Best Designer 2014 | Monique Sandoval | People & Places | Phoenix

Chances are, right now in the back room of her Pinterest-perfect boutique, Cleo & Clementine, Monique Sandoval is creating something beautiful. The fashion designer, whose label is called Ouma, has garnered quite the reputation as a go-to wedding dressmaker for the Etsy set, with airy bridal gowns and delicate party dresses any gal would be happy to get gussied up in. Sandoval makes said frocks by hand in her Melrose District shop, where her designs line the racks. In addition to purchasing pieces off the rack, Sandoval also makes custom dresses for shoppers on the hunt for one-of-a-kind garments that fit as nicely as they look.

Arizona Democrat Steve Muratore doesn't suffer fools gladly, whether he's wondering whether Attorney General Tom Horne is a "psychopath," accusing a spokeswoman for schools Superintendent John Huppenthal of polishing a piece of merde, or calling out the Capitol Times for kissing up to pro-plutocrat legislators. What makes him different from some online blowhard on a blog like, say, the Daily Kos is that he does a lot of his own reporting and research and offers unique analysis, not just fighting words. He's also fiercely local, focusing on issues such as redistricting that in these days of strained newspaper budgets, do not receive the attention they deserve. Cantankerous and principled, Muratore is a fighter whose motto "The KEYBOARD is mightier than the sword" is especially true when he's typing his latest entry.

Seeing Red AZ is the blog to go to if you want to explore the bizarro-world mind of the average Republican activist in Maricopa County. Granted, it's a journey into darkness, but one where you will make some astonishing discoveries. For instance, so-called "Common Core" is not a matter of higher standards for school kids, but rather a commie plot to force all Arizona students to read Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Attorney General Tom Horne? He's the best politician ever, and if he wants to hire his mistress with taxpayer money, that's his business. Senator John McCain is the spawn of Satan. (Okay, we'll give them that one.) And Sheriff Joe Arpaio should be worshiped like Jesus Christ come to dinner.

Don't bother arguing with the commenters, because opposing views are not welcome and will be deleted. But the blog's opinions are true to the kind of folk you'll find over-populating any mandatory meeting of the Maricopa County GOP. And visiting Seeing Red's website is much less scary than attending one of those conservative confabs. Hence, the site's value for reporters and researchers.

Ashley Eaton, she of mobile vintage boutique Merry May Handmade, got married. Now she goes by Ashley Eaton Denton. And in chronicling her wedding to Trevor Denton, he of local band Sun Ghost, the duo created our new favorite locally run lifestyle blog. Field & Fellow follows the newlyweds as they decorate their home, take a stab at gardening, look through their wedding pictures, try out new recipes, and practice yoga — among other things. With beautiful photos, great stories, and a compelling couple at the helm, the blog's worth a check-in every once in a while.

If you thought you would never get to see the inside of an adult video arcade, think again. Photographer Michael Max McLeod has been documenting these ever-disappearing establishments across the country for the past few years. Beginning in Phoenix, McLeod eventually branched out; after a summer trip through The Lone Star State, Texas Porno Roadtrip was born. The zine is ingeniously divided into sections signaled by different paper size and texture — it's a small detail, but one that really sets the book apart. Texas Porno Roadtrip puts you right there in the arcade, dick pics and all, but the quality of McLeod's photos is what legitimizes the book, making it a true work of art.

This award-winning library serves the residents of Cave Creek and Carefree and surrounding areas, and it serves them awfully well. When's the last time you visited a library with its own grand piano? Desert Foothills has one, and it uses it, too, for its live music events. The library also hosts monthly art openings, because the place is lousy with gorgeous work — paintings, sculpture, photography — by local artists. And if you've never been to a library where the staff is not only friendly but smiles at you and engages you in conversation, head to this giant book nook at once. While you're there, stop in for a long look at the library's used-book store, the largest one in the North Valley, with over 15,000 hardcover and paperback books in all genres. You'll find mind-blowing deals on special books, CDs, and DVDs. After you find a book, settle in for a cozy stretch on the long, wide patio out back. If you can tear your eyes from the amazing desert views, you might even get some relaxing reading done.

Three words regarding Alexis Hamilton: Girl. Can. Walk. Not in the everyday, putting-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other sort of way. No, it's more of a pretty-sure-she-could-win-Top Model type of vibe. And Phoenix's fashion scene is all the better for it. When Hamilton powers down the catwalk, it's damn near impossible to not think of Naomi Campbell. Named Phoenix Fashion Week's model of the year in 2011, Hamilton continues bringing garments to life on the runway. Doesn't matter if they're impeccably crafted gowns or poorly executed pieces, Hamilton's look and energy are immutable.

Bunky owners Rachel and Jim Malloy and artist Joseph "Sentrock" Perez go way back. Sentrock, a Phoenix native based in Chicago, came to Bunky looking for a new shirt to wear to his first-ever exhibition opening. In the seven years since, the Malloys and Sentrock have stayed tight, with the pair supporting the painter's burgeoning career as both muralist and studio artist. Now, they've collaborated on a fashion-meets-art project that pairs Sentrock's bird city character with wearables like shirts and hats. Talk about wearing your art on your sleeve.

Phoenix Fashion Week 2013 opened with a bang. The annual style outing brought together emerging and established designers to show off their wares. But local fashion icon and boutique owner Robert Black brought to the runway something a bit different. He styled pieces from his eponymous shop with a Southwestern flair that frankly set the bar a little too high for the work that followed. Still, bringing in one of Phoenix's most established and treasured institutions to its not-quite-established annual fall fashion week brought increased credibility to the event. But we sure felt bad for the designer who was up next.

The Creative Center of Scottsdale, an eco-friendly co-working space set to be completed later this year, is a collaborative project by owner/photographer Michelle Pelberg-Biely and green designer Christina Noble of Contour Design Studio. The idea is inspired: a social hangout and networking hub for local creatives. In addition, this 6,000-square-foot property, formerly the home of a gun supply store and an auto body shop, will be the first in Scottsdale to uphold the International Green Building Code. Put all that together and The Creative Center carries a word not often found to describe life in these parts: sustainable.

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