For the last few years, designer Elizabeth Albert has made a short trek north to participate in Scottsdale Fashion Week, and last year, she won the People's Choice Designer of the Year award. Albert says the award was a great surprise, and shortly after her big win, she and a few other Tucson designer friends realized it was time to create Tucson's own fashion event. Tucson Fashion Week takes place Friday, Sept. 24, and Saturday, Sept. 25, on a lot behind Skrappy's Youth Collective at 191 E. Toole Ave. The cost is $25 and includes the Skrappy's Youth Showcase on Sept. 24. For more info, go to tucsonfashionweek.net. For more on Albert's clothing line, Siobhan, visit www.siobhanclothing.etsy.com.
Are you from Tucson?
I was born and raised in Tucson. My family was from New York, and everyone relocated to Arizona. ... I grew up in Tucson, and I think I had the same (thought that) everybody has: "I have got to get out of here." When I hit about 28, I decided, "No, I'm going to stick around." At that point, I had been designing for about four years, and I felt that there's nothing here. ... Then myself and a group of friends started doing fashion shows downtown, and then flash forward two to three years, and everybody is doing fashion shows, and suddenly there's this small but budding market. I don't have to move.
What do you hope to accomplish with Tucson Fashion Week?
What we're trying to do is take the fashion shows we've been doing to that next level and organize a fashion community. One of the problems I see is that we're not a collective; everybody is doing their own thing. There is power in numbers. I've done Scottsdale Fashion Week, and I frequent Scottsdale and Phoenix a lot, and I was watching the way they do things up there. It is very different from what we are trying to create down here. If we do this down here, we realized, we need to highlight mostly local boutiques and designers.
Well, that's a better fit for Tucson than a place like Scottsdale, don't you think?
My family likes to say that Tucson is Greenwich (Village), and Scottsdale is Upper Manhattan, and I was always like, "Well, I like Greenwich better, anyway." There are a lot of great local designers going up (to Scottsdale Fashion Week), but in the coming years, we want to open up that highway. It is kind of a layer cake of things that we're trying to do. We're trying to educate the public on who their designers are and the boutiques, and then help build community, and eventually bring in more money for those boutiques and designers.
Are there things in the planning stages that you still need to cross off your list?
No, not really. We've got some amazing, fabulous sponsors. We've formed the Tucson Fashion Week Collective. We have 30 people who are members; there are four officials, and really, we do most of the grunt work. You know, in Tucson, most people have to see it first before they say, "Yeah, I'm on board"—we're such a last-minute town. We have Skrappy's, and (Skrappy's director) Kathy Wooldridge has been phenomenal. The event benefits Skrappy's. We felt that in this day and age, these nonprofits aren't going to survive unless the community does something for them. We didn't want to have a foothills benefit.
What's the schedule?
Sept. 25 is the main event. It will be the biggest one, because that's the runway event. On Sept. 24, it's the Skrappy's Youth Showcase, because they have so many artists and designers down there, and the kids really want to show what they can offer. It's important to support them and give them something to work toward and be part of our community—or else we lose them to someone else.
Is the collective's plan to do this again next year?
I'm pretty confident it's going to grow after this; we do plan to do this again next year. The pool of designers we have, we were really surprised by the amount of submissions we got. Even being a local designer, a lot of them I knew, but I was really surprised who came out. I didn't know there were so many of us. I expect we will have more next year.