I first heard of the Laura Tanzer Designs brand when I was browsing through Phoenix Fashion Week’s social media pages in 2015. At the time, Laura was an emerging designer and had presented during Phoenix Fashion Week‘s annual runway festivities at Talking Stick Resort. Tanzer had showcased the “Les Rayures des Fleurs” collection- a stunning assortment of skirts, dresses, blouses, and jackets that were in an array of red, black, white, and navy blue hues. What also grabbed my attention were the floral prints, stripes, high-waist flared pants, maxi dress with dramatic low cut back, and asymmetrical jacket.
I immediately reached out to Laura, and have since been a fan of her brand, which is sustainably made in Tucson. The designer has been creating clothing ever since the tender age of seven. She, alongside her grandmother, would make clothing for her Barbies. The clothing creating continued throughout the years, as she made wearables for herself, her sister; then her friends, and finally- clients! Along with the impeccable construction of the clothing and passion for what she does, she also credits getting her inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. For example, the collection that will be unveiled during Phoenix Fashion Week on the 14th…”The inspiration for my current collection combines my love of modern form, contrappunto, and my travels to places with water – Venice, the Outer Banks off North Carolina, the Pacific Ocean.” I have seen some of the teasers on her Instagram, I can only predict that Spring 2017 will be sophisticated and elegant.
This month marks the three year anniversary of her official launch (October 2013). She now has a charming Atelier in the historic train depot in downtown Tucson, where she works and where clients can come in, browse, and buy. I’ve had the pleasure of stopping by the atelier a few times, not only to finally meet Laura in person, but to also see, feel, and try on the clothing. Let me tell you, the fit of her clothing was amazing! It was refreshing getting a one-on-one ‘fitting consultation’ with her, as she’ll explain the fit and have suggestions on tailoring or how to wear the pieces. It was also fun to see the room where she and her small staff construct the samples and put together the collections. I’m loving that the clothing is made with the highest quality fabrics, right there in Tucson, and with the utmost care and sustainability.
Speaking of sustainability, Laura also believes in not only creating sustainable clothing, but also, a sustainable lifestyle. “I want to contribute to the local economy, create jobs, build my business by respecting the environment and our natural resources. Our Sustainability Series occurs the fourth Wednesday of every month. We host specialists in various areas of sustainable practice/knowledge, such as water, air, toxins, social behavior, etc. It is always entertaining, and always inspirational! My co-sponsors are: Mrs. Green’s World, Green Living Magazine, Local First Arizona, Delectables Restaurant and Borderlands Brewery,” Laura explained further.
Phoenix Fashion Week‘s Shop Garment District fashion show was the first Phoenix fashion event I recently attended since my equally recent move to the city. The Shop Garment District event helps to bridge buyers with the selected emerging designers in person, and to shop some of looks straight off the runway.
The “Kick-off” event, in anticipation of October’s main fashion festivities, was held at the uber-trendy Moxy Hotel in Tempe. The event highlighted eleven designers and three accessories designers. There was plenty of time to do some pre-show shopping to be had in the Style Villa. While I didn’t do much shopping, I enjoyed speaking and meeting with the emerging designers from all over the country, each with their own unique stories behind their brands, while also seeing some of their past collections up close. It was also a continuation of the Model of the Year contest, where 40 top models will compete for the “Model of the Year” title, which will ultimately be determined during the main runway event at Talking Stick Resort.
The PHXFW team first presented their collection of tees and other basics, based upon the inspiration of the Olympics (and that the event was held the same night as the Opening Ceremonies in Rio).
Let me give you a brief introduction of the designers…
Aconav was launched in 2008 by Loren and Valentina Aragon and is founded on the basis of the connection of their Native American cultures of the Navajo and Acoma Pueblo. Loren’s apparel and jewelry designs are inspired by the monochrome and polychrome pottery designs of his Acoma heritage. He also learned the art of silversmithing from family members. He uses parts of the pottery culture that are used as highlights to modern attire and blends that with traditional dress elements of the women of the Acoma community. Aconav is based in Phoenix, Arizona. My favorites were the black and white cocktail dresses with strong Native American pottery influences, as well as the jewelry.
Washington, D.C. based Amanda Casarez specializes in reinvented classics that focus on an androgynous inspiration. She is currently the designer-in-residence at the Macy’s Metro Center in D.C., and is in the process of further developing and expanding her contemporary womenswear brand. Her S/S17 collection is inspired by her color palette- the pink deconstructed rose. The collection was demure, yet classic. I thought that the looks were also wearable for both work and play.
St. Louis designer Barbara Bultman gave us a hint of her F/W 2017 collection called “Voltaic.” Barbara gained her inspiration from the concept of natural energy resources, such as: solar panels and wind farms. The structured black and gray hued collection featured silky dresses; eye-catching tops: one being a chic halter crop top, while the other sleeveless top having cage detail that subtly shows the midriff; and a drifty maxi skirt. She completed the looks with her cool leather fringe neckwear, belts and earrings.
Next up was a sneak peek of Los Angeles designer Jenine Nerecina’s dreamy and whimsical collection “Dream of Romance.” Beautiful lacy gowns, mermaid-esque silhouettes, dramatic off-shoulder crop tops and flowy maxi skirts swirled down the runway. Topping off the looks were amazing clear crystal headpieces, also another specialty of Jenine’s. Find out more about Jenine’s brand- Cosmogyral.
Emmanuel Hightower created menswear brand- ForgivenLove in 2008. He wanted his t-shirts to convey positive messages and to create a huge impact on the world, in hopes that more people out there will follow in the ForivenLove footsteps and create their own story of change. With messages like “Love & Forgiveness,” “One Nation Under God,” and “Inspiring the World;” I’d say they are off to a good start.
Isy Obi, of Isy B. Designs, credits her mother for being a major inspiration of her becoming a fashion designer. She grew up playing with fabrics in her mother’s atelier, creating clothing for herself, her friends and dolls. Years later, she now runs a fashion business that is based in the Cayman Islands. After one too many outdoor cocktail hours in the tropical heat, and in uncomfortable clothing, Isy decided it was time to make chic dresses that were more breathable and more comfortable to wear in warmer climates. Her S/S17 collection featured bright yellow and tropical Caribbean printed flowy dresses, some of which also featured asymmetrical hemlines and color-blocking. I could definitely see myself breezing through the day wearing one of Isy’s refreshing skirts, caftans, or dresses.
Tucson’s sustainable fashion designer sweetheart- Laura Tanzer gave us a glimpse of her Contrappunto collection. “Contrappunto” is counterpart in Italian. “Inspiration for the collection comes from my love of all things architectural, juxtaposing with fluid movement. So, I utilized architectural elements for structure in the linens and soft knits for fluidity. The noir et blanc color scheme is an ongoing theme for me. In this case, less neutral by juxtaposing the two colors in form, fabric, and trim,” Laura explained. The collection was effortless and sophisticated, yet with a hint of edge. I can imagine wearing pieces from this collection both casually and dressed up for a night out on the town.
Navajo designer Marisa Mike showcased four dresses with elements of her Native American culture implemented in each design. For example, one dress with strapless bodice and flowy chiffon skirt was inspired by the decorative ribbon trim on NAC prayer robes from the Kiowa tribe. Another dress (and my personal favorite) was made from the ‘Chief Joseph’ Pendleton blanket. There was another strapless dress with the bodice that was inspired by the ‘storm’ pattern on Navajo woven rugs. I’m excited to see what the rest of Marisa’s collection looks like in October.
Emily Smith credits her upbringing in Botswana, Africa, as being her main source of inspiration for her brand- Mowa by Emily Smith. She is currently based in Florida, but tries to go back to her second home to Botswana often. When she is home, she does all her fabric shopping, centering around the same shops. The ladies in the shop always remember her and will ask how she and her business are doing. She sources bright traditional African fabrics, and designs edgy and clever creations, in hopes that it will complement the wearer. After seeing a few looks from past and the present collections, I can see that Emily really pours her heart into her work and creates unique pieces that myself, along with other women, would enjoy wearing.
Nune and Mariam Hovhannisyan are the sister duo that make up MxN Clothing. The Seattle-based design house creates ethical clothing that is ethically manufactured, environmentally friendly and animal product free. Their F/W16 collection delves into denim and knit fabrics, paired with fringe and faux fur trim. We also got to see their promo crop tops for their Rock Candy collection, which will be debuted in October (they were also giving out rock candy at the booth). I thought that the fringe leggings and the fringe top were the show-stoppers for the brand.
Structured romanticism, finding inspiration and beauty in unexpected concepts and bringing them to real life is how designer Ricci Janse van Rensburg describes her brand- Ricci JvR. The Cape Town, South African brand showcased four easy looks, however, there were unexpected design details in each garment. Some examples of those details were feminine flares at the ankle of the pants, a dramatic open back and flutter sleeves for the romper, and a razor back vest top with frill detail. I personally loved the pants with flared ankles and the ruffled vest top.
Jewelry designer- Monica Mauro presented her Druzy Collection. Her one-of-a-kind Druzy agate necklaces were featured alongside several of the fashion designers collections.
Rhinestones & Relics designer- Kelley West also collaborated with a group of fashion designers. Her Fall 2016 collection featured dainty body jewelry, tassels, polished stones, and other relics.
The last designer to collaborate with the fashion designers was Ines Shanks- the founder of Shanks Shoeware. The innovative Austrian brand creates heels that are designed with the utmost comfort for a woman’s foot in mind. The shoes are made with high quality leather, padded leather insoles and a non-slip bottom sole. The shoes also have a hidden 3 cm (or 1.18″) platform, which allows for more comfort when walking on a 12 cm (or 4.72″) heel. Ines also creates heel caps, that are available in a variety of colors of leather. The heel caps are not only cool shoes accessories, but they also help prevent feet slipping out of the shoe. Lastly, the ankle strap also makes a cute wrap bracelet!
Well Phoenix Fashion Week, with the talent that I saw at this event, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for October! Be sure to grab your tickets HERE.
Congrats to models: Faith, Andreas, Cierra, and Nicholas for winning BEST PHOTOS for the 2016 Model of the Year Print Challenge.