By Alexia Hill
Known as “the leading fashion industry event in the Southwest,” this season’s Phoenix Fashion Week (PFW) runway show did not disappoint. With a diverse line-up of community designers such as House of Zuri and more established brands like Sir Isaac Newton’s collection, the two nights brought new ideas, people and clothing pieces to the Phoenix fashion community.
However, these lifestyle and couture shows would not be possible without the stunning models flaunting these pieces down the runway. Every year, PFW hosts a Top 40 Modeling Competition and training alongside the Emerging Designers Bootcamp, which leads up to announcing the Top 40 Model of the Year and Designer of the Year on the last night of PFW.
After months of training, networking and learning the ins and outs of the fashion industry, Top 40 Models got to steal the spotlight on Oct. 20 and 21. For first-time model, Brayden Crabtree, this was an amazing opportunity and event. Crabtree was unintentionally introduced to the world of modeling while working out at the gym – a former PFW model told him about the casting for this year’s show, and the rest is history.
“This is my first time ever modeling, jumping into this was super exciting and hitting the runway was unbelievable,” Crabtree said.
Walking for Senti Designs, Evans Furs and Leathers and the finale collection, Sir Isaac Newton on Thursday night, Crabtree explained how he truly loved the experience and that the process leading up to the shows was a dream come true.
“It was unreal. Making that first turn on the runway, all of the emotions hit you at once, and then you truly do realize you’re doing what you love,” Crabtree said. “Training for Top 40 was great, they did guide me in the right direction, but obviously I was doing homework at home, watching different videos, falling in love with other models who have incredible walks, visualizing myself in their shoes, and then practicing that.”
It’s been said that the Top 40 modeling competition is worth doing multiple years in a row simply for the networking aspects. For more seasoned models like Pascale Bushaw, the PFW experience was different than Crabtree’s, but just as impactful.
“This was my second year doing Top 40 and I can say that both seasons were great in their own ways. Last season, I felt that I was just starting to make connections in the industry and the second time I felt that I was deepening those connections,” Bushaw said. “After meeting the models, I met 39 more friends in the industry than I had before.”
Bushaw explained that at first, she felt this year’s show was more stressful because there were scheduling conflicts due to weather, but that it ended up working out for the better. The Fall ‘22 show was moved from Oct. 14-15 to Oct. 20-21, giving everyone one extra week to prepare.
“I felt more secure with my abilities and was able to give it my best on the runway. This allowed us more time with fittings, getting to know our designers, one-on-one interviews and pushing our socials,” Bushaw said. “Overall the show was very successful, as always, and I’m happy to have a home away from home with Phoenix Fashion Week.”
Bushaw started modeling as a child, but has been interested in the Top 40 modeling competition since 2018 when she moved to Arizona. For her second time walking in PFW, she got to model for designers: For The Stars Fashion House, Royalty in the Rough, Cutting Edge Apparel and KA Originals.
“It felt very surreal walking for For The Stars Fashion House because I specifically remember telling my mom how bad I wanted that after I watched their collection on the runway,” Bushaw said. “It was definitely a full circle moment with Phoenix Fashion Week because I’ve wanted this forever and finally I saw all of my hard work paying off.”
For model Jonathan Cuero, PFW was a new experience, but not his first catwalk. Cuero has taken part in multiple Arizona fashion shows, most notably Tempe Fashion Week in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022.
“The biggest difference is that Tempe Fashion Week is maybe not as well-established yet, and it’s not a competition like Phoenix Fashion Week, so we didn’t have that span of time to coordinate everything. We had three or four months to practice and compete for Phoenix Fashion Week,” Cuero explained.
Cuero’s inspiration in joining the modeling and fashion industry stemmed from watching soccer players start clothing brands and campaigns for those brands. For his first time doing a major modeling competition, Cuero described the experience as “life-changing.”
“Even though it’s a competition, it’s very family oriented, I love that,” Cuero said. “Everyone is pushing each other to strive for the best in every challenge we do, no one is left behind, and at the end of the day we all win something from it.”
His dedication to the craft paid off this year, winning Top 40 Model of the Year alongside female recipient, Vanessa Rose. This award and title is a significant modeling resume or portfolio builder, but also means winning a modeling contract with The Agency Arizona.
“I’m still collecting all of my emotions and embracing them all, because even though we were prepping it for three months, those two days went by so quickly,” Cuero said. “I did embrace it [winning Top 40] with all the models backstage, and I think that was the beautiful part about it. All the emotions were the same, everybody was just happy and joyful for the winners.”
Despite the different feelings and experiences for models at PFW, the networking and expertise gained is undeniable and shines through their energy on the runway. The shows this year were phenomenal, but it wouldn’t be the same without the Top 40 models adding their own individual flair to every design, making each one come to life on stage.
Photos were pulled from Instagram, credit: @RandRamoreproductions, @CNSPhoto, @CuttingEdgeApparel and @Creative_Visual_images.