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Absolutely Fabulous

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When was the last time you saw a runway show in Tucson? David Aguirre thinks it's been too long.

As the director of downtown nonprofit gallery Dinnerware Artspace, Aguirre often helps shine a light on local contemporary artists, but he feels that one artistic area has been consistently left out—fashion design.

"We show work that's locally produced," he says, "but we had to ask ourselves, 'Where do fashion designers show?'"

The Dinnerware team did their research, and it became clear that chances for fashion designers in Tucson to show their wares are rare.

"We looked and didn't see any opportunities," Aguirre says. So a few months ago, Dinnerware put on a fashion show after putting out a call for designers.

"We got swamped!" he recalls. "We thought, 'We're tapping into a need here!'"

After going to other shows, the Dinnerware team learned what they would need in order to complete the task. Now, Dinnerware is able to provide everything the designers need—all the way down to the 35-foot-long raised runway with a turnaround that has been installed in the gallery's bay window.

"We set up everything that's needed," says Aguirre. He explains that designers can get help with music (coordinated by DJ Chica), lighting and even models—Dinnerware interns—if necessary. Dinnerware also handles the backstage chaos.

Aguirre says that planning outfit changes can be tough to handle, but it's always worth the effort. "It gets pretty crazy backstage and pretty fun upstage," he says.

This Saturday, Dinnerware will hold the third in its series of fashion shows. The theme: "Fierce and Fabulous."

An example of the theme: One of the 10 designers will have male models walking down the runway, two at a time, with very exaggerated and, yes, fierce, movements. "It's more entertaining," Aguirre says, "almost like performance art."

Although several seasoned fashion designers will be participating, others taking part are completely new to the runway. The designers on board include Oscar Jimenez, Pam Scroggins and Eleanor Leon.

Yu Yu Shiratori, another of the participating young designers, sees the event as a way to unite Tucson's designers. "I didn't really know a lot of other people who made clothes," she said.

For her, meeting other designers in Tucson has been encouraging. She explains that the variety of designers and their styles has also been inspiring. So far, it's led her to experiment with different draping styles and patterns.

"There's a mix of designers and a wide range of talents," she says. "You know, this is Tucson. There are a lot of different people doing a lot of different things."

The show will start at 7 p.m., but only 80 people will be allowed in, and both previous shows sold out. During those shows, there were about 100 people standing outside, looking in the bay window, says Aguirre. "We caused a lot of commotion on that block," he admits.

Dinnerware will also host an after-show reception that will double as an end-of-season party. Designers and audience members can meet—and those stuck outside watching through the window can finally come inside. The jewelry and clothing in the show will be for sale, so the party will offer a chance for people to mingle and haggle, says Aguirre. He explains that many in the audience will be local shop owners, and this event will provide an opportunity for them to buy clothing and accessories straight from the designer.

"Before, we had a really fun time, and we're looking forward to doing this again," he says.

Aguirre says Dinnerware is committed to "showing up-and-coming visual artists and providing them with a space to show their work." But, he continues, "We're always looking for a different medium." Recently, Dinnerware ventured into the film scene, and Aguirre says they are looking to get into local music; the gallery's IGNITE Tucson project invites artists to give a presentation about one subject using only 20 images on PowerPoint.

If you can't make it to the fashion show, look for videos from the event to pop up next week on Dinnerware's YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/DinnerwareArtspace.

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