It’s Tucson Fashion Week

Fashion, Photography & Philanthropy

By Valerie Vinyard

In October, a few thousand Tucsonans dress up – at least mentally – and enjoy three days of fashion from a cadre of local, regional and international designers.

This year’s Tucson Fashion Week will continue to offer the high-quality fashion designs people are used to seeing, but the Thursday through Saturday event will be even more delicious this year.

TFW will be adding events that showcase food as art. They’re bringing in Joseph Keller, acclaimed chef, restaurateur and co-owner of such award-winning restaurants as Bouchon, Ad Hoc and Per Se. 

Paula Taylor, co-owner of House of PM and owner of Paula Taylor Productions and events creator, is a local fashion icon herself. She and her business partner, Melanie Hebron Sutton of MHS Styling, have helmed TFW for the past three years. As owners of TFW, they also serve as the event’s creative directors.

Each year, the pair strives to showcase a different type of art or fashion in addition to clothing, eyewear and accessories. Other than culinary arts, TFW also will focus on fashion photography, by having a competition at a new gallery, the Moen Mason Gallery, on the first night.

One of the goals of TFW is to provide opportunities to give unknown but emerging designers a chance. This is what spurs the duo, to let designers showcase their work on professional runways in front of consumers and industry professionals.

“Every year is going to be an evolution,” Taylor said. “We approach every year as a challenge and an adventure. We’re trying to show that fashion is part of the arts.”

Sutton hopes each night sells out like last year, and is happy that several major sponsors have remained with TFW, including Mercedes-Benz of Tucson, Shaffer Dry Cleaning, Golden Eagle Distributors, Fringe Hair Studio and Miraval Resort and Spa. 

On the event’s last night, the University of Arizona mall will open up Old Main and the mall. Outside food vendors will be permitted, which will allow TFW to do a “feast element.” There will be a competition among local chefs, and Chef Keller will choose his favorite dish. UA grad Marc Herman of the Original Retro Brand will be featured.

“I’m most excited about the different experiences we’re going to create,” Sutton said. “We love hearing ‘this is amazing’ from the community. They don’t think they’re in Tucson. This is not your typical wine-and-food fundraiser.”

Another experience will include a focus on menswear – a first for TFW – with featured guest Jonathan Skow, the creative force behind Mr Turk’s California dapper style. Other features include Preppy Palm Beach and Mr Turk designer Stevie Boi, showcasing showcase his eyewear, which is worn by celebrities ranging from Lady Gaga to Madonna.

TFW also gives back to the community. It is offering the $30 Tucson Care Card, which provides discounts at local businesses; 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Steven M. Gootter Foundation, which funds research into sudden cardiac death and distributes automated external defibrillators. The YWCA, which is offering a new program that provides scholarships to Latinas, will also be a TFW event beneficiary.

Sutton, whose day job includes executing marketing plans and budgets for La Encantada and Promenade at Casa Grande, said another new addition will make fashionistas happy. She said because of requests from event-goers, there will be pop-up shops before or after the events on Friday and Saturday nights, so people will be able to buy what they saw on the runway.

Sutton loves how Tucson Fashion Week transforms local venues.

“We highlight such a variety of locations,” said Sutton, describing how the Tucson Botanical Gardens turned so beautiful and magical during the event last year, and how the Fox Theatre had an “amazing runway built out into the audience.” “People saw (these venues) in a different light.”

TFW is partnering again with FORD/Robert Black Agency, and about 15 to 20 models will be on the runway each night.

“This is our passion,” Sutton said. “We work hard. There is a misconception that we’re generating all this income, but we’re not.” 

One 32-year-old Phoenix resident has happily made the two-hour drive from home over the last two years to enjoy that passion, soak up knowledge and get ideas for her own designs.

“It’s so inspiring to see these designers,” she said. “They mostly seem so approachable and normal – they give us fledgling designers hope. I’m really new at this, so anything I can get is valuable for me.”

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