Dreams, Take 2 or Maybe 3 or 4

“I want more, impossible to ignore
Impossible to ignore
And they’ll come true”

Dreams, The Cranberries

I am currently sitting at a work table with my friends, Shannon and Teresa, in Nosiy-Le-Grand, France, a suburb of Paris. I am writing between episodes of Emily in Paris, while the other two are working. It is a dream come true to finally be here after setting my intentions over 4 years ago. It has been a little over a month from my hometown preview and now, Hopeless + Cause Atelier will be showing in Paris City Fashion Week in just two days. And I’m continually asked, “how I’m feeling about it?” I’ve got all the feelings: gratitude, excitement, a sense of incredibility that this is really happening, and deep felt gratitude. Then when I start REALLY thinking about it, I want to throw up. As I mentioned at the hometown show, “How does this happen to girl from New Mexico?” Easy. It takes a village.

On Friday, August 25th, the 8th birthday of Hopeless + Cause Atelier, I hosted a hometown preview for friends and family who came out in wonderful abundance to support my dream of showing in Paris during Fashion Week. I have loved seeing all the wonderful photos of everyone enjoying themselves at the show and of course, the beautiful videos and still shots they took of the models on the runway. If you’ve ever hosted an event, you will understand that putting on a fashion show is no easy undertaking…especially with champagne dreams on Papst Blue Ribbon budget, I was the promoter, web developer, accountant, cater, volunteer coordinator, set and seating designer, director and program master, cat wrangler, oh and fashion designer. I’m pretty good at organization because I’m kind of a control freak. However, the hardest part for me is that I have no control over ticket sales (especially, since I live in the land of manana) and it’s super stressful to guess on seating layout and food when people are texting you the morning of the show looking for seats (and when every single day throughout prior week, I post over and over and over that ticket sales are ending two days before the show 🤪🤣), but I digress. I went into this show with the assumption that the audience didn’t know about my little atelier and that I would take them through journey with me. I also wanted to take the opportunity to honor my grandmother and her impact on this passion project of mine. And because I try to weave community in everything I do, there were added moments. Before I talk about the twists and turns of the event, I’m going to take it back a few weeks.

The last time I wrote, my gram had just died. I went through all the emotions and then some. Her funeral service in Albuquerque was beautiful, filled with her family’s involvement, a slide show of wonderful photos, a moving eulogy, special music, a priest that knew her and a reception filled with stories, laughter and good food. I know she was watching from above with a smile on her face. But it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted it make sure everyone in the audience knew her and her impact on me and this atelier. I also knew she would want me to live my life to the fullest. And living your life to the fullest means bringing others along with you. The production company I am working with provides the models for the show. I had three models, who became dear friends, that were willing to travel to walk for me. After weeks of asking, bugging and pleading, I woke up one Saturday with an email from the organizer saying they could not only walk in my show, but he’d put their comp cards in the rotation for the possibility that they could walk for other designers. I remember feeling as happy if not happier that I could tell them that they were in. I think it impacted me so much was because I could help others live their dreams too.

Ticket sales were trickling in. Wonderful sponsors were supporting me (thank you Carla Aragon and Allen Lewis, Esther Otero-Martinez, and my wonderful anonymous sponsor and again to Tanya Robinson & Alpha Lit). During this time I celebrated a milestone birthday, traveled with friends to Nashville, Santa Fe and San Diego, and participated in my grandmother’s funeral mass. Again, I have not witnessed anything more beautiful. All these life events bleed into my ideation for the event. The overall theme of the event focused on dreams and the dream makers that made this a reality. The VIP seats’ swag included custom soaps, lavender sachets, candles, and face masks to help the attendees “curate their own dream”. I created the videos to tell the story of the last eight years (and beyond) because the dream of becoming a fashion designer began in high school. As friends and family members purchased their tickets, it made me happy to bring together an audience of such amazing people that I believe should know each other. My models were made up of different ages, ethnicities and sizes, just like the women I design for. I was so grateful that I could have two of my loves model for me for their first time: my niece, Athea, and Averie (that was a last minute add that made my heart happy). Some great photographers came through and my prayers for a beautiful voice to sing “Buenos Dias Paloma Blanca” were answered by Ane Romero.

As asked weeks before if I was ready, my customary response was, “I will be”. I know as a control freak I should have said “yes, I’ve been ready for months” but that’s where my creative side kicks my butt all over the place. I may have an entire collection ready but as I get closer I nix it and start all over again. But the night before, I had the collection set and program done, so at 2pm I was joined by Allison, Eilene, Natalie and Stephanie at the venue and started to set the scene for the show: putting together gift bags, prepping the clothing, placing tables and chairs to the seating chart. Alpha Lit and Blown Balloons showed up to start the decor. At 3pm, the models and beauty team started to arrive and got to work putting together the hair and make up based on the look book. I started outfitting the models for their three looks. About 5pm, my brother arrived to figure out the best way to utilize the A/V and my daughter arrived to set up her DJ booth (I told you it was a family affair–Isaiah and Brianna, were there in spirit as they were finally taking their honeymoon in Seattle). We started setting up the food and Leola was picking up last minute items. Guests started to arrive just before 6pm. I asked that guests arrive before 7:15pm to ensure that no one was arriving during the show. Mercury was in retrograde so of course there was technical and communication difficulties, but we just rolled with it (and I included the links for the videos if you want to see the story).

I designed the program to be in three parts. The first part, Story of My Life, showcased my beginnings in design, how I almost walked away and the inspiration and support of those around me to create and celebrate.

The second segment focused on my gram, Catalina Romero, her influence on my life and the atelier.

This segment started with video. Then, Ane took to the stage to sing. She was such a blessing to this event. I had put out a request for mariachi singers but the ones who responded were sadly a little too rich for my budget, when Sofi suggested her cousin, Ane. We connected immediately and there were so many coincidences from her last name, her family background and the fact that she had wanted to learn this song, so much so that it gave me happy chills (especially, when she arrived wearing a lilac dress–one of my gram’s favorite flowers). She was perfect. I just wish I could’ve been sitting in the audience with you for this.

The final segment, Dreams Take Two, took the audience on a journey with me when attended London Fashion Week and spent 10 hours in Paris. That was when I made the decision to try for Paris. This was 2019. I started the process working with another production company, when the pandemic hit…and then my cancer diagnosis…and then my broken (and surgically corrected) ankle…so when I received the invite and sought feedback about a show supporting the production costs was overwhelming supported. I knew this was the year (especially, since I had already planned to go to Paris). But I had no idea how wonderfully supported I’d be. My incredible friends and family outside of Albuquerque, friends of friends, friends who brought friends, and incredibly generous sponsors. I am tearing up just thinking how truly blessed I am–THANK YOU!!

As I spoke of my own journey, I asked Allison Hendricks-Smith the founder and ED of Pink Warrior House to share her own, and how the organization supports warriors on their own journey. Then the models took to the runway for the last time.

As they all headed out for what is know as the carousel walk, I joined them to a standing ovation. It was such an uplifting experience, with so many people I love in my presence. I hope everyone felt it to and enjoyed the evening.

Thank you to the models, beauty team, photographers, volunteers, sponsors and patrons for an evening that took my breath away. In TWO days, I will be living this dream. If you would like to come along, I am asking Shannon to live stream the show (6am Mountain time on Sunday, October 1, 2023).

I am so grateful for all of you! Merci beaucoup!!

With light and love,
Dara Sophia