Runway Success | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Runway Success 

Utah fashion designers turn clothing into art.

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click to enlarge COLETTE FINNEY
  • Colette Finney

With encouraging mentors and creative challenges that push the boundaries of fashion, reality shows like Project Runway make it look like a designer is a single outfit away from the big time. In reality, there is often far more to the process of getting a garment from the runway to a mainstream buyer.

Just ask local creators of couture Angel Aquino or Betthy Lovos. Both have been sketching, stitching and sending their work down local runways for close to four years trying to break into the field. As with any struggling artist pursuing their passion, it can be a long journey to leaving a day job.

Originally from Guatemala, Aquino grew up helping his mother make clothes, and is looking forward to leaving his property management job behind. Close to finishing up all four fashion degrees at the Fashion Institute at Salt Lake Community College, he creates "wearable art" as well as women's wear.

"I really like creating a garment from start to finish," Aquino says. "It is a great feeling when you sketch a design, create a pattern, cut the fabric and sew for yourself."

Involved in numerous fashion show fundraisers for the past few years, he has become quite adept at staging a runway show from start to finish. The process is chock full of details—long before the model ever hits the proverbial red carpet, brainstorming and sketching design, making a pattern and sewing the actual garment, and finding the right model.

click to enlarge COLETTE FINNEY
  • Colette Finney

"I put together a mood board/inspiration board with colors schemes, inspirational clothing, makeup, words and anything that will help me with a theme," Aquino says. "Once I have my designs completed, I begin to ask myself, 'Which model will be a great fit for this outfit?'"

On the other hand, Lovos fell in love with creating fashions as a child, but took a minor detour into pursuing another career. Many years later, though, she felt drawn in a different direction. "I had been praying for some guidance for a couple years, and felt so confused about what direction I wanted to go in for my future career," Lovos says. "Then, one day, I was given the opportunity to make some dance costumes and I completely fell in love again."

Completing her training at Salt Lake Community College in 2016, she has not committed to a particular style for her designing aesthetic. Meanwhile, she works full-time soaring the friendly skies as a flight attendant. "I love all aspects of fashion and have not found my focal point yet," says Lovos. "I love costumes, corsets and lingerie, but also evening gowns and swimsuits."

Having experience in directing and producing fashion shows, Lovos has put together an annual fundraiser for a St. Joseph Mission program dedicated to helping children in Nairobi, Kenya. "The event consists of a fashion show with local designers, performances, art gallery, drinks, appetizers and raffle prizes," Lovos adds. "The prep consists of finding a venue, setting a date and time, scouting designers, photographers, artists and performers, while also finding models and as many volunteers as possible."

Both designers gain inspiration from sources such as dreams, their heritage and even comic books, with the goal of seeing their creations famously adorning a model as she struts down a red carpet. Yet, one of their most important considerations is how a model feels in their design. "I love creating outfits that make my models feel sexy and powerful," Aquino says. "It's a great feeling knowing that something I've created brings such emotions to my models."

Absent an enthusiastic mentor like Tim Gunn uttering "make it work," both are signed on to design for fall fundraisers, plus independent events, and are excited to show off their work.

"Fashion is up and coming in Salt Lake City, and we have quite a bit of eccentric people," Aquino adds. "Summer is here, so we will be seeing a lot of street fashion. Neo Goth styles are very popular right now."

With numerous organizations, programs and galleries embracing all types of art forms, Salt Lake City has begun to follow the trend in larger cities by advocating for designers on a larger scale. Founded in 2015, this fall's Utah Fashion Week brings together local members of the fashion industry to support independent designers. Look for these two up-and-coming designers there or follow their progress on Instagram @angel_art_and_fashion and @lacebranch.

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Colette A. Finney

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