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FLL Fashion Week: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH ARI

After more than six months of planning, prepping, and
promoting the day was finally here. It wasn’t just any Sunday,
it was the start of the 2020 Fort Lauderdale FashionWeek.

Let’s Get Behind the Scenes

– with Ariana Destefano

Ariana and Maci - Florentina West's Assistants
Welcoming everyone at the Blogger’s Brunch

In 2018, I was lucky enough to connect with and now work for and with Florentina and I’ve been honored to be a part of this process ever since. Two years later I’m working as a creative director on the team for Fashion Week, which has not only been my dream job since I can remember but also an experience of a lifetime for myself at least.

After more than six months of planning, prepping, and promoting the day was finally here. It wasn’t just any Sunday, it was the start of the 2020 Fort Lauderdale Fashion Week. Every March circa 2015, a team led by Florentina West produces this event offering an international platform for designers to connect with media, buyers and the community in and surrounding Fort Lauderdale. The Blogger’s Brunch was the first event to kick off the week and I’ll tell you why I was kind of the most excited for this first day.. I got to plan it!! When I tell you Pinterest was my best friend and personal assistant for the planning process,
I’m not exaggerating.

Attendees of FLLFW 2020 Bloggers Brunch
Attendees of the Blogger’s Brunch

This event brings together South Florida’s most influential bloggers that never fail to capture the culture, and the beauty and most importantly diversity that our community has to offer. We had Daniela Labory, a local influencer to host our brunch where she spoke about the struggles and obstacles she had to overcome before and after coming into this
country. She highlighted the importance of being an influencer of hispanic decent and what that means for her and her audience. It’s women like this that inspire and push women like myself to never settle and to get up no matter how many times you fall.

Highlighting women, especially women of color, is
something that I think FLLFW does effortlessly.
The brains behind the beauty are values we really idolize and
I think that’s one of the main reasons why I love working here.

Blogger Brunch Sponsor Lamborghini Wines

Lamborghini Wines

Sponsors and Partners for Fort Lauderdale Fashion Week 2020 – Lamborghini Wines provided a plethora of bottles for us to use at the Blogger Brunch.

Florentina West adressing the crowd

Florentina

Florentina West – CEO of FLLFW
addressing the crowd of beautiful bloggers over brunch.

Additionally, the brunch included pop-ups from some of our sponsors and partners including but not limited to @sportsluxeofficial, @shibue_official, @pmtsfortlauderdale, and @lamborghiniwines. We had some mingling, guest speakers, giveaways, photo ops, and of course.. mimosas. And all in all it was a super successful event that started the week off with the buzz and excitement we were all hoping for.

FLL Fashion Week MAGAZINE:

FLLFW MAG COVER
Diego Dominguez, creator of James 113 and the master of deconstruction

The following Wednesday, Fort Lauderdale Fashion Week Magazine hosted its annual cover release party and this year, it was at the W. On the cover (FLLFWMAG) featured Diego Dominguez, creator of James 113 and the master of deconstruction. We heard from Diego himself, along with live interviews from Dani Labory and Editor in Chief, Rosy Muto. This was such a fun, “glammy” night where so many people came together to connect and support the magazine. It’s a platform where we really like to showcase and highlight the past years, the present and what’s to come for the future of fashion week. So we really enjoy hosting this event every year.

The Ball Starts Rolling

DAY ONE

Meeting with designers for FLLFW 2020

Day one of runway was held at Saks Off 5th at Sawgrass Mills and was a huge collaboration with the brand that allowed us to showcase so many luxury designers into one fashion show. The city of Fort Lauderdale is trendy, and up and coming as a design and lifestyle district and Saks Off 5th
is the perfect destination to keep up with these trends while keeping your pockets still feeling heavy when you walk out.

With Brittany Mitzan-Moura as the lead stylist, she effortlessly picked and styled pieces together personally to come together on the runway. Which mind you is not easy to do when the inventory is coming from so many different designers, seasons and collections. But a stylists’ job is to take the ideas from these designers and configure them into their own to best represent the client and/or the target market.

Looks from Unedited.XYZ

I had a blast working alongside Brittany and watching how she put together garments that just made sense. We searched the department store high and low for any and all pieces that caught our eye from the women’s, men’s and
even children’s section and just threw them on rolling racks to bring back into the back room. We did this back and forth until we found enough looks and then enough backup looks just in case haha. We spent days doing this until we put together a line-up configured by moments. Swimwear for adults, daytime, business chic, nightlife and kids formal.

Thursday had finally arrived and call time for models was 2pm. This needed to be prompt because today was..show day!!! We still needed to fit the models for their assigned looks and make any last minute adjustments for sizing purposes mostly. We switched a few looks, added accessories and made sure each model was sent to hair and makeup right after. There’s so many nitty gritty details that go into producing a runway show that I don’t think the average person is knowledgeable of..i.e. making sure every model’s looks in ascending order are titled and names and photographed and brought back into the changing area before the show begins.

Behind the Scenes at FLLFW

Held front and center at the entrance of Saks, the beginning of the show was about to begin. Another one of FLLFW fashion directors, Macielle Hererra cued the start of the show for Brittany to began to send out the models. One by one we lined up the dressed and prepped models out
onto the runway and as the show began I was pumped to hear an excited crowd in the distance.

The show has started but the work to be done has not. When each model comes back for their next look, the minutes in between feel actually like seconds when trying to get a buff sweaty man out of Lacoste polo into a Giorgio Armani wool blazer in 0.5 milliseconds. Jackets, hats, buttons and whatever else are flying around at this point only causing more chaos around the madness. Would you believe me if I told you this was the best part? The ability to organize the chaos is something I take great pride in. Having to not only navigate the flow of the show and the models and the looks but also being able to curate those relationships in real time with the models I’m working with is just as important.

The show was a success and the buzz around Fort Lauderdale Fashion Week was loud and clear.

FIRST DAY OF DESIGNER RUNWAY

Makeup Look Board

Time to Start the Show, but…

COVID-19 was just beginning to impact curfews, events, and businesses…

So I’m sure we all remember what happened this past March. We’re all still going through it now with no definite answer of an ending. But COVID-19 was just beginning to impact curfews, events, and businesses, and on Friday, March 13th was when we got the word that the impact of the
coronavirus could potentially be way worse than we thought. The governor had issued a state wide curfew as well as capping capacity on huge events like ours to a max of 250 people. This changed everything.

FLLFW 2020 was held at the Westin Fort Lauderdale
FLLFW 2020 was held at The Westin Fort Lauderdale

VIP Attendees, bloggers, and models across the board were canceling left and right. Model’s feared for the risk of a big event where traveling was an essential and no matter what the circumstance we understood and were just ready to roll with the punches. The fun part, remember? Right, because this seemed like utter chaos. So we created a game plan. The show could go on, we knew that. But it couldn’t be how we imagined it and that was okay. We rushed around to find jumbo hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, and anything to keep things cleaned and contained and safe for everyone. We posted and communicated updates to our guests to let them know of the changes and no one had any issues abiding by and adjusting to these things. There was a lot of negativity going on in the reality of things and truthfully we were able to see that our event was actually being depended on to lift the spirits of everything.

Front row VIP bags and model gift bags had to be put together and brought down to the venue at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Hotel. Upon arrival, the set up process begins immediately so I immediately get introduced to
the team at Westin who helped us with everything set up related we needed. We printed and reprinted signage and labels and arrows to
direct and compartmentalize each sector of the event, we
coordinated with hair and makeup artists to set up backstage and directed the designers as they were coming in showing and helping them set up and get any last minute items they could have needed.

students from cosmix school applying makeup to show models

What would this week be without the talented designers that have been handpicked to represent in the 2020 Fashion show? We have them and the models to thank for the opportunity to showcase them beautifully to their vision with the ability to fine tune what they already brought. The models
that were able to show up were the absolute epitome of warriors of dealing with ambiguity. They had absolutely no issue stepping in for designers for
models that didn’t show up..the DAY of runway. WE were out about 25 models and designers with pre-fitted looks and visions all had to adjust accordingly. And they DID. Beautifully, I might add. Due to the limited models this also meant more quick changes, which meant less time in between looks and reoccurring models. Again, the makeup artist and most importantly designers had all agreed to adapt to the changes to do whatever it took to make things work for everyone. I couldn’t have been more proud to work amongst these people.

As time was creeping up on us, and at this point it was about two hours until show time which is five minutes in fashion time. Most of the models had been through hair and makeup and I needed to get runway rehearsals done and over with. One by one in the order of appearance on the runway I cued music for the models to begin their walkthrough… making sure they’re walking on beat, centered, with poise, and to the style of the designer. If the designer wants you dark and gloomy – then girl you better pout! If they want you seductive and flirty, then like my girls at @hotmiamistyles you get to smize with those eyes. The stage lighting, the music cues, video wall displays and models all had to come together in harmony to truly produce the cleanest final product. And I am happy to
say that it really did.

Getting the models dressed

I COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE PROUD TO WORK AMONGST THESE PEOPLE.

Florentina West

6:55

Five minutes before showtime. And we were not exactly ready. Guests were starting to pour in, and VIP guests were being seated in the front row, with a cocktail in one hand and a designer bag dangling off of the other. A handful of people were getting visibly antsy and it was our job to give
them a good experience from start to finish. So after all of the last minute touches for designer number one: Gary Destin, we were ready to start the show. Lights dimmed, music lowered and our host began to announce to first designer.

It’s hard sometimes to get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle that we call our lives, our careers and busy schedules and we take that human connection for granted. We sometimes fail to realize the beauty in others’, in their personalities and cultures and perspectives and we miss out
on so much when we avoid coming together.

End of the Show

That’s pretty much how I can sum up the overall values of Fort Lauderdale Fashion Week. It’s an annual event where people: creatives, can have a platform to come together. And in the pit of all of this uncertainty, the takeaway would be to stay inspired. Keep your creativity flowing and your
connections well lit to stay inspired. We have so much to give and so much to learn from everyone around us. It’s up to us as a community, and as a nation and human race most of all, to be a part of the positivity as much as we can and stay inspired.


XOXO,

Ari

About Ari
About Ari

My name’s Ariana DeStefano I’m 25 years old and I was born in Staten Island, NY. But I’ve been a Florida resident since I
was two years old. So Florida girl here! Growing up in Orlando, FL, I always had my career dreams in the forefront of
my mind. While other girls were planning their weddings, I was planning fashion shows in my head and on vision boards
for as long as I could remember. As much as I wanted to design I couldn’t draw for my life but watching it all come together gave me the biggest high and I knew I had to pursue this industry no matter what. After High school I went to and graduated from The Florida State University and landed my first internship in 2017 with Eido Swimwear, A resort style and
swimwear fashion brand. I helped direct photoshoots, planned and edited social media posts and later on became the executive assistant for the brand. My exposure to the fashion industry since has been non-stop and I’m forever grateful for each opportunity I’ve been a part of thus far. In 2019, I officially became part of the #FLLFW as a casting director. Helping beyond the coordination of the models, I
was able to engulf myself more and more with the brand and really spark different outlets that have now led me to now
being a creative director… my freakin dream job!! Pinch me, anyone?

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