Phoenix Fashion Week introduced its new class of emerging designers on Friday, June 13, at Toni & Guy Academy in Scottsdale.
While there were more Arizona-based designers than ever before, most of the 14 businesses included in this year's group of up-and-comers looked like they have a long way to go before they're ready to present runway collections at Phoenix Fashion Week from Wednesday, October 1, through Saturday, October 4, at Talking Stick Resort.
Seven of the designers are Valley-based, and the remaining half hail from places including New York, Colorado, Utah, and Missouri. Each will go through a four-month bootcamp program, which entails classes, homework, and feedback. One winner will be determined at the end of Phoenix Fashion Week based on both the label's progress and probability for success in design and business -- and how well they perform throughout bootcamp. The winner receives a prize package that comprises goods and services to help launch their brand that's valued at $10,000.
Our pick? Based on the single look each brand presented, Provo-based label POINT&HUE was the clear frontrunner with a structured little black dress with texturally contrasting panels that looked like something Black Widow might wear if she had a nine-to-five. It was the sole design we could imagine seeing and buying in a boutique.
Following close behind was St. Louis' Jacqueline Nicole. Her model wore an asymmetrical mini skirt and a cropped sweater, but we were far more taken with the LBD the designer was sporting that she also designed.
We wouldn't be surprised to see Phoenix's Kismit or L.A.'s RAYAN come out the other end of this process with cool collections, but their points of view were less realized than POINT&HUE and Jacqueline Nicole. Kismit's design was pretty, but construction elements distracted from the overall edgy-elegant effect. And RAYAN's floor-length dress was structured beautifully but suffered from poor print and color choices.
From there, things got spotty.
Arizona's Lillienne Lang chose odd, heavy fabrics that looked better suited to upholstery than her taupe-all-over gown. Seattle-based brand Atiz presented a brocade-style velvet blazer in a bright bluish purple worthy of Prince that was paired with a harsh black skirt, where gray would've looked fresher. Blackberry Maverick showed a scalloped summer dress with structural problems.
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Charmosa Swimwear showed a halter suit with clashing patterns in desert tones, and Misha Mendicino Designs had a similarly beachy vibe. Each chose fabrics that didn't reflect the luxurious vacation vibe they were going for. Woman's Touch Apparel showed a leisurewear leotard that might make sense within the context of a collection, but it mostly made us sad for her model, who had to walk around in a paper-thin onesie that kept riding up.
Saba Khan's line is inspired by her mother, but her designs didn't quite live up to her solid backstory. Schuylark Design had a part military, part schoolgirl look with a few too many details that resulted in an overwrought outfit.
Finally, dashing our hopes of a T-shirt-free fashion week was State Forty Eight, which showed the same silkscreened design in different colors. We've ranted about this before, but it seems genuinely unfair to allow a company that produces T-shirts to compete with brands constructing everything from swimwear to full-blown eveningwwear. The disparity between designers is one of the most frustrating aspects of this competition, and for some reason Phoenix Fashion Week just can't shake it.