For Real

March 5, 2017 blog, brand

“You’ll never teach Albuquerque that you have to wait for a fashion show.”

Hopefully, this blog will lighten your mood. It’s the next chapter in my Ms. Adventures. Everyone that knows me, knows I love a good party. I don’t like large parties. I like intimate parties where I get to spend time with loved ones, while meeting their guests, and I also have the opportunity to create the unexpected. I think that’s why I truly love designing fashion events. But I wonder…I wonder if you really know what happens behind the scenes? I know there is some impatience by the audience. For those of you who have traveled with me to LA or NYC, you know that there is chaos that surrounds these type of events and you should really just relax, sit back and enjoy the show.

Toward the end of 2016, I knew I wanted to host another seasonal runway show. The Once Upon a Dress theme had already played itself out in my mind. I had been inspired by people wanting to create their own destinies—developing their own “fairy tales”. As a child, I had been conditioned, through Disney tales, that there was only good and evil, and to see girls and women pitted against each other. In my teen years, I had been subjected to society’s body image. And as much as I wanted or tried I was never going to be 5’7” (believe me, I thought of ways I could stretch myself out and good thing I didn’t end up with gorilla arms). Also, at my smallest I still had curves. Clothes that looked incredible on the models, would never work for me because my humps, my lovely lady lumps (Black-eyed Peas is playing in the background of my mind as I write this). But really, that didn’t always make clothes shopping fun. Plus, I was such a tom boy and a “Miss Congeniality” that I felt more comfortable in my overalls and kicks. So, fast forward to Once Upon a Dress. I wanted to play on what is considered good—light, airy, floral and flowing, and bad—dark, edgy, risqué and ambiguous, and mix it all up because as humans we are much more complicated than those two basic adjectives.

I originally wanted to host the show in a church (and I still want to someday, so please keep your eyes peeled for the right one, but it’s hard not to find one not in use on Sundays). However, after having a conversation with Chis Jacoby, Director of Marketing at Hotel Andaluz, I found that the hotel lobby (one of my favorite places in town) would be the perfect atmosphere for this show. The other thing that’s paradoxical in fashion is creating that exclusivity of the event while making it accessible to all. In other words, how do you create two extremes in one showing?!? One of my favorite Instagram posts from FWLA was this: “Stumbled upon a fashion show leaving work today.” The event was outdoors with a dedicated audience, but also accessible for others to discover. This would be the perfect venue to do something similar. Now keep in mind, I have Cristal dreams on a Pabst Blue Ribbon budget. AND, I am also determined to always highlight local artists, businesses and create a giving back component through my shows.

I had the pleasure of working again with Meri and Amanda, my incredible production team leadership. I called upon my model team to see who would be available and got to work. By early January, my sketches were done. I confirmed models and started creating the looks. I reached out to my beauty team, my fav DJ and my incredible arsenal of photographers. I thought about my performance component and through a friend reached out to a possible artist.

If you’ve read along my Ms. Adventures, you know I had to plug in a visit to NYC for fashion week. I generally try not to attend or watch the season’s fashion weeks because I don’t want my looks to be subliminally influenced, but I just had to get back to NYC. I was already truly set on the style and aesthetic of the looks that I basically said, “eff it, I’m going home and going to thoroughly enjoy fashion”. This season, I once again got to see NYFW through the eyes of someone who hasn’t been to fashion week before, which is so awesome to witness. I returned home and got back to work.

Fittings were scheduled the weekend before the show. Thank goodness it was a holiday weekend and I was off from my day job that Monday. I used most of Saturday, Sunday and Monday to sew. I sprinkled fittings throughout that time. Jamming to my sewing beats, I was in my rhythm. I really started to see the patchwork within the designs–how everything was coming together: recycled materials, destruction and reconstruction. The materials were all over the place from upholstery remnants, to faux leather, to feathers, to lace, to denim, to satin and to faux fur (please note: I do cuss when working this material because it explodes all over, and I thought I was going to die from black lung or the seamstress’s version of that–no really). For this show, I incorporated the jewelry into the clothing with bead work created by my aunt. It was all quite lovely and just what I had envisaged. I was chill because I was ahead of schedule.

Then, I woke up Tuesday morning to a scorched throat and pounding head. I had been trying to stave off a cold, or the Bubonic plague, or something since Super Bowl Sunday and there was no way I could get sick the week before my show. I opted to stay-in with tea, vitamins, and a large aerosol can of Lysol and continued to sew. I had back-to-back fittings on Tuesday afternoon that I had to get through. There were 12 looks for the runway and a special 13th (already completed) look. Working throughout the week on the garments while communicating with venue, production team, beauty team, photographers and guests, and purchasing, picking up and putting together VIP gifts, plus my day job, family life and trying not to end up in urgent care (I know…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah), I made it through the week to our dress rehearsal on Saturday morning. However, I was a little (okay the team would probably say a lot) loopy with only 3 hours of sleep from the night before. Surely you’re not serious. Serious, and don’t call me Shirley.

Prior to the run through, I met with Meri and Amanda. Online ticket sales closed the night before. And yes, I had text messages from people wanting to get tickets. Which is absolutely wonderful, but from a planning standpoint is a “b” word (however, I also know this is Albuquerque and we are indeed the land of manana). I responded honestly, saying “I’m excited to see you at the show and we will have tickets available at the door”. We went through the list of names and VIP seating arrangements. I went through the list of sponsors and all those connected to make sure they received proper recognition on the programs and we talked through the event. Still not hearing from my performer. I called to find out that she might not make it because she had been struggling with the flu all week. No time to add a new performer to the mix, I went on to practice with the team. Every venue I have used has been incredibly unique and the lobby space was no different. The models would appear from the Casbah and walk the outer perimeter of the venue space pausing along key points for photography and audience admiration.

Music plays a huge part in creation process. The songs I chose for the show were reflective on this season’s mood: Beggin’ by Madcon has the perfect beat, but what I loved about it is what fashion can do to you. The whole feeling of seeing someone who looks impeccable in their attire. For the outside world, there’s a double look, maybe snap of the neck or just a draw drop.

I’m on my knees when I’m (beggin’)
Cause I don’t want to lose (you)
I got my arms on spread
And I hope that my heart gets fed, matter of fact girl I’m beggin’

Internally there’s a sense of confidence, a swagger. When you feel good, you feel confident and when you feel comfortable, you can rule the world. So along the same beat, I chose Rule the World (Girls) by Beyonce.

Get on your grind
To the other men
That respect what I do
Please accept my shine

Then after the high intensity of the preparation and show, I wanted to bring it down a notch and just have fun. I asked the models to get out of their comfort zone and boogie. I’ve talked before about putting positive vibes out for all and this time it was For Real. The models would carry signs positive body image and life affirming sayings to counteract the messaging that we’ve been hearing for months in mainstream media. One of the models, Brooke, would ask Cathy, the unknown 13th model to join her. It would provide the proper introduction to her work with Dental Care in Your Home. We got through practice and I headed home to work on the laundry list of things to do.

By the time I got home, I already had messages asking for event details. So first, I worked on the look book for the models and beauty team….done and check. And while I had it all in my head, it does take time to get it in an organized manner with the schedule. Next I worked on the email to patrons, parking, food options, dress, and a time frame for the show and as much as people would like exact times, there is a reason I ask for a block of time for the events. There is so much that goes on or pops up that I need that flexibility built in…done and check. Next was communication for the entire team, the timeline, the music choices, the contact information, if they couldn’t find me, and designated leadership…done and check. Then I had to get back to sewing, although my machine had a different idea. Instead of cursing and flinging it out my window, I sat down wrote out all I had left to do and hit the stores one last time. I grabbed dinner with Isaiah first. We returned home and I got back to work. At that point, I was feeling the exhaustion from the week before, and then the text messages started coming in. One of my beauty leads, had a family emergency. Knowing I’d need the extra help, I reached out to the rest of the beauty team and asked them to reach out to their network. In the case, that we couldn’t find an additional MUA, I asked Cati (my daughter and model) to jump in. A few minutes later I had a text from one of my photographers. He had something come up and couldn’t be there, but asked if he needed to find someone to replace him. Luckily, I had a few more photographers in place so I told him all was good. Then I got a call from another one of my photographers and I almost cried when I thought she was going to say, “I can’t make it”, but thank God, she said she was going to be a little later than originally planned. I went back to trying to sew and the threading was still off, so I decided to go to bed and wake up early to finish the tailoring.

Sunday, I woke at 5am. Got up excited and motivated and hit the sewing machine. It had needed the rest too. I was working through piece-by-piece, but I was eating up time faster than I had it available. There were a few questions coming in, but everyone at the venue was at work enhancing the looks of the models and setting up the runway. I was receiving text messages wishing me good luck and because of the flu and cold season, also from those who had couldn’t make it after all. For those messages, I had to pause and forward the messages to the production team to make seating chart changes. At 10:30am, I hit the road to Hotel Andaluz with everything in tow. I arrived, handed off registration and VIP materials, said, “hello” to everyone and carved a space in the staging area to finish editing. Model after model tried on looks and I handed them off to Roby (who I will take with me EVERYWHERE in fashion) for steaming straightening, cutting threads and everything else needed. I had models working on signs and the beauty team was working through the looks as quickly as they could, but we needed more time. So I took a deep breath, told the front of the house to play more music, and we worked through zippers, ripping seams, rebuilding seams and final touches. I didn’t think I would have time to change and I recalled a moment from my last show when I appeared to the crowd in my overalls, messy bun, glasses and Chuck T’s. I was told I should take time for me to come out polished like Diane von Furstenberg. I smiled, thought about it for a minute before responding. I laughed and said, “while I hope to someday work towards being able to come out at the end and wave perfectly dressed, or even sit with the audience to watch the show, I don’t have a whole team that works on that works on the sewing, the fittings and the finishing touches…this is a realistic glimpse behind the scenes.” However, this time I did have a chance to change into something I created, but not much beyond that (bun life).

When the team hit the runway, I was beaming from ear-to-ear. There was a buzz of excitement coming from this team and they represented beautifully. When I say, “I couldn’t pull these shows off on my own”, I really mean it. Thank you to everyone from behind the scenes, to in front of the camera, to those of you in the audience and watching online. I had friends come in from afar and those who couldn’t make it supported the event by buying tickets. The money raised through ticket sales for Dental Care in Your Home will net about $850 to support dental care access for the home bound and those with special needs.

I hope for those of you in attendance, you truly enjoyed yourself and have an insight in the behind the scenes and for those of you who weren’t able to attend, here’s the show (click on the photo):

My absolute gratitude to:

Venue: Hotel Andaluz (PS Nancy, Director of Catering and Events, is an absolute rock star! I highly suggest hosting your events there)
Production Team: Amanda Bustos, Meri Fox Szauter, Paul Szauter, Isaiah Ambriz, Roby Schapira
Photographers: Kate the Photographer and New Mexico & Beyond Photography
DJ: A Perfect Night DJ
Beauty Team: Cati Ambriz, Eva Garcia, Diana Lopez, Jocelyn Lopez & Erin Sanchez
VIP Gift Bags: Mark Pardo & Yes Organics Boutique
Models: Angela Sanchez, Ashley Dunec, Brianna “BT” Tapia, Brooke Bower, Cati Ambriz, Dyllan “Leif” Baldonado, Heather Nield, Jennifer Riordan, Jimmie Wolf, Kristen Olguin, McKenna Feltz and Smitha Gianoulakis.

And especially to all of you for your support!!

With light and love, ALWAYS!

Photos via New Mexico and Beyond Photography, Steven G & Moi

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