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Misha Mendicino Named Emerging Designer of the Year at Phoenix Fashion Week 2014

Misha Mendicino Designs was named emerging designer of the year on Saturday, October 4, at Phoenix Fashion Week 2014 at Talking Stick Resort.

Based in Phoenix, the brand creates breezy resort wear often printed with elephants. The label donates a portion of its sales to David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to help protect elephants from poachers.

While Mendicino was easily the best emerging designer who showed on Thursday, her winning the overall title came as a shock.

See also: Phoenix Fashion Week 2014 at Talking Stick Resort: Friday's Designers a Mixed Bag

That's because the emerging designers who presented collections on Saturday evening were some of the competition's strongest this year -- and maybe in the history of the emerging designer program.

Phoenix's Adoire by Saba opened the evening with a globally inspired collection of evening wear. Though design-wise Saba Iqbal's pieces were lovely, occasionally the detailing (for example, crystal buttons and embellished necklines) lessened the luxurious effect and left dresses looking more like prom attire.

Hues of Ego, also based in Phoenix, seemed like an easy frontrunner of the emerging designer contest. Designed by Natasha Duran-Lynch, the collection brought major drama to the runway, with sparkly masks, stark whites, and sculptural coats. Her leather pieces weren't our favorites, but Duran-Lynch's clothing delivered on wow factor with over-the-top, puffed-out gowns balanced with wearable, gorgeous pieces (we were head over heels for that blush coat).

Jacqueline Nicole followed with a line that, at its best, was reminiscent of girly-girl brand Kate Spade with bright pink and loads of sequins. A few of her color choices felt off, particularly the nude pink, black and green sequins, and the barely-there khaki. And the purple-blue faux fur topper looked out of place. But we really liked the juxtaposition of birthday-cake-color sequins in shimmering pale pink and a hint of butter yellow with the deep pink fabric with a quilted texture.

Lillienne Lang, based in Phoenix, showed a line of futuristic jumpsuits and dresses that could easily serve as a new round of costumes for the next crew of a Star Trek TV show. While we enjoyed her imaginative designs, quite a few of them were overwrought, with a few too many things going on. And though we're generally fans of pockets, the flaps she adorned to pants and dresses created a hip-widening effect that wasn't exactly flattering.

Los Angeles' RAYAN, designed by sisters Nadia Rayan and Nora Ghaneia, was our top pick for emerging designer of the year after we saw their absolutely stunning and near-flawless collection. The duo closed out the emerging designer section of the evening, melding Old Hollywood classics and Halston-esque design made for a show that left us wanting almost each and every piece. Gorgeous fabrics and color choices made the line a total knockout.

However, none of Saturday evening's emerging designers made it into the top four group of finalists. Instead, the competition's top contenders were State Forty Eight, Woman's Touch Apparel, Blackberry Maverick, and Misha Mendicino Designs. Mendicino walked away the winner, taking home a prize package valued at $10,000 to help further her brand.

Based on the surprised faces of our surrounding seat mates, we weren't the only ones completely confused by both the top finalist selection and the winner. It's time for Phoenix Fashion Week to rethink how they're scoring and selecting designers -- and make it way more clear to the audience how exactly the winner is chosen.

See also: Emerging Designers Off to Rocky Start at Phoenix Fashion Week 2014 at Talking Stick Resort

Luckily, mass confusion made for a fairly fitting segue into the three-designer finale of Phoenix Fashion Week -- because these pieces were so intricate and eye-catching, they tended to discombobulate (in a good way).

Kenneth Harion Couture, of whom Beyoncé apparently is a fan (according to our press materials), opened the established section of the evening with the sort of show-stopping embellished designs we've come to expect from PFW's Saturday nights. We could hear the pearly baubles affixed to one of the gowns dragging their weight along the runway.

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Yen presented airy white gowns with flowery appliqués and contrasted them with dark purple and black dresses, many with trumpet skirts, that resulted in an ongoing game of oh my god, models, please don't fall. There were a few close calls, and (while we somehow missed it) one model did apparently trip on her way backstage.

Rocky Gathercole returned to close out Phoenix Fashion Week for the second year in a row. And the designer presented plenty of beautifully bonkers pieces. Caged-in bodices, delicate beadwork, floral pieces that looked bathing beauty-inspired, and other insanely detailed pieces brought 2014's fashion week to a very engaging and exciting close.

Until next year.

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