By Alexia Hill
There’s no other way to say it. Lamark Cole’s Grand Finale show at Arizona Fashion Week (AZFW) was the best fashion show I’ve attended to date. Witnessing the clouds of smoke billow out of Chateau De Vie’s doors to reveal a crew of dancers, hearing Beyoncé’s “I’m That Girl” for the first time – everyone’s eyes were glued to the stage being set, the fantasy unraveling right before our eyes. Cole genuinely bridged a connection between fashion and production, dance and art, blending it all seamlessly together to showcase his collection.
AZFW is a new fashion show brought to the Valley by Luxe and City, a Scottsdale-based creative agency. With goals of furthering the creative and cultural industries, highlighting creatives like Cole truly showcased what Arizona has to offer for the fashion industry nationally.
Born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Jacksonville, Tennessee, Cole is a fashion designer who came to Arizona knowing he wanted to work in the fashion industry despite his past endeavors.
“I actually wanted to go to school for fashion, but I have a down south mother, who wanted me to go to school for business. So, reluctantly I went to school for business, but I’m glad I did it because it taught me a lot,” Cole said.
Before diving fully into the creative industry, Cole was actually a full-time mortgage counselor, but it was just not the proper career path for him. On the side, he was styling and working photoshoots, but at some point realized that his passions couldn’t keep being put on the backburner.
“I had all these opportunities here and I had to say no to certain things, because I was trying to put the nine to five first, because that was what was paying my bills,” Cole said. “But it’s like the nine to five wasn’t fitting in at all…It was like, Okay, this is not for me. I’m gonna quit. I’m gonna jump off the ledge, and see if this works.”
Jumping off that ledge proved to be an amazing decision for Cole. He has taken part in Arizona Trending award shows, fashion shows of all calibers, workshops and more while in Arizona. He’s been nominated for Designer of the Year and won Best Sustainable Fashion Redesign and RunzWithScissors in collaboration with Fabric. However, none of it would be possible without Keesha Stillwell showing him the ropes of construction.
“Keesha Stillwell taught me the ways around the machine and the one thing she was telling me was, ‘Well, Lamark, you already have the creativity, you just need to learn the skills.’ So she taught me the skills that I need around a sewing machine,” Cole explained.
Cole said that overall, the Arizona fashion industry has been extremely welcoming toward him. He said that at times it can be “very cut throat” but that he just reminds himself that the opinions of others don’t affect the trajectory of his career.
“Right now I’m seeing a curve, such as what the city is doing right now by including everybody into it, if you want to be part of it, you can be a part of it,” Cole said. “It allows a space where you feel you can constantly come talk to me and we can chit-chat it up and expand on different things. The best part of designing is multiple things. I can go down a list but the key factors are being able to express yourself, meet new people and then just walk into a room and command through your clothing.”
For his finale show at Chateau De Vie, Cole showcased about 20 looks, ranging from gowns, bodysuits, vests, pants and a completely sparkled-top and pants set. His collection feels whimsical yet modern, fun and playful but also like it could be seen in a Beyonce music video. He experiments with draping and textures in a way that I’ve never seen before, and I hope to see more of.
“The most difficult part is to get people to understand where you’re coming from. Because if I put a look down a runway, it may be fabulous, but I challenge my consumer to look at that and really dive deep in the brain and say, what does this look come from? I’ve never seen this before. What is he trying to say?” Cole explained. “Everything is a message. Nothing is just like a jacket or a shirt.”
Cole’s collection was so stunning that he also took part in the third and final night of AZFW, where he showed a smaller curation of designs and competed in Collection of the Year, a runway competition. Cole won the design competition alongside stylists Franchela Franco and Colleen Quinn, and all three got the opportunity to compete in the finals at Barrett Jackson in January. At the finals, they are competing for a $2,000 cash prize, a magazine spread and the opportunity to showcase their talents at other Barrett Jackson shows.
“It means so much to me[to win], I feel like a lot of times people in this position take this kind of thing for granted. They don’t really use this opportunity to create other opportunities for themselves and others,” Cole said. “This is going to be able to put me in a bigger audience where I can expand my brand and also motivate others. I know there’s steps to this and I want to climb my way up.”
Cole is an artist at heart, and his collection truly shows that. With lots of sleepless nights, his efforts paid off during AZFW. He explained he loves the lights, loves being on stage and that his creativity speaks for itself. I believe his creativity and passion for it all will continue to elevate him in this industry.
“My main goal is just don’t stop fucking dreaming. Whatever you’re going after, it doesn’t have to be about fashion, whatever field that you are, just don’t stop,” Cole said. “Don’t compare yourself to other people because once you do that, you’ve already cut the cord. Don’t cut the cord.”