By Ian Taylor
New York. Milan. London. Paris. These are perhaps the most important locations in all of fashion. Each city is a renowned cultural hub with a reputation for massive influence on the world of fashion, with all four cities most notably earning the nickname of the “Big Four” due to their high-profile fashion weeks. While fashion week is not exclusive to these iconic cities, they serve as a widely-recognized standard to strive toward for all other fashion weeks.
That call to action has been answered by the Arizona cities of Phoenix and Tempe. As the fastest growing city in the United States, according to AZ Big Media, Phoenix is fertile ground for the budding cultural revolution that so many of its creative citizens are striving for. Tempe, with Arizona State University’s main campus, also features its fair share of young and passionate minds intent on establishing Arizona as the world’s next fashion capital.
One key contributor to Arizona’s fashion evolution is Luxe and City, a creative agency based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Luxe and City is a prominent player in the Arizona fashion scene, involved in every event from Tempe Fashion Week to downtown Phoenix’s monthly First Friday event. The organization puts a twist on the latter event, hosting a variety of business advertisement booths at Golden Margarita, a downtown bar, with an event they’ve dubbed “Fashion Friday.” This event features the aforementioned businesses as well as a mini fashion show complete with a runway-like strut across the picturesque city streets. December’s Fashion Friday saw Franchela Ulises styling the models who walked that evening. I had the chance to sit down with Franchela and ask her some questions about her business and her own personal fashion journey.
Ian Taylor (me): Could you quickly explain to me what a stylist is? What does it mean to you?
Franchela Ulises: Well, to me, styling is creating and seeing a vision and bringing it to life. When it comes to clothing, if I have a vision in mind, I have a color and a pattern that I want to put together. I get the outfits, I get the pieces necessary, and I turn it into the vision. So, basically, just putting clothes on people, fashionably.
Taylor: I can see you’ve certainly pulled that off. Now, do you have one specific collection that you pull from, or do you have multiple things that you pull from? Where do you specifically get the pieces from?
Ulises: I love thrifting, so I love secondhand. I love the aspect of saving the environment and just reusing items. A lot of my clothes are thrifted and I enjoy that because it’s a little bit of a challenge because I have to put different pieces together and create a collection from that.
Taylor: Do you have a favorite store to thrift from?
Ulises: I love going to Goodwill, because obviously they donate, they help with getting people employed, and they also offer clothing for people to go to interviews, so I really love shopping at Goodwill.
Taylor: So, everything you’re styling tonight, did you grab all that from Goodwill?
Ulises: So, the dresses that I have, these are statement pieces. I actually got them from a designer called Christopher John Rogers. He does a lot of colorful, elaborate pieces, and I got these dresses for my Mujeres of All Shades organization. We did a photoshoot and I fell in love with the pieces because they’re very bright and very fun, and it reminds me a lot of the Virgin Islands where I’m from. So, those dresses are from that designer, and I wanted to show people different ways to style them, and all the other pieces are thrifted and I just turned it into a collection.
Ulises’ interest in fashion began at a young age when she was inspired by the colorful vibrancy of the carnivals held on her home island of St. Thomas. Her interest and subsequent styling skills translated well when she came to Arizona in 2010 to study criminal justice at the University of Phoenix.
Taylor: Are you still doing anything with that, or is it fully fashion now, or are you balancing the two?
Ulises: Yes. I love working with youth, troubled youth, I like just being in that space and I like to coordinate that with styling and fashion and just giving them a space to be creative and stay out of things they’re not supposed to be doing, so I kind of coordinate both. Also, helping women with Mujeres of All Shades, I kind of use the expertise I have for that.
Taylor: You mentioned the youth that you work with, do you use fashion as a sort of pipeline to get them away from the paths that they’re heading down when you start working with them?
Ulises: Yes. I’m very active in church, and I have a lot of youth that I wouldn’t say are in trouble, because their main focus is going to church, but any other youth, they have emotional problems, they’re trying to figure things out, so I love giving that support. I’ve also gone to schools, I was at Maryvale High School to talk with the students about Mujeres of All Shades, and I love offering the students volunteer and membership programs and whatever they need to get into the fashion industry. That way I can get them from doing things they’re not supposed to be doing and concentrating on things they really like doing.
Taylor: That’s great that you can provide that healthy distraction from other things. Would you say that thrifting has a big part in that specific aspect? I can imagine younger kids don’t have a lot of money of their own to spend on new clothes, so do you promote thrifting to them?
Ulises: Yes. I started to thrift, I would say, a few years ago. I did a contest for Goodwill and I won Goodwill “Next Fashionista,” and I realized, “OK, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look fashionable, to look amazing.” So, I think through thrifting, I do help the youth to know that they don’t have to go buy the new Airs, they don’t have to do things they’re not supposed to do to try to get money to buy expensive stuff because they can thrift and create something amazing from that. That also helps their parents because a lot of parents don’t have the financial abilities to buy expensive stuff, so that also helps parents when they know, “OK, my child can go thrifting and that will save me some money.”
Taylor: That’s great that you’re doing that to give back to the community. One last thing, are there any social media that people can reach you on, and are there any last comments you’d like to make?
Ulises: Yes. So, the last comment I want to make is that we can look amazing and we can look fashionable without breaking the bank. I mean, I shop department when I have to, but if I had to pick where I would buy, I would totally go thrifting. It doesn’t have to be Goodwill, it could be Savers, it could be any other local thrift stores because you’ll be amazed by how many things you can find, and just having that satisfaction of knowing you’re wearing somebody’s great grandmother’s shirt, to me, is really cool. So, give thrifting a try. My personal Instagram is @franchelafranco, and my styling page is @styledbymodestu, and my Mujeres page is @mujeresofallshades.
Franchela’s pitch-perfect styling of the models would have led anyone to believe that they were wearing a meticulously pre-planned collection rather than a compilation of designer dresses and thrifted accessories. The creative styling she spoke about was on full display this past Fashion Friday, and personally, I can’t wait to see what wonders she cooks up next.
What is your favorite look from Franchela Ulises? Let us know on Instagram and Twitter or leave a comment!