Finding the next fashion 'Idol' in Winter Park

Designer Contest expands

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  • | 10:01 a.m. August 28, 2013
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Bizarre fashion was the result of a challenge last year to create outfits out of construction materials, including fencing and duct tape.
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Bizarre fashion was the result of a challenge last year to create outfits out of construction materials, including fencing and duct tape.
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This year for Harriett’s Park Avenue Fashion Week (PAFW) Emerging Designer Contest, the process of picking a winner is getting a lot more action-packed and public.

“Where’s the excitement of the Emerging Designer Contest?” said Maxine Broadwell, director of the contest. “I had to have a fashion show for the top 10; I couldn’t just quietly choose them.”

The PAFW Emerging Designer Contest has accepted 20 applications from up-and-coming designers. What they’re after is the big win, which allows them to show their collection on the night of the PAFW Runway Show, professional photos of their clothes coming down the runway and the opportunity to have their line featured in a Park Avenue boutique with a trunk show.

They’ve submitted sketches and photos of their work, and the top 10 will be able to show some of their designs in-person in the hopes of moving on to the next level: the top three. Before this year, the judging to get to top three was done in private, with judges gathering in a room inspecting applications and garments. But there wasn’t enough anticipation or community involvement leading up to the winner being chosen, Broadwell said. She likes a little more excitement.

So, for the first time ever, Broadwell will be hosting an Emerging Designer Fashion Show at her restaurant Maxine’s on Shine in Orlando, where she’ll emcee while the top 10 designers have models strut three of their looks down the runway. She’ll give information about the designers and the outfits they’ve chosen, and they’ll be interviewed by the judges. A “People’s Choice” award will be given to the audience favorite, and the designers will be available after the show to talk to the crowd.

See the top 10 Emerging Designer contestants and three of their designs modeled at the fashion show at Maxine’s on Shine, Monday, Sept. 23. Tickets, which cost $25, are limited and can be purchased at If you’re interested in the clothing line of last year’s winner Melanie Vivo, email [email protected] or visit

“So people can get involved all the way to the runway,” said Debra Hendrickson, director of PAFW.

Broadwell hopes it can inspire the audience to try a new designer or look, too.

“To help women be fearless,” she said. “To go to a fashion show, it’s an adventure.”

Karen Cleary, a celebrity makeup artist, judge and the assistant director for the contest, said she’s looking for versatility in her winner. She loves seeing creative and sometimes a little over-the-top couture clothing from designers, but along with that she wants to see items a Winter Park woman could picture herself wearing, or that Tuni would proudly display in its store window. The point of the show is to give an aspiring designer a break into the fashion market, a way to someday make money from their passion.

“Every designer has that creative eye, but it takes real skill to make something wearable,” Cleary said.

Once the designers have passed the quality, creative and fashion show tests, three go on to the “Project Runway” style part of the competition — make an outfit from unconventional materials in a limited amount of time. Last year designers had to take construction materials to create a beautiful look. Winner Melissa Vivo made a bikini bottom from a fire fighter’s vest, which went underneath a dress made from the material you use to stop weeds from growing up into your lawn. She took giant light bulbs meant for streetlamps, smashed them to bits, and used neon highlighters to accent the luminescent glass for a necklace. And it was tough, but her dress did its job — weeding out the other competition.

“I feel like it really pulls out the true creativity in the person,” Vivo said. “That’s really where the talent shows up, what separates the true artists.”

And as far as the competition’s goal of giving a new designer exposure, Vivo said that’s the most valuable benefit she’s gotten from winning last year. She’s had photo spreads in magazines as far away as California. Photographers were lining up to shoot her work, and she got a job styling photo shoots with Melanie Pace, a local wardrobe stylist and former Emerging Designer judge.

Vivo said she’s excited to have the opportunity to be involved in helping the next winner do what they truly love, like she’s been able to since winning. She’s herself when she’s designing clothes.

“It’s really just a freeing expression of who I am.”


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