The local runway
Fashion Week Durango kicks off inaugural year

SideStory: A few Fashion Week Durango picks

Marlené Conner and Rosie Schultz put some finishing touches on their Fashion Week Durango contributions. The new event, which benefits Mercy’s “Yes Ma’am” campaign, runs through Oct. 5./Photo by David Halterman

by Jules Masterjohn

Some individuals decide at a young age to dedicate their lives to creative pursuits. Georgia O’Keeffe, for instance, at 8 years old, declared that she would be an artist one day. There are child prodigies in every field. This week, the fashion world will unveil the newest collection by its youngest designer, Esteban Cortazar, now 20 years old. Cortazar, who was staging runway fashion shows in elementary school, has become one of the fashion industry’s child success stories and an inspiration for young designers.

Durango joins New York, Paris and other notable centers of haute couture by presenting Fashion Week Durango, five days of stylish events that showcase local designers, clothing and accessory boutiques. In true Durango spirit, the events will not only raise hemlines and probably eyebrows, but will also raise money for “Yes Ma’am,” the capital campaign fund that benefits the new breast care facility at Mercy Regional Medical Center. Many local businesses are sponsors for the event.

The centerpiece of the week, The Designer Showcase, takes over the runway in the Main Mall at 7 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 4. It will premiere the collections by seven Durango designers and the two youngest among them are Marlené Conner and Rosie Schultz. Motivated by their approaching deadline, the two were busy finalizing their creations last week at Kitty Kitty Boom Boom, the headquarters for Fashion Week Durango.

Conner, age 15, is no stranger to high design. Her mother, Christine Conner, owns Popoli Inspired Living, a designer furniture boutique on Main Avenue. The store features reproductions of avant garde European and American designers, from Bauhaus favorites to the Eames brothers, now all considered design classics. The elder Conner’s interest seems to have inspired her daughter who describes her fashion collection as “classic modern.”

The young Conner’s “point of view,” as it is called in the fashion industry, includes designs based on the tuxedo and the tutu but with a feminine flair. “It’s kind of weird,” Conner said, “I’m not girlie at all. I play soccer three to four times a week.” Her collection is created in earth tone fabrics of beige and black with gold accents, and includes a dress with a ballerina top and flared skirt with a chiffon overcoat.

Conner’s interest in fashion was equal to any American teen-ager until she enrolled in a design camp offered at Kitty Kitty Boom Boom this summer. “I was looking for something else to do besides play soccer.” She likes designing and sewing because she can make something out of nothing. “I can think of the craziest thing and then do it. There is no limit in fashion design.” Kitty Kitty Boom Boom owner, designer and Fashion Week Durango organizer, Connie Sutton, recognizes Conner’s individuality and offered, “Marlené has got flair!”

At age 13, Rosie Schultz’s interest in fashion design dates back almost half her life. “Remember when I got the fashion designer kit for Christmas six years ago,” my niece by marriage asked, “and there was that little plastic sewing machine that ran on batteries?” She giggled at the

thought of the child’s toy that may have helped to set the course of her life. “I used it a lot but I don’t count those designs; I was just tracing theirs, not making my own. Sometimes, I would get creative and take a sleeve from one design and put it with a bodice of a different one,” she recalled. Schultz attributes her love for creativity to her mother, Suzy DiSanto, a choreographer and dancer, and to her father, David Schultz, a landscape architect. “Both my parents are really creative.”

Schultz’s concept board, a portfolio of inspirational ideas with a few original design sketches, shows her fashion point of view. Not surprisingly, most of the images are rose pink, as are each of the three garments that will be shown at The Designer Showcase. Inspired by Marie Antoinette and the Baroque era, her frocks are ruffled and fun.

The Kitty Kitty Boom Boom sewing room was bustling with excitement as the two young designers prepared for the upcoming showcase. Comments flew between the teens as they stayed focused on their work. While ripping out a misstitched seam in the pink cape that wraps around her strapless dress, Schultz offered, “There is some satisfaction in making a mistake, like when a few inches rip out all at once.” Lead designer Sutton chimed in, “Oh, Rosie, I woke up at 2 a.m. and remembered that we have to add boning to your dress because it’s strapless.” Each of the designers admitted that there wasn’t time to make their own outfits for the event, which didn’t seem to bother any of them. Schultz added enthusiastically, “I saw these great pink skinny jeans that I think I’ll wear.” Discussions about hair and make-up whirled around the room as the iron puffed steam and a sewing machine hummed. “I wanted my godfather, who does make-up in Hollywood, to come out to do mine but he has to work,” Conner remarked. The details of finding a few more models and finishing the sewing were big enough tasks for these budding designers as they readied their collections to hit their biggest runway so far. •



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