Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Fall and fashion go hand in hand. Even in summer’s leftover heat, we consume the gospel of Vogue here in Las Vegas, buying velvet jackets while we’re still sweating.
But what does local fashion actually look like? Who cuts the patterns and stitches the seams? Where are the homegrown brands and design pipelines? And do they have any effect on the city’s die-hard style identity?
Ignore the stereotypes for a second (the sausage dress favored by tourists, the gratuitous rhinestones spelling things on our butts). Las Vegas deserves a fashionable reputation. We host MAGIC, the largest apparel trade show in the world. We have a thriving Fashion Week and grassroots groups encouraging creativity. What we don’t have is street cred, though pockets of influencers are working hard to change that.
Any stylist will tell you the crucial parts of an outfit are the foundation garments. So, Las Vegas, think of our fashion industry as a blinged-out trenchcoat, and let’s take a peek at the fabulousness beneath.
Haute goals for Las Vegas
There’s a strong network behind the polished fashion scenes, but only a fraction of local talent is recognized on the national stage.
David Tupaz has given the same explanation for years: “We have no fashion industry in Las Vegas yet, but we are slowly building one,” says the local couturier, who counts Julia Roberts and Kris Jenner among his celebrity clients. Tupaz isn’t talking about high-end boutiques, photo shoots and red carpets; he’s talking about the dirty work. “Being associated with fashion doesn't mean you are an expert. It takes credibility, experience, track record and industry influence. Let me see who can design, cut a pattern, sew and complete a tailored suit.”
Hoping to attract more of that machinery, Tupaz founded the Las Vegas Fashion Design Council in 2011. Another thing he’s been saying since then is that 85 percent of American-made apparel comes out of California, despite Nevada’s tax incentives and affordable real estate. “The fact that we are practically next-door neighbors — there’s a lot of potential there.”
Tupaz, who has shown at Fashion Weeks across the country, says there are plenty of talented artisans working here on a community level. “But I am still waiting to meet another Nevadan doing New York Fashion Week.”
Carrie Carter-Cooper is all about developing talent through the Las Vegas Fashion Council, launched in 2014 to “mentor our local students and fashion industry creatives and also to establish a community of enthusiasts.”
But is Las Vegas training designers and models just to feed other markets? “We are definitely a creative ground spilling over into other markets that benefit from the talent here,” Carter-Cooper says, adding, “we can certainly hold our own.”
One area of potential is manufacturing, which Carter-Cooper sees just beginning to flourish beyond casino uniforms and lavish costumes.
“There is a lot to work on. If we all bond and team up,” Tupaz says, “it will happen.”
One perfect outfit for fall in the desert
The prevailing wisdom is that runway looks don’t always translate to real life. That’s especially true during autumn in Las Vegas, as our gorgeous desert weather isn’t made for some of the gorgeous fabrics and styles out of New York Fashion Week.
The beauty is that you can still pull trends together in an outfit that’s all about laidback chic — including the price — thanks in this case to thrift gold mine Buffalo Exchange.
Panama hat with braid detail, $11: More structure than a floppy bowler with a band of Western flair. And that caramel shade goes with the changing leaves.
Macramé purse, $15: Cooler weather turns the eye to texture, and this surprisingly sturdy, richly knotted bag has it in spades.
Lucky Brand jean jacket, $23: A good fit is always in fashion, and this cropped number adds cool snaps and tailored pockets for extra polish.
Wild Diva booties, $18: While these suede booties don’t exactly fit the tinsel trend, tassels are big on bags this year. So why not bring the fun to your feet?
Maxi tank dress, $18: Without velvet’s heaviness, this frock has snuggly texture and deep color, and riffs on the flowy romance of runway looks by Chanel and Lanvin.
Brooke Olimpieri amps your look
Filthy Mouth Creative founder Brooke Olimpieri isn’t afraid to experiment, whether designing clothes, styling shoots or taking the photographs.
The local dynamo served up a few secrets to her striking, retro-inspired vibe.
What inspires your style? Most of my inspiration comes from the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s. Music is a huge inspiration for me. ... Personal style is a constant evolution, like the way that Madonna continues to re-create herself; we should follow suit. Experiment constantly. And let trends, and what looks good on your body, guide you to finding your own true style.
Does body type matter? Just because we like specific decades or trends, that doesn’t mean it looks good on us. I would love to wear over-the-knee boots and mini skirts, but I was born with a long torso, not long legs. Do I cry over it? Yes, but I’ll live. I can pull off amazing high-waisted jeans, so I’ll take them and be on my merry way.
Any trend you’re loving? My favorite trend is the ’90s grunge business that is going on right now. Alanis Morissette was playing on every station, and we all wanted to dress like Courtney Love. A slip dress, baby tee and beat-up Converse is my uniform of the moment. In the fall, throw a boyfriend-fit flannel over it and call it a day.
How do you feel about “ugly-hot” pieces? Wild-card items are my favorite. I just picked up an ’80s gold-and-silver sequin vest at Savers, at 50 percent off $8. I was like, “Yes please.” What to wear it with? Everything.
What’s a must-have item for autumn? A vintage leather jacket. Black, always black.
Local agency owners the Haddad sisters are changing the modeling game
Las Vegas famously has its own style. Here, a valet can earn more than an accountant, and autumn sometimes doesn’t happen until December. Different isn’t always better, though, according to Noelle and Natalie Haddad, owners of local modeling agency TNG. The sisters are looking to change the way Las Vegas models, mirroring major markets that have long lured away talent.
A company that counts Greenspun Media Group among its clients, TNG launched in 2008 when Noelle, then 22, returned from her modeling career in Chicago to care for her ailing father, an independent promoter who booked music acts for the Strip and sold product placements for big company events. “We got our first jobs because our father’s clients begged him to book us,” Noelle says through a grin, recalling a corny magazine shoot atop a Jeep when the sisters were teenagers.
The market’s limitations drove them to other cities. Natalie went to L.A. to develop as an actress and music booker, appearing on "CSI" and working for WME Entertainment. Noelle, who is 5-foot-6, “hustled” her way into Chicago's modeling scene, having built a portfolio herself. “I went to Chicago to become a Ford model,” she says, “realizing from an early age that you could only go so far as a model in Las Vegas.” She cites a lack of exclusive contracts and a culture that puts Frank Sinatra impersonators in the same bucket as runway models. “Most other agencies in town are one-stop shops that work like casting houses: ‘You want a showgirl, an Elvis, whatever, we got it.’ We wanted to focus on models, the best of the best,” Noelle says.
So after years of operating within the local industry norm, TNG went through a transformation in August to more of a model-management company, trimming its talent from 400 to about 100 models all signed to exclusive contracts. Natalie, who came onboard in 2012, explains some of the downsides she sees to multiple agencies listing the same talent: “Nonexclusive contracts mean agencies are working against each other here in a way that they don’t in other cities,” pushing down pay by booking out the same models at different rates and leaving them to develop their own portfolios and self-manage. Noelle considers it brand dilution. “You can get Jessica Simpson shoes anywhere at all different prices, but you can only buy Manolo Blahniks in certain places for one price.”
While exclusivity has the potential to limit bookings, model Alexia McKimmey points to the value of an agency's commitment under that kind of agreement — to ensure that models develop, get paid competitively and have opportunities to move forward.
“Since I signed I’ve met with three different agencies toward my goal of working in other high-end markets such as L.A., New York and Europe … TNG has been there to provide direction and stand up for me,” says McKimmey, who had bounced from agency to agency from the time she was 13, never feeling that mutual investment. “TNG is paving a real career path for us.”
TNG model Trey Richards, who has worked in other large markets, says "Las Vegas feels like a legitimate market for models now, whereas before I don’t think people took us seriously.”
The acronym stands for The New Generation, something the Haddads hope to build in Las Vegas.
“A lot of people call us sugar and spice,” Noelle says, “since Natalie is the networking queen who likes to kill people with kindness and I’m a little more iron-fisted.” And with that combo of heart and grit, they’re evolving TNG to help talent that starts here grow better here, even if it means a great model works his or her way out of Las Vegas. The sisters point to recent successes like Jessy Jaymes Law, now signed to Major Model Management in New York, and Sheyla Muniz, who’s with Ford L.A.
“We were models. So we know what it’s like to be the talent,” Natalie says. “That’s been the biggest asset in our growth as an agency.”
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TNG's track to a fashion career
Step 1: Get Discovered
Scouts are always on the lookout for people who stand out. For TNG, model scouts generally look for height, body symmetry, good skin and easy style that’s on-trend. Models signed with TNG are grouped in such categories as Fresh Faces (first-timers in development), Lifestyle (older talent with commercial appeal) and Runway (tall with striking walks). In 2017, the Haddads plan to build Curve and Plus divisions for models up to size 14. Industrywide, Noelle says, interest in models with natural curves has risen sharply.
If you want to get attention directly, submit specified materials however the agency instructs. The Haddads advise prospective TNG models to send unedited snaps from phone cameras rather than spend any money on professional portraits. “We’re always looking for natural, natural, natural beauty. ... We want to see the true raw essence,” Noelle says.
Instagram can get you noticed, too. If you hashtag “TNG” or “VegasModel” with a great shot of you, the sisters say there’s a chance they’ll pick up on it.
Step 2: Get Signed
Las Vegas agencies typically allow for talent to list with multiple outlets, which Natalie says may work better for those interested in modeling on the side. TNG just shifted to exclusive contracts, and she explains that “exclusivity doesn’t mean only working for us. It means working solely with us in the Las Vegas market, with the opportunity to be promoted to other major agencies in markets like New York, Los Angeles and abroad, should that be the model’s ultimate goal.” This can happen, provided the model has signed a “mother agency” contract, under which TNG develops you and receives a 10 percent commission once you’ve signed with an agency in one of those bigger markets.
Step 3: Build Your Portfolio
If you’re new to the business and right for the local market, Noelle says, “we hire the best photographers to shoot that model’s look, spending three to six months building their book and making sure they’re paid fairly for where they are in their career, whether in runway or promotional work.” If your look is suited to other markets and TNG is your mother agency, the Haddads will work to get you signed in those markets.
What’s the Vegas look? Natalie: “There’s a huge demand in the Vegas market for the commercial look — a little more relatable, beautiful, healthy, no fake lips, no over-the-top looks. ... Right now the Vegas look is both the commercial face and then the Victoria’s Secret, Sports Illustrated beauty fashion model.”
What’s in demand industrywide? Ethnic ambiguity, curves and sizes 2-6.
Step 4: Get Booked
Once you’re developed, TNG books you out for local clients and, when you’re ready, sends you on auditions in other big markets. “Guidance,” Natalie says, “is what we provide … the guidance we lacked when entering the market ourselves.” Advising models on such elements as wardrobe, hair color, fitness and the business of fashion, TNG also organizes personal monthly meetups with talent as well as group talks and classes on topics such as working with photographers and other industry professionals.
Step 5: Get Paid
What type of modeling job pays the best in Las Vegas? According to the Haddads, print campaigns for resorts. “In a lot of cases, there are ad campaigns that a model would shoot in Las Vegas and it’s half the price of what it would cost in Los Angeles,” Noelle says. “Part of our goal at TNG is to raise these prices for the talent and to get them paid fair prices for what they’re worth.” At the moment, TNG’s experienced models can make roughly $400 to $2,000 for a day of work, and new talent armed with portfolios might make $150 to $1,000.
Local designers to watch
If you’re a fashion enthusiast, buy local. Supporting homegrown designers is an important way to promote our identity as a fashionable city. So check out this roster of talent, and help get local trends trending by breaking out those hashtags.
Leather Couture, leathercouture.com
Jessica Galindo’s avant-garde handbags, cuffs, rings and neckware draw inspiration from luxury and contemporary arts. Aside from her showroom, she’ll have a shop in Downtown Summerlin from Oct. 22 through the holidays.
EM Creative, emcreativegroup.com
In addition to creating custom eveningwear, gowns and bridal looks, Ermelinda Manos manufactures apparel for private labels and uniform designers. And She’s prepping to open a fabric store with in-house tailors in 2017.
Vegas Couture, lasvegascouture.wixsite.com/vegascouture
Wanda Potter-Merritt’s love of old Hollywood glam shines through her sophisticated collections, with staple pieces that can be mixed and matched to add a punch of elegance to any occasion.
Dee Berkley Jewelry, deeberkleyjewelry.com
Berkley grew up in the family business and started her own label in 2000. From delicate earrings of gold and diamonds to understated men’s bracelets with sleek beads, she nails the balance of fashion and function.
Tatyana Boutique, tatyana.com
Tatyana Khomyakova has expanded her brand of retro dresses with shoes, purses and jeans nodding to fashion’s Golden Age. Her stores are now found nationwide, carrying looks that are nostalgic, confident and sexy.
Follow the fashion: Local blog Lollie Shopping is constantly updating with fun trends to try, fashion events to attend and all kinds of clothes to covet. Check out the colorful feed at lollieshopping.com.
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Want to get into the industry? From high school to trade school to workshops for all, here’s a sampling of fashion education in Las Vegas.
Southwest Career and Technical Academy, 7050 W. Shelbourne Ave., swcta.net
Blending the traditional high school experience with career prep for creative fields, Southwest CTA offers aspiring designers the chance to learn fundamentals, make their own lines and do live fashion showcases and internships with industry professionals — real-world action students typically don’t see until college. Graduates have won local competitions, and some have made their way to hotter fashion markets. The magnet school is a good place to test real interest in the industry and to learn the foundational skills to excel in it.
Art Institute of Las Vegas, 2350 Corporate Circle, artinstitutes.edu
Offering tracks in fashion marketing/management and design, the Art Institute stages graduations on the runway at Fashion Show mall and promotes student work outside its walls. From old-fashioned dress making to computer-generated sketching, AI encourages students to specialize within macro programs, maybe with an associate’s degree in apparel and accessory design. Whether you’re studying hemlines or consumer trends, it’s worth checking out the work of recent graduates on AI’s site for a greater sense of what could come from your higher-education investment.
Stitch Factory, 520 Fremont St., Suite 206, stitchfactory.com
Want to hit the MAGIC trade show with a pro or learn how to make a pair of pants from scratch? Stitch Factory’s à la carte approach includes workshops, a speaker series, online classes and programs for young designers (think fashion summer camp). But it’s more than a school: It’s a working brand incubator where creatives have worked on projects for big-name locals like the Life Is Beautiful festival and big-name nationals like duck-boot purveyor Sporto. Existing and new brands can seek Stitch’s help with market research and promotion, replacing the ad-agency model with something hands-on and more collaborative.
Fall cleaning? Monetize that closet!
Take a breath, march into the mess and make those three piles: Throw Away (stained or ripped beyond repair), Give Away (items you just don’t wear) and Keep (the staples you love). Once that’s done, you’ll find holes in your wardrobe that can be filled by shopping for gently used fashion. Because, according to the Council for Textile Recycling, our country generates 25 billion pounds of textiles every year — about 82 pounds per resident — and 85 percent ends up in landfills.
Earth is heaving under that load of laundry. Luckily, Las Vegas has a vibrant thrift scene offering Forever 21 and H&M as well as Gucci bags and Prada shoes. You can even make some cash to buy used treasures by consigning or outright selling your own castoffs.
Opportunity Village Thrift Store, 390 S. Decatur Blvd.: Offering secondhand items of the highest quality, OV uses the profits from donations to help locals with developmental disabilities.
Buffalo Exchange, 1209 S. Main St.: Buffalo buys back the best of all seasons and restocks “fresh clothes daily,” from new and used to vintage items and basics to leather bags and one-of-a-kind hats.
The Red Kat (inside Retro Vegas), 1131 S. Main St.: Objets d’art and midcentury modern furnishings are the perfect backdrop for trying on expertly curated vintage from the store within the store.
Exile on Main Street, 1235 S. Main St.: The place to get rocker-chic tees. Exile carries new, used and vintage luxury goods, contemporary necessities and denim. Lots of denim.
Closet Couture, 3650 S. Jones Blvd.: A high-end consignment trove carrying Hermès, Chanel and other coveted brands. Ask about borrowing or buying.