padilla, artist, musician, and reigning emperor of punk rock vintage clothing.
On day two of Tucson Fashion Week, Richie and I spent the majority of the morning and early afternoon in his room at the historic Congress Hotel, sorting through his collection and organizing each individual look in preparation for the upcoming model fittings.
We arrive at the venue, the beautiful Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, for “Premiere Runway and Fashion Presentations”, and immediately dive in head first into the model fittings, determining the run of show, consulting with the key hair and make-up artists, and their teams, to design the models’ looks, taping the bottom of each pair of sponsored shoes so that they are not returned to the brand with scuff marked soles, teaching the “dressers” how to quick change the models who have two looks, organizing and keeping a sharp eye on the fabulous jewelry, shipped to us by NY designer Rachael Brown, etc, etc, etc…
As work prevented me from leaving backstage for more than a minute, I was only able to catch a glimpse of the other talented designers, Cry baby Couture, Monica Hansen and Theo Doro, as their models passed by our backstage area on route to the runway. However, one designer in particular, Shahida Parides, must be highlighted as her models looked ethereal yet glamorous in her stunning collection of printed and solid beaded silk kaftans, dresses and separates…Really beautiful.
Unfortunately, I had to fly back to LA the next afternoon and miss the final evening of “Maison de Mode”. However, the two nights I did experience were beautifully orchestrated celebrations of fashion and art. Kudos to Paula, Melanie, the staff, the sponsors and volunteers for producing such a fabulous event and showcasing Tucson as a new and legitimized fashion destination.
Please visit the Tucson Fashion Week 2016 participating designers on the web at:
Tracie May-Wagner is an LA based fashion and lifestyle publicist.