By Alexia Hill
Dedicated to fashion, community, and education, Phoenix Fashion Week’s Spring 2022 show is finally upon us. Working with the Top 40 models in Arizona, this year’s runway will highlight both emerging and established brands such as Elie Madi, Angelo Estera, Chinese Laundry, Senti Design and House of Mae Noir.
Phoenix Fashion Week’s ultimate goal is to “garner global exposure for Arizona’s fashion industry,” according to its website. To further elevate the fashion community of Arizona, Brian Hill, Executive Director of Phoenix Fashion Week, hosts a modeling training and competition called Top 40. Put simply, Arizona’s Top 40 models are cast for Phoenix Fashion Week and put through weeks of training, rehearsals and various competitions to refine their skills. At the end of the fashion show, one model wins “Model Of The Year” as well as a modeling contract.
“He gives you the foot in the door and then you got to open the door and run. Like, they give you your stepping stones and they definitely help you, but if you’re not putting in the hard work it’s not gonna work out for you,” Top 40 model Pascale Bushaw said. “You have to really be motivated in order to make it in this industry…You have to really take what they say and you have to adapt it in your own way and go further with it. Because they’re just giving you the first steps.”
Models Erika Rose St. Louis and Bushaw are both part of Arizona’s Top 40 and are cast for this Spring’s Phoenix Fashion Week, both starting in modeling as children. Since then, Bushaw took a semester off from attending Arizona State University to focus on modeling, and Erika works as an accounting bookkeeper for a technology company during the week.
“It [Phoenix Fashion Week] was my first time ever seeing a runway. One of the ladies came up to me who is actually a part of the Phoenix fashion team right now and she was like, you should go to the casting next year. I was like okay, I’ll try it out,” Louis said. “Then 2019 rolls around and that was the first time I did Phoenix Fashion Week.”
Both Bushaw and Louis are not signed with a modeling agency right now. Louis is focusing on Phoenix Fashion Week and other future projects through different networking opportunities, and the two models expressed how much the connections made through Phoenix Fashion Week have supported their growth in the fashion industry.
“I do have a couple secret projects coming up that I can’t talk about, but I mainly work with a lot of public relations agencies. So a lot of them find me paid gigs, and I find a lot through Instagram,” Louis said. “And then also Phoenix Fashion Week really just hooked it up for me. Ever since I started, I’ve been getting more and more paid opportunities, opportunities for experience just to improve my portfolio and anything you get is really valuable.”
Being a Top 40 model comes with not only major time commitments and a leadership role in the fashion industry to fill, but a professional face that needs to be kept on specifically in regard to social media. Louis and Bushaw expressed how important it is to consistently post about their work, engage with followers and overall uphold professionalism online.
“We have practice either every other week or every week and they’re a few hours long, but we just practice our walk. We get drilled to have our walk down because being a Top 40 model, you have that like presence and they all know who you are when you’re on stage,” Bushaw said. “So you have to have that walk, we have to perfect it.”
Overall, Louis and Bushaw said that they are grateful for their experiences with Phoenix Fashion Week because they were able to meet each other and become best friends. Louis also stated that the fashion industry in Arizona feels like an “empowering market” and that it could be the next major hotspot for fashion.
“We’ve been able to walk in different shows together, Phoenix Fashion Week has definitely helped us get so many different opportunities. Just one thing keeps leading to another which is good and it’s been probably the best few months I’ve ever had, honestly,” Bushaw said.
All photos from Bushaw’s and Louis’ Instagrams.