Catch a rising star

Young fashion designer Estrella Sevilla is a woman of surprises, from her fashion to her personal life. During Tucson Fashion Week you can expect yet another twist to her work. By Gillian Drummond. Cover sketches courtesy of Estrella Sevilla.

Photo by JJonesPhotography

Estrella's creations will be featured during the Project Runway event at Tucson Fashion Week. Photo by JJonesPhotography

Marilyn  Manson and The Backstreet Boys. Alexander McQueen and Valentino. Dead flowers and home-made cranberry cookies. These are a few of fashion designer Estrella Sevilla's favorite things.

Estrella Sevilla Photo by Danni Valdez_0216

Estrella Sevilla. Photo by Danni Valdez.

She's a young woman of opposites, and of surprises. The purple-haired, purple-lipsticked, mostly black-clad woman stands 6 feet and 2 inches tall and drives a vintage red convertible Mustang. She's also soft-spoken, polite, and eager for us to try her grandmother's home-made (and most excellent) cookies.

One minute she's talking about her piano-playing days, and her love of classical music. Then she visibly melts as she describes meeting her all-time music and style hero, Marilyn Manson. She gave him a dead flower. She is really into dead roses (there's a vase of them on a table in her hallway). But wait... now she's all about The Backstreet Boys, and boy bands in general, and Katy Perry. She says she loves "plastic pop". And then she veers off in another musical direction, talking about the classic rock her parents played when she was growing up, and that she still loves - The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin.

Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

At college, this former engineering student excelled at draping and construction. Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

And then there are her fashion designs. When this writer first came across Estrella, during last year's Tucson Fashion Week, she was at the Tucson Museum of Art putting on a playful, fairytale-like vignette, the models in sheer and white and tulle, sucking on giant lollipops. This year she's changing it up completely, with a collection that will be black and white and simple and gothic.

But, more importantly, her clothes will be taking to Tucson Fashion Week's runway. That Estrella  would be asked to be a runway designer, just out of college, speaks volumes about the faith TFW's organizers have in her ability, not to mention her potential.

Photo by JJonesPhotography

Photo by JJonesPhotography

"Estrella’s unique approach to design and her technical skills make her the perfect fit for Tucson Fashion Week," explains Tucson Fashion Week co-organizer Paula Taylor. Paula describes her as "one of those distinct designers whose growth we look forward to watching."

Estrella (her friends call her Ella) grew up in Sinaloa, Mexico, moving to Monterrey for high school. When she was 15, her parents moved to Mexico City for work. They gave their daughters a choice of moving with them or living together and continuing high school. They chose the latter, and Estrella continued her high school courses in engineering.

Again, the dichotomy. She was an over-achieving and by all accounts conservative kid - someone who looked set to follow in the steps of her civil engineer father. At the same time, she had always indulged an artistic side with summer painting classes and piano instruction. Estrella says she has always been fashion-interested and fashion conscious, and that her teenage years saw her going through punk and Emo stages and periods of dying her hair purple and blue. But rebellion? Never. "After my parents moved to Mexico City, I wanted to keep my parents' trust and that's how it's been since then," she says.

Image courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

Estrella's fashion influences range from McQueen to Valentino. Image courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

Her college education began as planned. She studied aerospace engineering at the University of Arizona but lasted just one year. She was attending fashion shows and running her own fashion blog, posting her outfits of the day. Fashion, she realized, was her true calling.

With her parents' blessing, she inquired about transferring to art college. But first, on their insistance, she took a summer course in fashion design at Central St. Martins College in London. She was hooked. Soon after, she transferred to the Art Institute of Tucson, where she stood out. "She excelled in draping and construction and understanding the importance of having a strong theme and concept to her collections, " says Paula Taylor, who was one of her instructors at the Art Institute.

Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

Estrella's first art college creation, with a bodice made out of duct tape. Photo by Gillian Drummond.

Although fashion design seems like a huge departure for the kid who shone at physics and calculus in high school, Estrella sees parallels. "You have the final product in your mind . You have to figure out how it's going to be constructed. I think [engineering] did help me a lot," she says. It's probably no coincidence that this engineer-in-the-making chose duct tape as the primary material for the first real outfit she created at art college - part of a show they did for Halloween.

For someone with a definite dark side to her personal style and her fashion, it's not a surprise to learn that Halloween is one of her favorite holidays. Last year, she and her sister Maria posed as the twins from The Shining for an Art Institute of Tucson Halloween TV show. They stood holding hands, staring, unspeaking - freaking out other participants.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Estrella's work station. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

Her design aesthetic has been described as "minimalism with a twist". Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

In the eastside Tucson home she shares with Maria - a house that belongs to their parents - Estrella has created a corner studio in the dining room. Here, on a commercial Brother sewing machine and with a mood board hanging on the wall, she is producing pieces that challenge the status quo.

For example, she loves focusing on the back of a garment - perhaps because not many other people do. "Most garments focus on the front, and for a woman it's because of the chest," she says. With a number of Estrella's pieces, you'll find extra back detail, such as a cut-out of material or a back corset.

Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

With a  number of Estrella's pieces you'll find extra back detail (here and on corset below). Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

Says Elizabeth Denneau, owner of the Tucson-based line Candystrike, where Estrella interned: "She's a very humble individual - understated and quiet. She's got a sweet nature to her and she's very inquisitive. There's no ego there. Then she'll do something and you'll be amazed. She's just a really exciting young girl to know."

Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

Photo courtesy of Estrella Sevilla

Elizabeth adds: "I feel like her design aesthetic is minimalism but also with kind of a twist to it. It reminds me of New Goth. She has really clean lines, she has her own unique style. She's ridiculously talented. You will see her in department stores."

Estrella's fashion inspirations are as varied as her other tastes. Top of her list is Alexander McQueen, known for using shock tactics in his creations and his shows. Others include California goth-inspired designer Rick Owens, Brits Gareth Pugh and Stella McCartney, and Valentino, for his "simplicity and elegance".

In the summer Estrella, who graduated two weeks ago, returned to Central St. Martins and to what was once Alexander McQueen's domain, for a 10-week course in innovative pattern cutting. It was intense, but very instructive.

"I realize I know more than I think I know," says Estrella modestly. Her followers and supporters would agree.

* See Estrella and Candy-Strike at the Project Runway Showcase, Saturday October 18th at Fox Tucson Theatre.

* Visit Estrella's website at

Estrella Sevilla Photo by Danni Valdez

Estrella in her vintage Ford Mustang. Photo by Danni Valdez




A Story of a Coat

When this coat makes its appearance at Tucson Fashion Week, it will bring an unusual fashion story full circle. By Gillian Drummond. Cover photo courtesy of Project Runway/myLifetime.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

It started with an unusual challenge on Season Five of Project Runway. The fashion designer contestants had to make an outfit out of the spare parts of a Saturn hybrid car. They were let loose in some Saturns, given four minutes to collect parts, and a day to complete their outfits.

Contestant Korto Momolu realized pretty quickly that the champagne-colored seatbelts would give her something stand-out, if a little demanding, to work with. She set about not only pulling all the seatbelts she could, but bartering with the other designers for theirs.

Photo courtesy of Korto Momolu

Then came the construction of the piece. She would weave the belts together and sew the edges for the body of a coat, breaking a commercial sewing machine in the process and busting up her hands badly. The sleeves were seatbelt lengths set horizontally, the ends sewn together.

The seatbelts were not just thick, they were each about 3/4 of a yard long. Added to that, they are made up of strong nylon, so they can be durable and waterproof. Cut the material and you get a very prickly edge, like lots of ends of a fishing line. Korto (pronounced "cut-toe") had to make sure the edges were sewn up so the garment didn't actually hurt. Nevertheless, the model got poked, says Korto. "I had to put tissue under her armpits."

The weight of the coat was 35 pounds. The impact the design had was even bigger. The champagne color of the belts made them shimmer under the Project Runway lights. Guest judge Rachel Zoe said she wanted to buy it. Sitting watching the show in her Tucson home, model and radio personality Camerone Parker said the same thing: "I gotta have that coat." Meantime Korto, not wanting her hard work to end up in anyone else's hands, had lined up some friends to bid for it as well when the coat was auctioned on Project Runway's website.. "That piece really showed who I was, how I could take [and work with] something that's so simple like a seatbelt," explains Korto, who has deep affection for the piece.

The coat fetched $1000 at the auction. The winner? Camerone Parker.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

And that should have been that. Except Camerone, a fan of the series since the beginning, couldn't forget that episode, and Korto couldn't forget the coat. "I was looking for it for some years. I figured whomever had it would find me," says Korto. Camerone did, during El Paseo Fashion Week 2013 in Palm Desert. Korto was a participating designer and Camerone made up her mind to go, and to wear the coat.

Photo by???

Camerone knew it would spark interest. The now infamous seatbelt coat has been deemed one of Project Runway's top five iconic pieces, she says: "People know this coat even if they're not regular watchers of the show." Still, even Camerone was surprised at El Paseo Fashion Week. "I had no idea the response I was going to get. It started the minute I got out the car," she says.

And it ended with Camerone meeting Korto, and the fashion show paparazzi going wild. "She really wore it. She was a show stopper," says Korto, who signed the inside of the coat with a Sharpie. "Thanks so much for letting me see my love again," she wrote, and she and Camerone remained in touch.

Korto didn't win that round of Project Runway, although she went on to be Season Five's first runner-up. And since the show, her brand has taken off. A native of Liberia, she moved to Canada in 1990 following the previous year's Liberia coup. She studied in Ottowa and at New York City's Parsons School of Design. She now lives in Arkansas with her husband, who left the military to open a barber shop.

Photo by???

After some high-profile exposure for her brand, including a line in Dillard's, Korto has repositioned herself and her designs. She admits a lot of it has to do with the fact that she is a new mother, also that she is almost 40. Right now she is concentrating on her online retail store and a new 2015 collection that, she says, "starts from scratch."

"I felt like I was selling myself out," Korto says of doing the department store chains. Her new collection is called Rebirth and uses golds, bronzes, beiges and pops of orange. "It's soft and soothing,  a fresh start, like a new baby," she says.

Photo by???

Visitors to Tucson Fashion Week will see the new collection as Korto and Camerone reunite at the Project Runway Showcase at the Fox Theatre.  Korto's work and  the work of fellow Runway designers Bert Keeter, Daniel Esquivel, Mila Hermanovski and Peach Carr will be showcased. Hosting the show will be Camerone Parker wearing - you guessed it - that coat.

Wearing it isn't easy. The coat weighs 35 pounds. Camerone wears just a silk shift under the coat and never takes the coat off. It's also unlined, still raw just as Korto created it. Camerone attached a large strip of bandage to the inside of the neck so it wouldn't rub.

But the garment has a following all of its own. Every time Camerone tweets a photo of her in the coat there is mass retweeting.

"It's like I'm following this coat," laughs Korto of meeting up with her creation again in Tucson. Camerone may have to watch out. Says Korto: "I might steal it from her when she's not looking."

But actually she needn't worry. Camerone says the coat and Korto are already conjoined. "I made a promise to Korto that if something happened to me, the coat will go back to her."

* See Camerone, Korto and other Project Runway designers at the Project Runway Showcase, October 18th at Fox Tucson Theatre. Tickets and more info here.  

* Find more of Korto's work at



There's something about Katy

Katy Gierlach is not your average model, and the fashion and photography worlds love her for it. By Mari Herreras. Cover photo by Danni Valdez of Shutter2Think Photography.

Liora K Photography

Katy Gierlach... or is it katy awful? Photo by Liora K Photography

Looking at the dozens of photographs on katy awful’s Facebook page, it’s hard to figure out what’s so awful about those eyes looking back - even when the Tucson model is playing the role of desert cowgirl pin-up queen, a tough chick from a John Waters movie, or an ethereal pink-haired star child.


Katy strikes a fun pose in the desert. Photo by Eric Kroll. ©erickroll/

This is 31-year-old Katy Gierlach’s professional page, featuring projects she’s been involved in over the years and photos of the latest shoots she’s done. katy awful (lower case, if you please) is her model name, she explains, something that’s stuck from her past - a boyfriend used Awful as his last name and she decided to borrow the moniker.

Maybe the joke is on us, because once you know Katy, even after an hour’s interview, it’s hard to understand what could ever be awful about her. But it's as simple as this: having the separate identity of katy awful helps keep her worlds separate.

“Right now it works for my dad, so he doesn’t have to see things he doesn’t want to,” she says, smiling wide over coffee at Tucson's Café Passe on Fourth Avenue, quickly adding that her father (known to Tucson radio listeners as KXCI’s Growing Native host Petey Mesquitey), is fully supportive.

That model name is also great for Katy, who seems to create dynamic characters in almost every project she takes on. And probably the only reason it makes anyone think twice is that Katy is completely opposite to what anyone expects from someone who gets into the modeling business.

That's why CandyStrike’s Elizabeth Denneau says she continues to work with Katy and considers her a dear friend and a creative co-conspirator. The Tucson-based fashion designer has used Katy in shows and photo shoots for almost a decade. “In this industry a lot of models think it is cool to be bitchy and will act superficial and mean. It’s what a lot of them see on TV and think it’s what models are supposed to be. Katy has zero of this trait. She’s a joy to work with and she’s willing to do anything. I mean she even put an octopus on her head, c’mon,” Elizabeth says, referring to a video Katy did with Tucson photographer Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli for Glitter Ball 2014.

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez

Katy was covered in gold from head to toe with boyfriend Jared McKinley, a popular Tucson events producer and associate publisher of Edible Baja Arizona magazine. In the video, Katy as Andromeda Katz and Jared as Kitty Quasar are flying through space to visit Tucson in search of tasty hair. While Katy is sticking her head out the window to feel the intergalactic breeze, an octopus lands on her face and eventually the window of their space vehicle.

Obviously Katy is game for anything, which may explain why she’s in demand, not just with Elizabeth but with other designers, photographers and creatives in Tucson. Says Dominic, a guy with photography gigs across the world featuring a fair amount of celebrities: “Katy is one of my favorite models of all time, in any solar system, ever. She’s of course this striking supermodel that cuts a swath of stares strolling down the street, but that’s not why. It’s that she can do über glam or über ludicrous in the same heartbeat. She can do anything. I’ve shot her as a gorgeous Alice in Wonderland, as a nine foot golden alien, as a 75-year-old man and as a Russian male bodyguard from the 1800s,” he says.

Katy filming for the Glitter Ball promo. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

It’s the range she takes on that impresses him most  -  something that makes her not just a model but a brilliant actress, taking on haute couture or slapstick comedy in the same breath. “Every project we’ve tag-teamed, every one, has been pure joy cause she just makes every occasion silly and brilliant,” Dominic says. “For the Glitter Ball movie, we picked up a frozen pulpo at a Mexican seafood store and then flung the octopus, who we named Stinky, at Katy’s face five to eight times until the shot was just right. No one else would endure such torture for something so ludicrous yet so important  - and stinky.”

Elizabeth of CandyStrike says this work ethic is something she rarely sees with other models. “If you have this crazy idea for a shoot, or if it’s rainy and 6 a.m., she will be there,” she says. The designer adds: “Not only is she gorgeous, but she’s gorgeous strange, too. She’s like a beautiful alien.” Those looks have attracted modeling scouts “but she’s not charmed by all of that and is just more interested in the creative process,” says Elizabeth.

The fashion designer and model reunite during Tucson Fashion Week on Saturday, October 18, at the Project Runway Showcase and Project Arizona at the Fox Tucson Theatre. Inspired by the Project Runway TV series, the event will also feature an installation by Elizabeth in the lobby of the theater, with Katy among the models.

Katy says the love between model and designer is mutual, and she became part of CandyStrike at a time when she wondered if she could continue modeling or even wanted to continue living in Tucson.

Courtesy of CandyStrike

Katy modeling CandyStrike's Ghost Girl collection. CandyStrike will have an installation at Tucson Fashion Week. Photo by Ken Penner and Deirdre Flannery.

Her interest in modeling began in her teens. She was tall (she stands at 6 feet 2) but not athletic, and modeling seemed like a good fit. She left for New York City where her photographer brother lived. When she wasn’t modeling, she worked for her brother as his assistant, and helped her sister-in-law, who worked as stylist. “It is harsh and I’m glad I didn’t get into it at that point because I wouldn’t have been mentally prepared to handle it,” she says of her time there.

Katy grew up in northwest Tucson, but the family moved out to rural Cochise County when she was 12 years old. While she appreciates the desert and rural upbringing now, at the time it felt like they were in the middle of nowhere. At 17 she was in a major car accident and at one point doctors thought she’d have to lose her left arm. She had to deal with dozens of painful surgeries.

Today that arm is covered in a half-sleeve tattoo - not to cover any scars, but to celebrate luck. The tattoos are by legendary rapper and tattoo artist Isiah Toothtaker. In the center is Lady Luck surrounded by a bunch of other symbols of luck. “It’s a reminder of things that I’ve lived through and that I am lucky,” she says.

After the accident and all those surgeries, Katy found it difficult to hold down a job. She ended up staying with her parents, and wanted to stay in Tucson "because it was where my surgeon was and I was a little afraid to leave.”

She did continue to travel back and forth to New York. Then, at age 20, started working in Tucson doing modeling jobs for the store Hydra. It was the confidence booster she needed at the time. Soon after, Lauren Baker from Razorz Edge asked her to model for her, and that’s when she met Elizabeth Denneau.

At Café Passe, Katy is dressed in her usual casual attire - rolled up jeans, and a tank top showing the tattoos she has on both arms. A stripped headband pulls her short hair back, and her trademark nose ring is in place. She looks at ease. There’s no way anyone would dare call her pretentious, or  hipster or, for that matter, awful.

Fashion was never really part of her personal identity, she says. “I always sort of did my own thing, because I kind of had to. My clothes didn’t really fit because I was so tall. I had to make do with things. At [a young] age it was really awkward. I grew really fast and all of a sudden I had a lot of limbs to take care of,” she says, laughing. “I wasn’t as much into fashion as I was into modeling. Kate Moss was someone I admired. Looking at the clothes, sure it was fun to think about how great it would be wear some giant dress, but it was about something else.”

Katy discovered that modeling, and the clothes, were about being able to become someone else entirely. As a teenager she was shy and always quiet, but it was a special conversation with her father that made her realize she could  be an introvert, but still engage the world as a model. “I remember when my dad told me while I was in high school that he’s a naturally shy person.” She didn’t believe him; after all, he often spoke in front of large crowds. “But then it clicked. I realized you don’t have to be an extrovert to do stuff like that and it made pretending to be somebody else OK and easy,” she says.


Photo by Eric Kroll. ©erickroll/

She is also thankful for staying in Tucson, and for the friendships and connections she has made through modeling. Through CandyStrike, Katy met blogger and body positive activist Jes Baker, aka The Militant Baker. Their friendship has grown and allowed Katy to explore her own body issues as well as be part of Jes's first annual Body Love conference earlier this year.

Another important friendship is with Tucson photographer Liora Dudar, who has also struck a worldwide nerve with her feminist projects.  Katy has worked with Liora on some of them. “I feel lucky and blessed that I’ve ended up with these friends,” Katy says. “Jes is an inspiring person. Liora and I share a lot of the same feminist ideals and she expresses those in ways that I don’t know how to through her photography. Luckily I get to be part of that.”


Photo by Eric Kroll. ©erickroll/

Katy says her friendship with Jes allowed her to better understand the difficulty she had with her own body and how people looked at her. People have assumed that being tall and skinny means she should be on top of the world, but it's not always so, says Katy. "I’ve basically had a lot of trouble dressing for my body shape. When people say, ‘You’re beautiful,’ it doesn’t translate. That’s why what Jes is doing is important. She’s brave. I’ve struggled as a skinny person wanting to do that same sort of empowerment but feeling like I can’t because it is so idealized. So I really support what she’s doing and look forward to it become bigger than it is.”

Part of the fun of working with designers like Elizabeth is that they appreciate Katy for who she is. she says. And it has made Katy appreciate the fact that she didn’t go into high fashion modeling.  “I was told ‘You’re going to have to stop dying your hair,’ and no piercing. I didn’t have tattoos at that point, but I knew that I had to express myself. I knew that that wasn’t me,” says Katy.

When asked to describe the Saturday installation at the Tucson Fashion Week event, Katy loyally declines to provide details. But Elizabeth dishes. There will be one-off gowns, jewels and, um, gas masks. It’s a post-apocalyptic cocktail party, says Elizabeth. “It’s an artist’s vision of the future and I think it will be a lot of fun - depending on your sense of humor,” says the designer. Elizabeth, who happens to be the original founder of Tucson Fashion Week, has  been pulling all-nighters keeping up with her online sales, as well as working on a private label for Zappos and possibly expanding to a wholesale market.

As for Katy, her own creative energies recently took her in another direction too. She now works at Edible Baja Arizona as account manager. Part of the food magazine experience means she and boyfriend Jared travel to many parts of the region promoting the publication. For Katy it's like closing a circle that began with the life she had with her parents in Cochise County. "I’m seeing those parts again,” she says. “It’s reconnecting me with Arizona.”

* See Katy Gierlach and CandyStrike at Tucson Fashion Week's Project Runway Showcase at Fox Tucson Theatre, 6pm on October 18th. For more on Tucson Fashion Week, click here.


Square Feet

 brought to you by


We're as nosy as the next person about the insides of people's homes. That's why we bring you a great property pick each issue. In this Fashion Issue home tour, we visit with Paula Taylor, co-owner and creative director of Tucson Fashion Week, and her artist husband Clif Taylor.  Story and photos by Rachel Miller. 


One step inside Paula and Clif Taylor’s Tucson home and it is clear this is a place where people gather to laugh, to hatch grand plans, and to realize dreams.  It is at once comfortable and dynamic - not an easy pairing to achieve.


Mannequins provide a fashionable feature

A mix of emerging local and international artists’ work adorn the walls; mannequins stand ready to act as backdrop to a reading or performance; and the flow of the home and of the fixtures and furniture invites relaxation. Paula, a fashion events producer, educator, stylist and author - also one of the directors of Tucson Fashion Week -  has, along with husband Clif, created an environment ready to coax the shyest poet into reciting their latest work, or to host a boisterous family gathering.

This Catalina Foothills home has white and light pink walls in the living and dining room that dazzle. If those walls weren’t so thick you’d imagine the Pacific beyond the French doors. But there is a distinct Mediterranean feel. You might just open those doors and look out on cliffs and sea. Instead, beyond those doors it’s a cool pool and stunning mountain views.

About the home: The house was the first in the neighborhood. Deeded in 1967, it sits on the edge of 40 acres that belongs to a neighbor. SqFtPaulaTaylor3

Describe your style: "Our style started out as more mid-century, but we have personally evolved. We see our home as a place to curate art, whether it is a piece that Clif builds, or a piece we find, or a major designer piece. Era is not as important as placement and feel. How it works within the construct of the house and it’s environment. We have pieces from the 50’s and the 80’s. It still works if it’s in the right place."

Clif: “I like the old art nouveau, disco deco, Peter Max posters. "Paula: “If it was just me it would be just one Barcelona chair in the room, but the two of us, we’re combining our two styles. Clif is a collector, I’m very much about clean lines. We collaborate.”

Your fave thing about your home: Paula: “All the memories we have in this house. We’ve lived here for 11 years. We love the wall space to curate art pieces for fun parties we have. We love having our friends and families over. The living room is my favorite room in the house. This is the one room that is done and finished. ” sqftpaulataylor10

Biggest splurge: "The restaurant-sized kitchen faucet. I’d just redone the kitchen. It’s ridiculously priced, but we love it."

Best bargain: "The two chandeliers in the kitchen and the living room were great bargains.  We kept going back to Palm Springs and they weren’t selling and finally we got them and packed them back to Tucson."

My DIY Moment: "We did the tile panel in the kitchen together. That was fun."

Favorite Resources: Paula: “My husband. We love to go hunting in salvage yards, and thrift shops, mostly out-of-town. I’ll find an idea that I like and I’ll ask Clif to make it. Ten times out of ten he can create it and he’ll make it better." Hamilton photos and Letterman meet Mannequin

Tucson treasures: "Friends who are artists have given us art as gifts: Olivier Mosset, Erik Kroll, Scott Benzell, Steve Parrino. Many thrift stores in Tucson have funky items we have fallen in love with too."

Take-away lesson: Be brave. Your tastes don't need to be static. Evolve and be courageous enough to experiment with feel and placement without being rigid to an era. The 1980’s chandelier in the foyer with its tinted glass is something many of us might walk away from if we saw it uninstalled outside this environment, but in Paula and Clif's entrance-way it is nothing short of magnificent.

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Are you digging these digs?

Get the look locally:

  • At the heart of Paula and Clif's home is a passion for art. Whether they are major or minor players, these artists' work is  sometimes personal, often provocative, and not always displayed how you would imagine. (Check out the slideshow image of Clif with model Kate Moss in a dune buggy, unframed.) Find what you love at galleries, in thrift stores (the David Hamilton photos from the 1980s were a find). Check out local up-and-coming artists. Find something that captures your heart and invest in the art.
  • Gerson's Building Materials is a favorite for Clif and Paula. Follow their lead and use salvaged pieces to create pieces. The narrow bar that Clif created makes use of reclaimed materials.
  • Copenhagen carries chairs that are reminiscent of the Barcelona chairs Paula has here.

And try these lookalikes we found (contains Amazon Affiliates):

From left to right: Barcelona Style Modern Pavilion Chair, $628 from Leisure Mod on Amazon; Modway Criss Cross Oval Glass Top Coffee Table, $176.99 from; Female half torso Mannequin, $18 from Amazon  

* 3 Story Magazine is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Tucson Fashion Week!


Another four days of fashion-forward fun is here. This year's Tucson Fashion Week includes some big names and some super-big talents, both locally and nationally - from Project Runway stars to notable University of Arizona alums. And we're giving away tickets for each night! Here's the lowdown:

What: Mercedes-Benz Tucson Fashion Week

When: October 16th to 18th.

Where: Venues around Tucson.

1. Launch Party, Designer Competition and Presentation

Architect Nathan Lee Colkitt, a UA alumnus, will judge a Designer Competition. Each fashion designer will be given an architectural structure created by his company, Colkitt & Co, and will create a garment inspired by the architecture. A fashion installation and presentation by national vintage and secondhand clothing boutique Buffalo Exchange will add to the fun. Downtown restaurants Proper and Diablo Burger will provide the food.

When: Thursday, October 16, 5:30 - 9pm

Where: Connect Coworking, 33 South 5th Ave

Cost: VIP single $65; general admission: $35; student or standing room $15.  Tickets here.

2. The Garden Party at Tucson Botanical Gardens


David Zyla. Photo courtesy of Tucson Fashion Week.

Another great party! Emmy award-winning stylist and author David Zyla will host The Color Story, an interactive fashion show. Joey Rodolfo, senior VP of Tommy Bahama Men’s Design and another UA Alum, will be featured with a retrospective collection of his life’s work, and special award presentation. The Hidden Garden fashion show will feature local and regional designers and unique fashion exhibits. Food provided by Blu: A Wine & Cheese Stop, Prep & Pastry, and Kingfisher.

When: Friday, October 17, 5:30 – 9:30pm

Where: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way.

Cost: VIP single $100; general admission: $35; student or standing room $15. Tickets here.

3. Project Runway Showcase and Project Arizona at the Fox Theater

Another high-energy evening that opens with a spectacular costume collection from former Chair of the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Al Tucci. The evening will showcase Project Arizona, inspired by the TV series Project Runway and featuring three emerging designers, including Estrella Sevilla.  A dramatic fashion presentation from Tucson Fashion Week Founder, Elizabeth Denneau and her collection CandyStrike will be staged in the lobby of the theatre (more on that in this issue). TFW closes with a Project Runway Showcase featuring collections and appearances by five Project Runway and Project Runway All Stars designers. Agustin Kitchen, Acacia Real Food & Cocktails, and Penca will provide food.

When: Saturday, October 18, 6 –9pm

Where: Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.

Cost: VIP single $100; love seat $60. Tickets here.


A scene from last year's Tucson Fashion Week Runway. Photo by Gillian Drummond.

Win tickets now!

For the second year running, 3 Story Magazine is a proud sponsor of Tucson Fashion Week - and we have a pair of tickets to give away for each night! We'll be drawing the names from our subscriber list on Monday October 13th. Good luck! 

Pleased to Meet You

Architect Nathan Colkitt, a UA alum who will return to Tucson as part of Tucson Fashion Week, talks empathetic design, the evolution of men’s fashion and his eternal optimism. By Joan Calcagno.


Nathan Colkitt, who will be part of Tucson Fashion Week.

Early bird or night owl? “You know, I love the morning and I think I’m an early bird, but I definitely enjoy staying up too. I work the best at night and am the most creative at night but there’s nothing like the morning and the sun coming up. That’s a really special time and I enjoy that. I enjoy personal time in the morning and at night I enjoy socializing, being creative, going out and being around people. But the morning is definitely for me. It’s like a special communion with the day.”


The Cartel Coffee Lab in Phoenix, one of Colkitt & Co's designs. Photo by Cheryl Ramsay.

Favorite accessory? “I really love cufflinks. I think those are a really fun accessory. Right now I’m into stuff from the 1920s and 30s and so I’ve been collecting gold cufflinks. I’ve got some very cool ones that I’m really happy with. They’re really special and delicate. Jewelry, especially men’s jewelry, has become so chunky – it’s become so big, which is cool and I can appreciate that, but men’s cufflinks used to be so elegant and nice and not overdone. I like wearing them with a contemporary shirt that’s cut very classical.”

Favorite faux pas? “I have a lot of unfavorite ones. Favorite faux pas? That’s so tough. But if you take it back to design, I really think great design is all about empathy. The greatest designers have to have the utmost empathy for the client’s situation to be able to truly understand what somebody wants. So it really bothers me when there is a void and people don’t really try to understand. It makes it really hard when you don’t connect."


One of Colkitt & Co's residential designs. Photo by Jim Bartsch and Cheryl Ramsay.

Who is your dream customer? “I like to say that I don’t really have one. I try to be in the moment as much as possible. I like to approach design as though I’m six years old and have never experienced this before. So when I meet any person that is a potential client, I love that experience of meeting them for the first time. I feel every client is better and better. So I try not to have a favorite or expectations. For me, that’s worked out really well in the sense that our next customer, our next project, always is the best one.”

If I weren’t an architect I would… “Be on ‘permacation’ - permanently on vacation. Any kind of down, beach-time I can get. I definitely opt for that. I try to visit friends and family all over the place. You have to make time for that. I would literally go insane if I didn’t take time off once-in-a-while.”

If I could change one thing I would… “I’m very idealistic and sometimes, you know, your greatest strength is your biggest weakness in life. I’m so optimistic that sometimes it’s hard to get grounded and back to reality because you over-estimate how wonderful and easy life is. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to relate to people more and not think everything is so wonderful.”

nathcolkitt2 What or who are you seen wearing the most? “I usually dress pretty casually and try to fit in most days. But I do like dressing up probably more than the average person. My favorite thing to wear is men’s fashion from the 1930s. There were so many different options and styles, but there was a lot of restraint. It was a really interesting time. Similar to the 70s in the sense that anytime you see a really bad economy, you see everything under the sun, and yet there is a lot of conservatism at some level. Wide lapels and generous proportions came back in the 70s, inspired partially by the 30s. It was one of the best times for men’s fashion.”

*As part of Tucson Fashion Week’s Launch Party, Nathan will judge the Designer Competition where each fashion designer will create a garment inspired by a Colkitt & Co architecture structure. Thursday October 16th at Connect Coworking, 33 South 5th Ave. Tickets available here.

*Find out more about Nathan and his San Diego and New York-based firm Colkitt & Co. at


My Space

Sarah Tyler has wanted to cut and style hair since she was five years old. "I was braiding my dolls' hair, cutting Barbies' hair. They got real ugly, these Barbie dolls," she laughs. This year she took over as owner of The Hive Hair Studio, located in Tucson's Hotel Congress and known for its retro hair styling.

In this 3 Story short, Sarah explains why her space not only transforms her clients, but has transformed her.  Interview and photos by Gillian Drummond. Video by Ricardo Bracamonte. Model: Veronica Stice.


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Ground Floor

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 Clockwise from top left: Vertical planter from City Planter; Modern Raw concrete benchModern Muskoka concrete chair; Modern Cube plant pot.

 Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: how to spot a mid-century yard.  Plus (above): cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Mod-scaped gardens surrounding 1950’s and '60s homes are dotted throughout the west, and Tucson has a few time capsules not to be missed, some of them in their untouched, over-grown glory. Here's the low-down on the mid-century yard, and how to spot one:

1. Inside/outside living: The gardens of atomic times were inspired by architectural styles that flowed inside to out. Material continuity, unobstructed views, geometric lines, shifts in elevation, and a connection to the outdoors were aesthetically essential. What was once a fireplace hearth on the interior projected straight out onto the patio and terminated as a planter box.

The architecture, built in planters, plant cut outs, and historical plants.

The architecture, built in planters, plant cut outs, and historical plants.  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

A hedge wall and pom pom's lead to the front door.

A hedge wall and pom poms lead to the front door.  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

2. Plants as architecture: Plants propelled architectural elements into the garden, forming living walls or partitions. An evergreen shrub was meticulously sculpted and maintained as a voluminous, boxy hedge for suggested privacy, while a large specimen plant made a statement, or became a landmark. Plants were sculpted into pom poms or plates, creating a visual interplay of mass and void and visually dictated direction or movement within the space.

3. Gardens were for the people: The Atomic times called for outdoor spaces that were comfortable and accommodated the average American family living in suburbia. Form and function were integral. Hardscapes consisted of concrete, exposed aggregate or stone arranged in organic and/or angular geometric patters. Coupled with plants, their placement and form directed movement within the space, and established a scale that spoke to the comfort level of both children and adults.

Exposed aggregate pavers are staggered to reflect the angles of the architecture, lead to the front door, and allow for edge plantings.

Exposed aggregate pavers are staggered to reflect the angles of the architecture, lead to the front door, and allow for edge plantings.  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

 4. A limited plant palette: A typical mid-century landscape would be comprised of a few different plant species. In Tucson, trees such as Eucalyptus, Bottlebrush, Cyprus, Pines, Palms, African Sumac, and citrus created the classic vertical forms. Mock Orange, Pineapple Guava, Privet, Xylosma, Heavenly Bamboo, Natal Plum and Myrtle were planted in masses and sculpted into varying heights and shapes as architectural compliments.

Remnants of vintage midcentury landscapes can be spotted across Tucson. Here are a few more of our favorites:

Get the mid-century look now:

Don’t be a purist Many of the historical plants listed above are hardy and have adapted to our harsh climate – some like us too much (ahem, African Sumac) – and some require way too much water to look like they “like” where they live. So use naturally sophisticated natives.  Many of our natives are simply sleek and allude to the vintage aesthetic.

  • These sculptural plants create a vertical element in a Mid-Mod way.  Don't block the arches!

    These sculptural plants create a vertical element in a Mid-Mod way. Don't block the arches!  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

    Round or Sculpted:  Use a Desert Spoon or one of our native barrel cacti.

  • Specimen or Allee:  Plant a Native Mesquite.  Its lovely canopy looks stunning in an allee or as a multi-trunked specimen.
  • Vertical Element:  Ocotillo and Mexican Fence post can offer a dramatic vertical element, while aloe and agave species can create a sculpted effect, or become the landmark.

The hedge  Similar to the social norms of the 1960’s, our local shrubs allude to a more hedonistic lifestyle.  With the aid of power tools, Creosote, Little Leaf Cordia, and Leucophyllum species can be coaxed into a more streamlined shape or simulated structure.  (Hedging any of these plants can be quite humiliating - to the plant - and I would never recommend it outside of this forum).



Aloysia gratissima Darbi's Plant of the Month: Aloysia gratissima, or Fragrant Bee Brush
Bee Brush smells divine and the flowers are adorable. A rough and tough plant has tiny leaves while one well watered has slightly larger ones. Place in a location where it's easy to get your nose near the flowers!
* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.