After taking just a few small steps toward forming a community, now Valley fashion designers are trying to make the giant leap into commercial success with the Phoenix Infusion Fashion Series, starting Friday, August 29.
Inspired by local runway shows held earlier this year, including a sold-out night at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the series is the first such event to have a major backer -- Clear Channel.
"To me, this show means that big business is starting to recognize that there really is a growing community of talented designers in the Valley that are worth recognizing," says Casey Pearson, one of the featured designers, who creates a womenswear line called Hip Divine. "There has been a lot of support from the art community and local boutiques already, but this is the first time I know of where designers are getting support from a national entity whose name has the power to bring in influential buyers and potential investors."
The show also includes styles from Angela Johnson, LuLu Belles by Louise Jay, Contra Mondo by Susan Di Staulo, Apriba by Allison Baker, ALM Designs by A.L. Matthews, Robyn Lazell, Jennyvi Dizon, Bill Berry and Shiry Sapir. Upcoming shows will be held bimonthly, and will include additional local talent. Based on audience response, five of the designers will be selected to show their work in a final showcase, to be held as the opener for a major concert at Cricket Pavilion next fall.
While a few of the designers specialize in more formal designs, the show is giving them a chance to experiment with funkier creations. After all, crowd reaction is crucial to their advancement in the series. "Because my brand is starting to get a little recognition around town, I have decided to branch out with a more commercial, glitzy, everyday wear line that customers can wear to the club or just to hang out in," explains Pearson. Dizon, too, says she's experimenting more. "To get noticed, I am expanding my fashion skills to ready-to-wear," she says. But Dizon admits that she ultimately wants to be "the next Vera Wang" of bridal couture.
Di Staulo, who met Pearson through the SMoCA show, is taking in stride the pressure of being in the public eye. "We are all crossing our fingers and hoping for the best," she says. Her collection reflects an upbeat attitude as well, inspired by a 1959 Dean Martin recording called "All I Do Is Dream of You."
Clearly, the designers themselves are delighted about the chance for recognition. But what does the series mean to local fashion followers? For one thing, they'll be able to purchase locally made designs on the spot. "This should bring lots of excitement, because they are getting the opportunity to be a part of something that could bring their favorite local designers some national exposure," Pearson says. "They can be here for the start of it all!"