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The Highs and Lows of Phoenix Fashion Week 2015

Was this the best edition of Phoenix Fashion Week yet? We think yes. However, that certainly doesn't mean the 2015 edition of the runway event was flawless at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. Designers were more together than ever, but they also seemed more repetitive than ever. Quality was up, but there were misfires aplenty. Here's a look back at the highs and lows of the eighth annual Phoenix Fashion Week.

High: Opening night. Thursday, October 1, might've been Phoenix Fashion Week's strongest opening night ever. We walked away totally impressed — a first.

Low: Lost momentum. Unfortunately, Friday didn't maintain the pace set by Thursday's shows. So it goes.

High: Marly Kluge. FIDM grad Marly Kluge presented a line of resort wear in bright yellow, magenta, and teal. It was gorgeous. And it was proof that fashion students need a bigger presence at Phoenix Fashion Week.

Low: Naked sandals. This year it looked like all women models were required to wear shoes similar to Stuart Weitzman's popular "naked sandals." The minimal high heels have just two straps — one across the ankle and another across the toes. The result can be lovely when standing still, but the shoes appear super-difficult to walk in and result in models' toes scrunching and grabbing for stability. Ick.

High: Elektro Botz. Medium Apparel Co. opened its presentation with a performance from the Gilbert dance crew, who were a blast to watch and set the tone perfectly for Medium. They were easily the best opening act for a runway show. Not that the competition was stiff. Most designers didn't have opening performers, and those who did paled in comparison. 

High: Devereux. We enjoyed the golf apparel this Scottsdale-based menswear brand presented on opening night. It was like a stylish ode to nerds, with highly cuffed pants, polos, and super-slick hair.  

Low: Let's define eveningwear. On Friday night, Chicago brand ARAE showed a collection shorts, pants, crop tops, and a few dresses all made with silk dyed in the Japanese tradition of shibori. While these are very pretty, they do not constitute eveningwear. That is, unless the definition of "eveningwear" has been broadened to include pajamas. It would seem that is Phoenix Fashion Week's cool with said broadening, because ARAE won emerging eveningwear designer of the year. 

Low: Dolcessa. How many times do we need to see dozens of same-y swimsuits come down the runway? Apparently, the answer is: three years in a row. Dolcessa won emerging designer of the year in 2013, and can't seem to keep away from Phoenix Fashion Week. 

High: Hues of Ego winning big. Natasha Duran-Lynch's line of soft pink, deep burgundy, and dijon got the most welcoming response of any runway presentation. The crowd loved it. Phoenix Fashion Week personnel loved it. And we did, too. The Scottsdale-based designer had been pegged as a frontrunner in last year's emerging designer competition, but lost to Misha Mendicino Designs. Duran-Lynch deserved it this time around — and everyone knew it.

Low: What's the score? We still have no idea how scoring in the emerging designer competitions actually works. On separate nights of Fashion Week, executive director Brian Hill brought up when presenting awards that one designer won by half a point, another by just one point. That's great for creating suspense and drama. But the audience has no idea how many points could be awarded for what, and we all want to know who missed it by just a hair. How hard would it be to break it down for us?

High: Michelle Hebert. The Los Angeles designer was competing with Duran-Lynch for best emerging couture designer. And damn if she didn't give us a gorgeous, and slightly creepy, show. 

Low: An uneven playing field. Emerging designers can return to compete if they've lost in the past (and meet the necessary qualifications to re-enter). While this boded very well for returning brands Hues of Ego and Charmosa Swimwear, both of which won their respective emerging categories, it's pretty obviously unfair for first-time competitors.

High: Menswear. Phoenix Fashion Week wouldn't be Phoenix Fashion Week without at least one menswear presentation that inspires strip-clubby hooting and hollering from the otherwise reserved audience. No brand succeeded quite like LA's Glenn Plaid on Saturday night. 

Low: The finale. Rocky Gathercole closed out Phoenix Fashion Week for the third time in a row. Gathercole's designs are beautiful, but it's time to bring some fresh faces into the mix — especially now that we're seeing so many past emerging designers return to show at Phoenix Fashion Week.

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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