Park Avenue Fashion Week contest showcases new talent

Showcasing new talent

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  • | 6:50 a.m. September 24, 2015
Photo by: Ciara Varone - Ciara Rodriguez, far right, poses with her models wearing her collection, Fashion Fantasy, part of PAFW's Emerging Designer Competition.
Photo by: Ciara Varone - Ciara Rodriguez, far right, poses with her models wearing her collection, Fashion Fantasy, part of PAFW's Emerging Designer Competition.
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For more than half her life, Ciara Rodriguez said she’s dreamed of being a fashion designer. Now at 23, she may get the chance to show her designs on Central Florida’s largest fashion platform this October. Rodriguez is one of 10 finalists competing on Sept. 24 in Park Avenue Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer Competition. The top five designers will show their collections again during Fashion Week.

“I just want people to see what I have to offer,” Rodriguez said. “As a little girl I always wanted to be a fashion designer.”

Rodriguez said her parents weren’t always supportive of her interest, encouraging her to work in another field. But after she earned a bachelor’s degree in information technology from the University of Central Florida last fall and began working for an IT consulting company, their enthusiasm for her hobby grew, she said.

You can purchase tickets to the Sept. 24 Park Avenue Fashion Week Emerging Designers Event at

Rodriguez’s collection, “Fashion Fantasy,” consists of three hand-painted tops, each inspired by ocean corral, cherry blossoms or the rainforest. The models all wear the differing tops with the same white skirt for cohesion, the designer said. Rodriguez said her work draws from and combines her loves of modeling, costumes and fashion.

“It’s wearable clothing but with a little twist,” said Rodriguez, who frequently cosplays by ‘costume playing’ a character. “I don’t cast humans. I cast creatures.”

Zaneta Bailey moved across the country to pursue her own fashion hobby, and found herself now on PAFW’s Emerging Designers stage.

“Transitioning to a new city is always difficult, but you have to seek out the things that you’re interested in,” said Bailey, a St. Louis native. “I would love to make [fashion] my career.”

Like Rodriguez, Bailey became interested in fashion as a child. Bailey laughs when recalling the first model for her designs at age 10 – her family dog.

“Then I started drawing clothes for humans and I loved it,” she said.

Bailey said designing defined her life before she was sure of her own identity as a person.

“As a woman, you start to know yourself like mid- to late- 20s. I knew I wanted to be a designer before I knew myself as a woman,” Bailey said.

She described her line, Z. Bailey, as simple and sexy, while maintaining class and a timeless look.

As for contestant Lance Stephens, his background is in graphic design and digital media. His focus changed to fashion in 2005 when a friend approached him, asking him to do costume design for a film project.

“I knew right then and there if I wanted full credit, I’d have to build a brand,” Stephens said. “Whether the film becomes a reality or not, I will have my brand of clothing.”

The film’s subject – ancient Egypt – has since been the greatest inspiration for his fashion, Stephens said. His line, HakatRe, aims to be true to the art of the Egyptians, he said.

“Egypt is the source of high fashion,” Stephens said. “Some of these dresses that are going to be walking on that runway Thursday are three and four thousand-year-old styles.”

But for Stephens, his cultural inspiration transcends the clothing he creates.

“All of these different people, all of these different cultures, all of these different races converged their ideas to create a civilization,” Stephens said. “I’m really proud to represent that.”

Stephens, Bailey and Rodriguez, along with the seven other finalists will debut their collections at 6 p.m. at the estate of Jeanne Atkinson. Tickets are $37, and the address of Atkinson’s residence will be revealed with each purchase. Win or lose, it’s a great opportunity for all involved, said executive manager of Shel Marks PR and Events, Analys Sanchez, who helped coordinate the event.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase in front of storeowners, potential future clients and be discovered for Park Avenue boutiques,” Sanchez said.


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