Phoenix Fashion Week Through the Eyes of Oscar De Las Salas

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It’s October and the world gets once again that “Fashion Fever.” Paris, Milan & NYC start making waves, and those waves come to us locally thanks to Mr. Brian Hill and his incredible professional team, via Phoenix Fashion Week. And just like that, the town gets on the radar and becomes part of that global fever.

As published in TIME MAGAZINE (October 15, 2012), Phoenix Fashion Week sets itself on top of the local charts as a must-see and must-go. If you are a fashion aficionado, a buyer, a blogger, a just a fan of design and lifestyle – this is the event for you.

What took several months and hundreds and hundreds of hours to prepare, was presented over three evenings, in productions in which the common threads are the ability to design and produce garments to stand out, as well as the presentation of the varied uniqueness of the designers aligned for this event.


Photo Courtesy of Almanza Photography

Three elements move me ever year to attend this event :

Number One is the ability to showcase here in Phoenix internationally acclaimed established designers and see their brands on a LIVE runway, with all the details and production excellence one finds around the world.

But number two is perhaps the piece that I value the most: The opportunity presented to a group of hand-selected upcoming designers from a 10 city tour (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix) to raise awareness and create brands that are presented at a professional level. These designers are able to work, learn and exchange practical, hands-on information via something called #DesignerBootCamp. This series of sessions are an experience that not many are able to have. The event brings possibilities to the best of each category of lifestyle, eveningwear and couture to enhance the designer’s brand to levels that are simply unthinkable in this town, or frankly, for any fashion designer that starts on their own.

The winners receive prizes of $10,000 in good and services.

Phoenix Fashion Week emerging designers

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

Growing up, I watched my aunt’s garment and costume shop, expanding from a one bedroom in the house, to a garage full of ladies behind all sorts of sawing and cutting machines – but ended at a storefront that quickly closed. My point with this, is that she had the incredible creativity, the technical talent and the hands-on customer service, but was never able to take her brand to a higher level. She was challenged by a lack of vision, poor branding and merchandising, so much of which is needed in this trade – in any market. The world of fashion is a business, and the Phoenix Fashion Week knows it, and they produce a world-class event including a series of useful seminars with keynote speakers that help broaden the fashion allies’ spectrum.

Number three is the opportunity provided to aspiring local models that through a local model search, can be selected as a handful amount of young aspiring models to get trained, and to compete, and as a reward, walk away with a beefed-up portfolio and a contract with a professional modeling agency.  An opportunity this town never had.

hues of ego phoenix fashion week

Photo Courtesy of Almanza Photography

The event also helps the community via “Fashionably Pink”, an annual celebrity fashion show to raise funds to support charities that are in the forefront of the community awareness and fight against breast cancer. Last year, $50,000 was raised from this single, fashionable, and very pink event.

I guess the common word in all this is “professionalism”. It is a key part of this event and that is contributing to making Phoenix Fashion Week stronger year after year.

The excitement of the opening evening of PHXFW 2015 started with a flock of fashionistas, fashion lovers, and fashion aficionados. This year layout for the “Shop Villa” being outdoors organized with small areas per designer or product, allowed the attendees to have a closer look to the new designers lines, to have “on hands” the runway shown garments and take advantage and visit with the eager sponsors, which to me was a crucial part of the event. The potential buyers that were my guests walked away with goods or with numbers and contacts to order from the local designers.

As I have been asked to give my impressions of the aesthetics of evenings, these are my highlights:

Thursday Night’s Shows

Charmosa Swimwear Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

Charmosa won Designer of the Year in it’s category, opened with an exciting selection of swimwear that mixed hues or a monochromic tone with the interesting addition of knits for accents as well as complete knit pieces. The addition of fringe brought seduction and a sexy tone to the swimwear.

Haute Body Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

My guest of the evening (president of her own company and a notable business woman with a very busy schedule) was fascinated by the multiplicity of options, the ability to interchange, the soft color palette that would seem to go with anything, and the most valuable (believe it or not) the zipper pocket in the back of the trousers and bottoms. She is not able to find some of these premises in other brands, and this was a key element of this line. She also pointed how sophisticated were the tops, and how pleasing to the eye were the ensembles. Enough that all that was needed to change the tone of the assembly was to add a complementing bottom.

What really caught my attention was the quality of the manufacturing and for an upcoming designer to be able to show a collection with materials that are not easy to produce. It was a great line! The collection spoke directly to the modern woman with some serious glamour via gleaming accents and materials.

Lily V Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

Playing with patterns, uneven hems and long silhouettes are clearly for a specific clientele. There is no doubt this designer knows well what appeals to this particular aesthetic. The new bohemian-chic is an option for those who find this as a language and expression. These designs will sell like candy at as a result of being the winner in her category, and you ought to trust me!  The incorporation of a strong anti-bullying message, a true call for understanding individualism, stood out in the show. Fashion with a message!  Well done.

Medium Apparel Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar De Las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

Now, I really need to have that dark jumper jacket (with flower rose print) and the grey chambray & printed sleeve shirt.  That is a signature of this designer, the ability to bring elements of high fashion to street-wear, while somehow camouflaged on the silhouette. I cannot wait to see more pattern-play, and color blocking. This brand has a large audience with the college boys and the weekend executive; a profound spin for a more explosive look will for sure set this brand on shelves of exclusive boutiques in the future.


Art Institute of Phoenix Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar De Las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

It was inspiring to see that students have their window to the world of fashion. Good job, students! Keep it up!

Devereux Golf Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar De Las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

It was a great line for those in the world of golf, one that is not on my radar, unless I walk around the spas and resort in Phoenix. It is very standard and sometimes a little too much of a uniform. Seems that all dads do is to wear the uniform to express they are on a holiday or that is Sunday. Pick up line! – Individualism and exciting styling is a good risk! – Last thing you want is everyone to walk as they worked at the same resort – A good alternative to some of the generic golf looks, for sure!

Elevee Fashion Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

This was a perfect runway. From the way the collection was shown, to the paired-up models, even to the choice of shoes on models! – It was all selected thinking in the style. As if the “The Stepford Wives” “ movie was running right in front of me.  It was just perfect over perfect.

Style, grace, fantastic cuts, great shoes, styling on point, what a breathe of fresh air! If any of us did not get the message, well, I guess it was our fault!  This shows us what the day-to-day styles in this town should aim for.  Well done!

Mary Kluge FIDM Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

This was a colorful runway that left us wanting more. It was a very well curate display catered to an extremely feminine woman who is not afraid to change her silhouette and take a chance on many options. From jumpsuits, to wrap dresses, to once piece swimsuits, to the addition of jackets to complement – the options were many and the idea was clear. This was for a woman not afraid of color and pattern. With botanical to geometric print, this is a resort line that hugs the female body and leaving always options of adding elements of design, a brand with lifestyle in mind, with a clear look and type of client in mind. Perhaps the best styling of the entire weekend! Elegant, sophisticated, international, yet personal and with a sense of individualism – exciting to see and a great joy to know that is a possibility to many.

The biggest appeal for me was the use of design elements, such as capes, hats, sarongs, and jackets to enhance and balance the design as it appeared on the runway. Kudos to the stylist!

 Friday Night’s Shows

Arae Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

My knowledge of silk printing and silk stamp is not limited, and in this show, even though the material was artistically exciting, the silhouettes fell short and sometimes felt awkward. Experimenting is a process in design and it can create magnificent results, but a too-short short on the runway where derrière cheeks smile when the model walks, is not necessarily agreeable, more so, when is not a Victoria Secret lingerie showcase. Now, the techniques in the designs were close to faultless, and the brand image was very seductive for any woman’s body, but visiting the silhouettes seems to be out of place. I do admit that two pieces with pants looked impeccable, reinforcing the beauty of the fabric choices, and what could have been with a different choice of pieces.

Cute Like Mad Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar De Las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

It is very disappointing when a designer or a design does not leave a trace of impact in your head. Sadly, this line was just another rack on a sea of clothes at a department store, perhaps someone purchase the garment more for the price point, rather than design or appeal.

One point ought to be clear, the addition of outdated elements of design (style) or overly accessorized mannequins in the runway, will never enhance a line that fails to be new or exciting in terms of design.

After the show, as I visited the web site, there were plenty of designs in this line to create a memorable fashion show. As part of the website, a two tone sweater, a pair of black Capri pants, a slit sleeve blouse with black wide legged pants, a two tone jacket, flower print jacket and some (not all) printed fabrics  – all were stunning.

What happened here? As I always tell the designers, a fashion/runway show is a team effort, and the right team can make all the difference. If one of the team members seem overpowering, well, it is time to think it all over again, and seems that styling won here, and was a bad win.

Suggestion to designer; increase the layers of fringe, or add them longer than the hem or use a tighter fringe for a more sophisticated look.

Laura Tanzer Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

This designer was perhaps one of my favorites in term of overall looks in the runway.

The hair and style of the models was a perfect fit for the looks. I appreciated the flawless fit on the models (incredibly fitting), and although the use of linens and soft materials are difficult to group, this line did exactly that and did it wonderfully. The two-toned line allowed us to experience multiple silhouettes; the inclusion of black & white stripes and flower print gave the whole collection a bonding element. Long, striped palazzo pants were delightful as were the bold architectural tops. A flower print dress with a side cut to close was perhaps the low note, and conceivably a gamble to include this peculiar piece, more so, when the rest of the line looked so architectural and delightfully geometric.

Lousy Rich Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

Dreams begin somewhere and this is the first step for this upcoming designer, my impression is that this was a leap of faith and it proved its point. I am sure the “discovery” process is on its way, no doubt, as there were some incredibly interesting pieces, but a connectivity along the design was lacking, There is more to see of this new and upcoming designer with her first showcase, the ideas are there, just design discipline and strict attention to shapes and fabric types will do, so let’s see what is next.

Michi Knitwear Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

The first time I saw this line at The Saguaro Hotel for the #ShopGarmentDistrict, I did not think much of it. But at Phoenix Fashion Week, as the line was shown on the runway in full, and styled with failing elements, the line took on a new light. It is true that knitwear is not for the youngsters, or millennial, but it is a technique reserved to be worn by some and yes, it is market for an older buyer. The new generation think it is not cool or not pretty yet. It is perhaps a renaissance of a method of technique widely used during the late 60’s and plenty on the 70’s, but is yet to be seen what the new generations think of it. I thought that this line was interesting based upon the technique used.

Dolcessa Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

What a show! This is where a runway show becomes a true show.

The energy of this runway is still smoldering in my clothes from that evening, I must say. It felt as if you were in the tropics and the music, the lights, the garments, and the models – all fit together perfectly for this swimwear line. The designer was once an emerging designer from Phoenix Fashion Week, and this year, returned as an established player, with pieces of her line allocated and distributed in Las Vegas, and other places in the world. The designer understands the body of a woman with curves and from the selection of colors, prints, sarongs, and garment details were on point.

This designer proved that there is NO need for distracting accessories and overly styled runways. The music and subtle styling energized the audience.

Yen Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

This line is held in reserve for the overly glamorous evenings and as many times we want/should/have to/ought to/must to see it locally, we saw it again. Thank you.

Yas Couture Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

A very inspirational, and delightfully romantic selection designed for that woman of tremendous social life dominated this runway. The beading and intricate meshwork was clearly the result of the masterful hands of a well crafted beading team. One gown after another of true glamour and extreme brilliance – glitz, glitz, glitz. It was a reminder from my days in Colombia, when we had neighbors from Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, who came to mind as the pieces flooded the runway, reminding me of some of their house parties. The homes were extremely decorated and to top it off, the ladies would match the already decadent décor. Beautiful, but trust me, not so good if you walk into a party and everyone is wearing one of these designs – as all this bling, bling makes you think you were transported into a “disco ball” (a la Janice Leonard’s mind.)

The wedding gown left us wanting more of that technique, but on a different silhouette. But overall, stunning, stunning, stunning!

Saturday Night’s Show

Azmara Asefa Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

Neoprene never looked this good. I wonder how practical it is on a lustrous dry heat Phoenix 110F degree weather, or on humid 80F Miami afternoon, or a cold 40F in Chicago.

I wear a neoprene band (admittedly) on my waist when I attend Tasha’s (Natasha Mendoza) spin class to sweat away and leave my indulgence in sweet potato fries behind, but I wonder how it feels for a girl in a dress? And then how do you care for it? All I know is, it is a no-iron material (ask me about my experiments, someday).

The architectural design background of the designer was present and the intent of the design was clear. The “oculus” piece sported over one eye by the models was the best note in styling of the entire three-day show. The geometric cuts and the inclusion of two core colors in the entire show paired with a contrasting light mint green in a hue that is ‘sui generis’. It makes me believe that there is more to this designer. And I want to see more, please!

Leola Sky Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

This line was extremely wearable, easy to sell, appealing to any woman, with many silhouettes and many options for the modern executive. My only concern once again is the inclusion of too many options and too many looks on one collection. The recommendation to designers is to unify by material, silhouette and color, allowing the user and the vendor to learn about your technique and tendency after 8 to 10 looks, keep the styling classic and classy. The addition of one or two non-typical standard industry models made the line “attainable” for any body shape – and that is a great risk taken for this brand. Many designers show capes these days in their designs, as they are a great element of design, although a rescued looks from years gone by. But capes can be sometimes comical or lean toward costume and often look humorous when they are worn in a non-runway/offstage environment.  A jumpsuit with a cape, well, we have MARVEL for that type of look, more so if the color is white! (oy, vei!).

Hues of Ego Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

What a clear statement when it comes to design and portraying a brand. I have witnessed the process of this brand since their first immersion in our community, and then I saw the expansion in the market via some non-profit runway shows. Lastly, I have had the honor to present this line to a crowd with enough exposure in fashion, which resulted in the introduction of some close friends who have acquired Hues of Ego pieces. This Phoenix Fashion week runway show presented enough variation in materials and silhouettes to attract buyers, and while the soft rosé pale pink lace was a favorite and presented itself in many cuts, the mustard pieces were a very strong mix with the deep burgundy. Definitely a palette perfect for fall, winter, spring or summer. Now that she is the winner and the brand will be getting national attention, via her winning price; I am sitting in the windowsill to witness her continued growth.

Michelle Hebert Phoenix Fashion Week 2015 Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

This is another designer I’ve had the pleasure to present publicly and follow her production. As I expressed the first time I saw her line, the ethereal quality of her fabrics are as ethereal as the unique techniques she uses. From the burning the fabric prior to draping, to the precise placement of paint stains on the garments to treat them in many other ways to soften them, resulting in a thin feathery quality that appears as fine layers of skin when worn. Her finale gown seemed to be passing by us in slow motion, and to me, the shoeless models added that earthy and honest expression. The addition of the head pieces and crowns from Clutch Crowns, added to the idealism of the story in history; a true dream on the runway.

Design Me Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

As if I was at a couture boutique selecting for an upcoming series of galas or public appearances of my clients within the world of fashion, or simply picking a garment for any occasion, this line brought these options right in front of me. One after another, I could have allocated all of the garments amongst my consulting. One of the most complete runway shows.

A design vocabulary by a designer who knows how to satisfy the most critical eye, is a designer with a clear vision, a discipline in technical exuberance complementing with color and textures that were electrifying, yet elegant.

Glenn Plaid Phoenix Fashion Week 2015 Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

This runway, filled with streamlined, well-fitted suits, was as if I was standing at a corner at Sky Harbor Airport, or in downtown Phoenix during lunch hour. Did you sense my sarcasm?

Perhaps I live in a dream world wanting that urban sophistication – but this runway fulfilled that dream with style and perfectly fitted models -. A solid line, but the only stand out pieces were a double-breasted grey coat suit with side lapel, baby blue shirt and polka dot tie and pocket square accompanied with honey color wingtips shoes. Beautiful fabrics and mixed suit styles, all and all it was great to see men’s wear shown elegantly. My question is when are the locals going to take this as a hint?. If you go through all the pictures of the Phoenix Fashion Week red carpet, only 10% of the male attendees were dressed for the occasion (or at least tailored, lacking of the elephant puddle pant hem – too much material). When you see “team” shirts, shorts and flip-flops have access to any type of gathering, including Phoenix Fashion Week… it is Arizona, I guess. I do like the trend in men’s clothing lines of modern and fun styles – at accessible prices.

Albert Andrada Phoenix Fashion Week Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

Glamour, romance and exuberance of glitz took the runway once again, and within it, there were some romantic pieces that caught my attention (once I got past the blinding factor of the bedazzling, so well accepted and requested by many.) The soft tone material and nudes were cut with outright romanticism and fitted to a goddess level. I wonder if the designer at some point gets in touch with material only – and if so, I would predict an incredible line. The finale garment of this show worn by Ms. Arizona, Maureen Montage was simply breathtaking.

Rocky Gathercole Phoenix Fashion Week 2015 Oscar de las Salas

Photos Courtesy of Almanza Photography

What can I say? I am huge fan of this designer. His production, his vision and his irreverence inspire when it comes to be avant-garde.

We saw his extreme enthusiasm and power of creativity last he was in town. But this year, we saw a collection in black and white presented at a level not seen in town, demure, elegant, with enough inclusion of design elements and with a slight tension to create a sensual moment on the runway. By keeping the collection in two colors (the basic of monotone) he allowed us to see his incredible unique technique, get pleasure from the fashioned silhouettes and contemplate the power of his never ending creations. His dynamic “cages” (as I call them) were the extraction of everything and presence of structure that modified sensually (but strongly) the female/male silhouette, allowing us to enjoy the existence of “what-if”,….in other words, the purism of design, a structure that will  take wisely the addition of design elements at any scale, with any material, with any color and mute or raise the volumes it as wanted/needed, with incredible knowledge of the final design, or allowing an interesting process of experimentation.

Practically, these cages are his true and ultimate expression of conquering that “what-if”.

The models were walking sculptures, with a magic that performers in the high of Thalia, Beyonce and others have used to perform in the past year during their concerts.

The tight black and white long gowns (to the ankle) with organic cut-outs to reveal some skin, decorated only where the skin was sensually exposed, for my taste, this was the height of sexy and elegant. A grand finale at a very high level and he turned up the fashion volume brilliantly.

It is never a mistake to bring Rocky Gathercole back!


Common threads:

– Capes everywhere all types (sometimes to distract a bad design).

– Neutral shoe color (pearly finish).

– Nude Mesh and overlays.

– Bling-Bling.

– Brocades.

– Nude, Nude, Nude.

– Garments made of nude mesh (getting old, getting old, getting old)

– Strap heel shoes.

– Models have to invest on pedicure and shoes (have to) .

– Shoe fitting ought to be perfect. (The public seats are at walk height – be mindful, stylists!)

– Take the price tag off the shoes models!

– Male models keep the weight-lifting down (Toned better than buffed, unless doing lifestyle or sportswear commercials).

– Model walk-talk; Well, arms should move naturally. No one has their elbows welded to the torso, (last I checked) and if you see international catwalks, is a thing of the nineties.

– Practice your walk, NO strut is needed… this is not a ghetto “vogue fem” dance competition.


That wraps up another season of Phoenix Fashion Week. Stay tuned for more fashion fun as Oscar De Las Salas hosts Tucson Fashion Week October 15th – 17th!

phoenix fashion week

Photo courtesy of Almanza Photography

To hear more from Mr. Oscar De Las Salas, visit his blog and follow him on Instagram @OscarDeLasSalas.


Oscar, thank you dear friend for sharing your thoughts with our readers. You always provide such fantastic insight and advice to the fashion community here in Arizona.

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