ARAE at Phoenix Fashion Week

Per my other blog entries, it's a known fact that I travel a lot and I love to do it. Flying, driving, train, I think it's all great. Driving has been my main source of transportation this year since I've been doing so much traveling the overall cost is lower, but it obviously takes a lot more time. When you own and design for your own fashion brand and you're 23 years old, your time is more valuable than your money (in my case at least). I also make sure I get a lot out of my travels since I'm spending so much time doing it. It's all about how you look at things, if you go into any given situation with an open mind, everything is inspiring and can spark a new idea, design, collaboration, anything. I've also met so many people in my travels that are potential customers, travelers are friendly and it's fun for me to talk about what I'm designing, and making, so other people know that it's out there. 

In my last post I wrote about going from Chicago to Denver and Denver to Los Angeles. I also said I was going to LA. Well, I moved to Denver instead. This is exactly where I want to be for my brand and myself. I wanted to move to LA primarily for production purposes and it was always going to be temporary. I'm not an LA kind of person though. I'm much more relaxed and love the nature and weather that Colorado has to offer. Also my winter collection is very well suited here. I'm not sorry I went out to Los Angeles though. One of many mentors of mine, Roshena (Owner and designer of Shawl Dawls), lives there and taught me whatever she could about working with big manufacturers and production houses. I thought I wanted to do a sublimated collection but after the entire sample process I decided I wasn't staying true to my brand, ARAE is about handcrafted techniques and bringing that into ready to wear, if I went the sublimation route yes, I'd be able to make a less expensive collection because it would all be done by machine, but that is not what I stand for as a designer and brand. 

Roshena also took me to a designer meet and greet with the Executive Director of Phoenix Fashion Week- Brian Hill. This was the beginning of his USA tour to find the best emerging designers to put through his "Emerging Designer Bootcamp" which is a 4 month long program for designers to learn how to run their fashion business. This was something that changed my life and the life of my company. He brought in Kym Gold, the co-founder of True Religion Jeans, and over the course of the meeting I was so intrigued by Brian about his Fashion Week program for emerging designers and Kym (who is now another one of my mentors) about building a fashion empire based on one style of denim. As you can imagine, I was hooked on the idea of being a designer in Phoenix Fashion Week, having Kym Gold as a potential mentor through the program, and ultimately coming out as Emerging Designer of the Year. If I had not traveled and done all these trade shows I would not have been Roshena, I would not have ended up at the Designer Meet and Greet with Brian Hill, and I would not be where I am today. This was all because I was taking risks (risks with potential), meeting new people, and was being open minded. 

I was then invited to apply to Phoenix Fashion Week, was accepted a couple months later, and was off to Phoenix for opening night with the 13 hand picked fashion designers that Brian picked himself to be in this crazy, intense, life changing, program called Phoenix Fashion Week. 

I had been traveling a lot before I ended up in Phoenix for the debut night of 13 designers accepted into the competition so I was unusually calm when I got to the venue before the fashion show. It hadn't hit me yet. I literally had just come from Penland School of Craft in North Carolina which was another life changing experience from the people I met, to the new skills I learned in Shibori tie dye. All of a sudden I was leaving Penland and off to Fashion Week. Kind of opposite sides of the spectrum, one place offering complete creative freedom, to getting down in the nitty gritty of the business side of fashion. Both amazing and necessary for me as a designer. I had competed in juried fashion shows before in Chicago during school but nothing like what Fashion Week put on. After making 100 swag bag items (inspired by the surface designer I helped at SURTEX NYC a couple months before) and traveling across the USA, for the first time I was thrown into a press conference, interviewed in detail by media to be broadcasted, and watched by thousands of people who were eager to get a glimpse of this year's emerging designers. Then it hit me that this was for real, and it was going to be an insane 4 months. 

Rachael LevineComment