/ Modified feb 21, 2014 5:42 p.m.

Tucson Fashion Week Welcomes Betsey Johnson

Organizers hope the annual event will raise Tucson's "style profile", attract new business.

This article was written by Gillian Drummond, editor of the online publication 3Story Magazine.

Betsey Johnson. Mercedes-Benz. Project Runway. The names are big, the mission lofty. And for Tucson fashion designer Paula Taylor, both of those terms go hand in hand.

When the designer-turned-event-organizer decided to take the helm of 2013's Tucson Fashion Week, she knew she'd have to have a big name to draw sponsors, attention, and the public.

"You have to bring the big, shiny object, and I think we had to make it credible on a national scale," Taylor said.

The bling was maverick fashion designer Betsey Johnson, huge in the fashion world since the 1960s, and known for being a rebel in her field.


Betsey's long time friend, Tucson-based artist Douglas Leichter, knows Daniel Asia, a composer, UA music professor and Huffington Post blogger.

Asia in turn knows Martha Van Gelder, director of the the UA's Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing. So when the designer received a call from Van Gelder asking if she could think of an event that could incorporate Johnson, that's when the ball started rolling.

Bringing Johnson on board brought sponsors, as well as local and national designers made this year's event the most exciting yet.

Tucson Fashion Week founder, CandyStrike's Elizabeth Denneau, was happy to hand over the reins.

The event has been around since 2010, and skipped one year in 2012.

TFW was presented by Mercedes-Benz of Tucson, and it took place from Oct. 18 to 20 at three Tucson venues.

Organizers plan to make TFW an annual event and continue to draw big names. But wherever it takes them, they promise to stay true to the city they call home, one where the word "casual" is used way more than "couture."

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