Tucson Fashion Week

By Tara Kirkpatrick –

Discover Hot Designs, Cool Destinations

When Paula Taylor and Melanie Hebron Sutton took over Tucson Fashion Week in 2012, they knew they could create a larger spotlight for the stylish show.

The posh partners have since turned it into three nights of sold-out events for the past three years. And this year’s event, to be held Oct. 13-15, promises no less – with themed parties, exhibits and runway shows planned at some of the city’s most iconic venues.

“I think we are continuing to build the brand and the experience, which is really important to us,” said Taylor, co-owner of TFW and author of “How to Produce a Fashion Show from A to Z.”

“The idea is that we bring seasoned industry leaders from across creative channels to Tucson. You know, most have never been here before. They get to experience our city and we get to showcase them to our community.”

Headlining Tucson Fashion Week 2016 are:

• Author, musician and vintage collector Cesar Padilla, whose Cherry Boutique has supplied wardrobe pieces for “American Gangster,” “American Hustle” and HBO’s “Vinyl”

• Richie Rich, ‘90s club kid and designer who who founded the fashion company Heatherette

• Designer Henry Picado, CEO of ESTE & CHLO

• Shahida Parides, a Tucson-based designer whose dresses are coveted by celebs such as Paris Hilton and Olivia Palermo

• Chicago recording artists Jason Maek & Zaena

“Living in Tucson for such a long time, Paula and I have an opportunity to not only connect with the community but also highlight historical venues and gems that even locals probably haven’t visited,” said co-owner Sutton, an internationally published fashion stylist and principal of MHS Styling. “It’s never in the same place each year.”

Past venues have included Scottish Rite Cathedral, Tucson Botanical Gardens and Tucson Museum of Art. This year Hotel Congress, The Rialto Theatre, Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson and Merci Gallery are among the sites chosen. “Each night is a completely different experience,” Sutton said.

“It creates again this event that is not three days of a runway show. We don’t want to be that,” said Taylor. “We are really just a creative arts event that happens to be fashion-focused, but not fashion-exclusive, that supports this community by bringing national faces.”

This event also boosts local and regional designers, giving them an arena to unveil their work. At a preview this summer, Rich offered several local designers a chance to pitch an idea to win the opportunity to work with him on his 2017 collection, which will be presented first at TFW.

This year, TFW teamed up with the Tucson Ladies Council for an exclusive night of fashion and food, featuring designs by Picado and Parides, work by regional designers and a menu by Chef Janos Wilder. “That’s the smallest event, but it’s also the most exclusive,” said Taylor. “We can only sell 180 seats, so we hope to sell that out.”

The collaboration with the Tucson Ladies Council is new this year, said Taylor, who had produced that group’s annual fashion show for seven years. “They asked, ‘How can we be a part of Tucson Fashion Week?’ This is what we created together with them.”

Also new is a TFW signature scarf, designed by Parides, that will be available for sale during the events and online at www.tucsonfashionweek.com. Proceeds from the scarf and the final TFW/Tucson Ladies Council evening will benefit the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center. “We are Tucson girls who believe in supporting our community,” said Taylor. “This year, partnering with the Tucson Ladies Council has helped us give in a bigger way.”

Taylor and Sutton are well-suited partners with prolific backgrounds in fashion. Sutton was the buyer for Suttons boutique in Tucson Mall before becoming an award-winning stylist with published work in People, Inc. and Men’s Journal. Taylor owned Pour Moi Boutique before becoming divisional sales manager for Bill Blass. When Taylor returned to Tucson, she produced fashion shows and events, including some for Sutton.

“We sort of watched how each other worked and I had never seen another woman work like I worked … with such drive,” Taylor said. “We have totally different personalities, but they work well together,” said Sutton. It’s why Taylor approached Sutton to help her take over Tucson Fashion Week from original founder Elizabeth Denneau three years ago. “I knew I couldn’t do it alone, I needed someone sharp and bright like Melanie.”

Now, the pair hopes to build even more momentum behind TFW. Past designers such as Betsey Johnson and Jonathan Skow of Mr. Turk menswear have loved their visits to the desert. “I remember he came in and said, ‘Wow, this is gorgeous. This is really amazing,’” Taylor said. “At dinner after the show, he said, ‘I had no idea it was going to be this good.’”

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