Charmosa Swimwear Named Phoenix Fashion Week Emerging Lifestyle Designer of 2015

At Phoenix Fashion Week 2015, change is in the air — and not just backstage. 

Thursday, October 1, marked the start of some major changes for the fall runway event, now in its eighth year, including nightly awards for emerging designers and a dedication to showcasing a range of work from local student designers to more established brands worth watching.

The runway shows opened at Scottsdale's Talking Stick Resort with looks from a group of Art Institute of Phoenix fashion students, who designed eveningwear dresses inspired by the 25th anniversary of Pretty Woman's release. Nothing was perfect, but there was a lot of promise in the looks — despite a fairly cringe-y premise that didn't result in much variety. Each chose to create a red dress inspired by the one Julia Roberts' character wears to the opera. While the designers varied in shape and style, it would've been interesting to see the theme pushed, with a re-imagined tux or an elevated take on that iconic, skimpy blue-and-white glorified swimsuit held together by metal hoops. 

From there, four emerging designers showcased their collections, which were created over the past few months as they participated in a Fashion Week bootcamp program to help them build their businesses. Charmosa Swimwear, Haute Body, Lily V, and Medium Apparel Co. each presented lifestyle collections in competition to win a prize package valued at $10,000 that includes an appearance on Evine Live, a QVC-esque channel where TV personalities such as Real Housewives stars Lisa Vanderpump, Heather and Terry Dubrow, and LuAnn de Lesseps hawk their goods, as well as, ahem, Paula Deen.

For the first year, Fashion Week has separated competing emerging designers into three separate categories (lifestyle, eveningwear, and couture) after years of pitting ballgown designers against T-shirt brands. 2015 also marked the first year that emerging designers who’d previously competed in the program could return. Both Charmosa and Phoenix-based Medium (which, full disclosure, is owned by New Times production manager Zac McDonald) are returning brands.

Neide Hall’s Charmosa took home the lifestyle Emerging Designer of the Year award for her collection of booty-bearing swimsuits inspired by her Brazilian roots in beach-ready tones of ocean blues and greens and sunset oranges and reds.

While the crowd had a strong and positive response to Hall’s work, her winning was a little surprising as it followed a flashy and well-produced showing from Medium, which specializes in men’s streetwear and opened with a dance performance from Gilbert-based dance crew Elektro Botz. Medium expanded its line this year from T-shirts to include button-down shirts and jackets. While the color palette could’ve used some softer tones, particularly when it came to the Ts, it was great to see a brand return to the competition by taking risks and embracing new ideas. We couldn’t say the same of Charmosa.

However, we would’ve put our money on Los Angeles athleisure brand Haute Body winning. With a professional video presentation and a line of active wear with nods to Stella McCartney’s work for Adidas and a similarity in attitude to Zella, it was a focused collection of well-constructed crop tops, jackets, and running tights. The clothes weren’t mind-blowing, but everything looked rack-ready.

Lily V’s collection improved on its past showings, elevating its Free People-esque earthy looks with solid styling. However, the brand still suffered from oddly matched colors and a few attempts at cohesive pattern-clashing simply didn’t work. The blanket wraps in Pendleton-esque patterns were a strong element. If all the Lily looks were as strong as the first, which successfully used aqua as a color through-line, designer Lily Scalf would really be onto something.

Closing out the night were established designers also showing lifestyle garments. That meant two golf-centric sportswear lines, followed by a jewel-tone collection from a recent FIDM grad.

Scottsdale-based Devereux’s line of golf course menswear was an ode to normcore, with rolled up pant legs, collared and collarless polos, and super-slick Revenge of the Nerds hair.

Phoenix Fashion Week regular élevée, owned by event advisor Percy Knox and known for dressing pro athletes in perfectly fitted suits, debuted its lifestyle collection of country club wearables for men and women. The line’s looks ranged from Gossip Girl-goes-sporty to echoes of Beverly Hills 90210 and soccer mom on safari. Each women’s look aligned with a matching men’s outfit, which made for a visually compelling, if slightly Stepford, presentation.

FIDM grad Marly Kluge closed the show with a strong collection of resort garments that looked made for starlets vacationing in Palm Springs with oversize sun hats, banana yellow swimsuits and coverups, along with wrap dresses, jumpsuits, and an airy gown in a focused palette that included magenta and teal.

More like this, please.

Phoenix Fashion Week 2015 continues at Talking Stick Resort nightly through October 3. For tickets and more information, see Phoenix Fashion Week online
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski