Dare to Design: Local Fashion Designers Lace up as the Fashion Prize joins the Prize Fest

In Brittany Strickland, Fashion, Scott "Scooter" Andersonby Lola Magazine

Since its birth as the Louisiana Film Prize in 2012, the Prize Fest has developed an ear for music, some strong business savvy and a gourmand’s touch. This year, Prize Fest will gain something else it has lacked – a keen fashion sense.

A design competition called Fashion Prize has been added to the festival lineup. But before the designers command the runway in October, they will face off in the Fashion Project, a qualifying competition that will take place at 6 p.m. May 31 at the DARE DayClub and pool at the Horseshoe Casino and Resort in Bossier City.

Organizer Katy Larsen said the Fashion Project will be a spectacle to kick off the summer.

“You’re going to drive up to the Horseshoe, and there’s valet right there, so you’re already going to feel so elevated,” Larsen said. “They go into the huge lobby and see all this crystal and gold and sparkly. Then you are ushered down the hallway to the DARE pool. When you enter the gates, it’s going to seem like you have entered this Greek garden. It’s going to have all these marketplaces set up, VIP cabanas and outdoor seating. There are two pools we are going to have on display with some great theatrical extras going on.

“You’re going to want to wear something that breathes. You’re going to want it to be fun and funky. You’re going to want it to be loud. It’s the summer. It’s a celebration. People should dress comfortably but fun. Show off. This is a fashion show. This is the one time to go overboard.”

The two-tiered fashion competition is a collaboration between the Agora Borealis, which has hosted fashion shows since 2014, and the Prize Foundation, which hosts Prize Fest.

Larsen, owner of the Agora Borealis, said this year’s competitions are the natural evolution of the fashion shows. The first show in 2015 was a Mardi Gras-themed event created with the hope to sell clothes off the marketplace floor at the Agora Borealis.

“We are changing from being a fashion show geared to sell clothing to being a competition,” Larsen said. “We’ve paired off with another giant entity, the Prize Foundation. They already have film, food and music. Why not have fashion? We are bringing the fashion this year. I think that is super important. The collaboration is great.”

Local designers applied to participate in the Fashion Project. Eleven were selected last fall, and eight still are competing. Those eight will present a collection of 10 to 15 designs that will walk the runway. Each designer will then bring back out the outfit that epitomizes their collection. The judges will offer their critiques and choose three winners. Larsen said a fourth designer might take home the title of the Audience Choice Award winner.

The winning designers will advance to the Fashion Prize, which will take place on “Fashion Friday” at Prize Fest in October. Fashion Prize competitors will present their collections again, along with two new pieces crafted from their favorite Fashion Project design. Larsen said that was a chance to show judges how they grow from the critiques they will receive in May. The Fashion Prize winner will receive a trip to New York to meet with a designer, go on a tour of the city and see several designers’ studio spaces.

Larsen said she is proud to see what this annual fashion event has become.

“It’s now grown into something where people can take pride in their own collection,” she said. “They’re no longer sticking to a theme. They have to create from their own back-of-the-mind subconscious,or conscious entities around them. It’s just exciting. I am super stoked to see what comes out this year.”

Designer Leah Golden participated in last year’s fashion show. She said she is looking forward to displaying her unique designs without being tied to a theme.

“This year, having a little more freedom, I am hoping to show off exactly what I have to bring to the table, what my style is,” Golden said.

The designers say they appreciate the fact that this year’s competition has not lost the collaborative nature of previous fashion shows.

“I’ve met some wonderful people through this event that I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Donna Strebeck said. “The other designers I have chatted with have been very kind, and I trust their opinions.”

Brittani Shabazz is a relatively new designer. She is hoping to gain some experience and exposure, as well as learn from the other designers in the competition.

“To be able to get into a competition with your peers, it’s inspiration and motivation to push you a little further,” Shabazz said.

Just as the designers are ramping up their games for this year’s competition, Larsen is ramping up the production value of the Fashion Project with a vast team of sponsors, volunteers and friends of the event. Among those involved with the project are Clint McCommon from Fairfield Studios, and photographer Brittany Strickland.

“She’s amazing and has an amazing eye,” Larsen said. “She’s not just a photographer; she’s an artist. That’s hard to accomplish in a time of handheld cameras.”

Lighting expert Andrew Kirshman is returning to Shreveport from Colorado to help with the show. Kirshman worked at The Strand Theater before going to Colorado to continue training in his craft.

“He is getting to come back and be in his home town and show off some of his skills he’s learned while being away,” Larsen said. “I think that’s a really proud moment. If you can get people who have moved away from Shreveport to be proud and be a part of something that’s here, I think that’s a success. That was the point of this show becoming so large this year.

“Early work on the Fashion Project started back in the fall with photography by Brandi Cade and graphic work by Rachel Carlson and Jeremy Johnson. We will have some heavy hitters on the scene that Friday, like Jim Hayes, Bruce Allen and Stephanie Fernandez.”

Models had to apply and be selected for the show, Larsen said. Seventy models will walk the runway, each presenting up to two looks each. And while a model walks the runway alone, there will be an entire support cast working backstage.

Bryan Sullivan will bring a team from Chemistry Hair Salon to assist with hair and makeup. Miya Washington and her staff at Envy Beauty Bar also will be working with the models. Also, Milagreau Gardner will be creating stunning art on nails.

Nate Treme will be creating unique musical signatures for each designer’s collection, with the help of sound engineer Landon Miller.

Other sponsors for the event include Once Upon a Diamond, Skillzplus Entertainment, the Shreveport Regional Airport, Central Jet Services and The Sewing Shop. From contributing gift cards to teaching workshops and volunteering time, space and talent, Larsen said the success of the show is dependent on the support it gets from the community.

“You can’t do anything without the support of others,” she said. “Nobody does it alone. There is no ‘my;’ there is no ‘me;’ there is no ‘I.’ It’s us, we and ours. I think that is the main thing about the success of it. It takes a village.”

Larsen also gave credit to her fashion executive team, Tambria Bell, Jules Smith, Jade Kerouac, Mandie Ebarb and Jade Thornton, as well as the Prize Foundation and Gregory Kallenberg.

“Two years ago, I whispered it in a little birdy’s (Kallenberg’s) ear, ‘We should include a fashion show.’ We hashed it out over the last year and put it into play at this last Prize event. It’s time to see it come to fruition. We’re excited about the opportunity to work with them.”

Kallenberg said fashion was a great fit for the Prize Fest experience.

“Hosting the Fashion Prize is a dream realized,” he said. “Prize Fest is one of the best in film, music and food festivals in the country. What’s the missing piece to make our city the focus of the creative world? Fashion. And, with the ability to join forces with the effervescent Katy Larsen, I have no doubt that the Fashion Prize will have all the glamour and beauty and power that will make Prize Fest glow brighter, and let the rest of the world know that our city is a Mecca for creative energy and innovation.”