Photography by Jacinto Ariza

The third night of Latino Fashion Week, Teen Day Fashion Show, was not only to celebrate the young designers participating this year’s fest, but to promote healthy self-esteem and lifetstyle within all youth using fashion as an element of positivism.

The fashion show was an event that showcased the designs of Gabriela Gomez, AKIRA Chicago, Zoë Damacela and the world premiere of Jorge Perez de La Havana’s Quinceañera collection for Macy’s. The night commenced with a discussion with Latino Fashion Week’s AWESOME panel. The panel consisted of Zoë Damacela, Taylor Mallory, Nicole Suarez and Cristina Rivera. Their discussions varied from their personal stories of overcoming adversity to words of wisdom that encouraged bravery, confidence and a dedication to one’s passion and craft.

On the runway, Gabriela Gomez kicked off the show with her vibrant collection of four looks that I’d describe as Pocahontas in the City—in a way that really worked. The collection itself was restricted to a neutral palette which consisted of cooper and ivory. The looks, while simple, were trendy and teen-appropriate.

AKIRA Chicago, never failing to awe with trendsetting style, emerged as the model of the more contemporary Latino adult. The collection consisted of a variety of looks for men and women. The consistent pattern in both were leather and studded textures that exuded urban glamour. One of the most striking looks was a black-and-white printed skirt with a fitted black crop top under a fringed blazer. Jewel-encrusted platform boots topped off the look of city luxury. However, while innovative and fresh, the offerings did not strike me as teen apparel, per se. They felt a little too risque for a 15-year-old girl (all models were under 18). So while the garments were stunning, the style was a little off key for the theme of the night.

Chicago native and one of Latino Fashion Week’s most promising designer, Zoë Damacela,  came soon after. Her collection featured a lovely array of teen-ready cocktail dresses and , the boldest piece of which was a leather mini with a sheer overlay.

The world premiere of Jorge Perez de la Havana Quinceañera line for Macy’s closed the night. His vibrant and eclectic collection was composed of rich fabrics in exotic colors, raging from royal blue to stunning scarlets, with gowns encrusted in jewels. Talk about a luxurious touch to the traditional market of quinceañera collections. The dress silhouettes were form-fitting with many following the flattering—but still age-appropriate—mermaid cut. The showstopper was, of course, the closing number, which bore a resemblance to his bridal collection. The ivory number in a mermaid silhouette had beading down the upper bodice and a subtle slit, a nod to vintage Havana.

After the show, I spoke with Zoe Damacela and asked her for a few words. Not varying much in age, Zoe and I are both juggling school and work, so I asked her how she, as a teen, can she handle so many adult responsibilities while still attending school full-time?  Her response: “Time management. I dedicate about three hours a day to my passion [designing], which amount to 14 to 16 hours a week, and the rest is consumed by travel and school work.”  Even though her big break came when she appeared on the cover of Seventeen magazine, her humbleness and her ability to relate to an average Jane like me, is what truly makes her the embodiment of a modern-day Latina.

Jorge Perez de La Havana also shared a few moments with me to discuss his inspiration, his competition and his impact on the phenomenon that is Quinceañera. I was curious to know how he felt his collection differed from other designers such as Jovanny and Le Femme? “My collection is a fresh new design on Old World Havana,” Perez de La Havana says. “It’s a nod to the 1950s and its elegance and subtle sex appeal. It’s more tailored and form fitting to the body of a Latina.” Furthermore, he also discussed the vision and the shift in tradition when it comes to the modern-day quinceañera: “Today’s quinceañera is not having her party out of respect for her family; it’s her rite of passage into maturity and, most importantly, the metamorphosis from the girl becoming a woman. Today’s quinceañera is sexier, more confident, more sure of her future and aware of her personal style.”

See slide show of Latino Fashion Week 2011 – Teen Night »

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