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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Art, culture and Betsey Johnson: The evolution of Old Pueblo fashion


    (Courtesy Jackie Sterna)

    Downtown Tucson will transform into its own little version of SoHo as Tucson Fashion Week showcases exquisite fashion, trends, style and art in its shows and exhibits.

    Elizabeth Denneau founded TFW back in 2010 after winning an award for Scottsdale Fashion Week in 2009. She had participated in fashion shows all over the state of Arizona and decided to create a show of her own in Tucson.

    “I was really moved to help support local designers and give them a platform, and also to celebrate Tucson’s creativity and art,” Denneau said. “I wanted to do something for the community.”

    What started out as just a few local designers has turned into a major part of Tucson’s art scene, seeking to give local designers the chance to work with big names in the industry.

    Denneau said when she first started TFW, the event had a great community aspect that focused on giving back. Current TFW co-owners and creative directors Paula Taylor and Melanie Sutton took over the event five years ago and have continued the legacy Denneau started.

    “I think the history started more retail and charity-based,” Taylor said. “[Denneau] started to put more of a local, organic spotlight on it, and then when [Sutton] and I took it over, we created more of a national spotlight, but still focused on locals as well.”

    A very community-driven experience, TFW remains a staple in Arizona fashion and art culture.

    TFW celebrates new and young designers and presents forward-thinking designs that explore and expand creativity.

    Denneau said this expansion was necessary, as Tucson’s fashion scene used to be pretty dismal.

    “When I first started doing fashion shows in Tucson, there was only a group of us—probably about four or five local designers,” Denneau said. “Now I see a lot more people selling their clothes locally and getting involved in the local community. That’s really refreshing.”

    The events put on by Denneau, Taylor and Sutton over the years have built up TFW’s reputation in the fashion world.

    Some of Denneau’s most memorable events at TFW were in 2011 when there was a show on Scott Avenue downtown and in 2013 when Betsey Johnson came to Tucson.

    “I think that in [Taylor] and [Sutton’s] time, the major moment would definitely be bringing Betsey Johnson to Tucson and all of those local designers being able to meet her,” Denneau said.

    TFW has continued to invite fashion industry leaders from all over.

    The support local artists receive from the community keeps Tucson’s fashion scene growing and gives this city the chance to cultivate new designers.

    “When I was first doing fashion shows, people were excited about them, but a lot of it was done on our own,” Denneau said. “So now I feel like there is a lot of community effort to grow the fashion design community. [Taylor] and [Sutton] have been able to intersect local designers with international designers, which is a really great experience for the designers to have.”

    Fashion is constantly changing, and Tucson’s diversity is reflected in TFW’s audience and fashion community.

    “You can see the influences historically and culturally, and that’s something that we really need to make sure that we’re supporting here,” Denneau said. “I hope Tucson continues to support local art.”

    Denneau said that with so much development happening downtown and around Tucson, it’s important to cherish and protect the local art scene.

    “It’s really hard to be a local artist—it’s really hard to do that and it’s scary to do your own shows and put yourself out there, but the result that we’re getting here is beautiful and wonderful.”

    —Sarah Briggs contributed to this report.

    Follow Emma Jackson on Twitter.

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