A sleek, glitter-caked model stalked confidently down the runway while a dozen photographers flashed and snapped. Judges whispered to one another, and the crowd clapped and cheered each time the modeling coach sent another living mannequin through the curtains. This energetic spectacle was not in Paris or Milan, and it didn’t flaunt the work of fashion houses Yves Saint Laurent or Alexander McQueen. It was a teen fashion show held in Albuquerque’s youth arts and entertainment community center, Warehouse 508. The focus of Fall Into the Stars was original clothing lines designed and constructed by six high-school-aged girls.
The spearhead of the event was Teresa Romero, owner of fashion and sewing studio the Designer’s Lounge. Romero graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco and stayed in the city for 13 years, but she moved back to Albuquerque—her hometown—four years ago. She wanted to give opportunities to people who love fashion, especially if they couldn’t move away and go to school the way she did. “I knew I wanted to do fashion when I was in middle school, and there was nothing here for me to do,” she says. “There were no classes I could take.”
Romero teaches regular workshops, such as the principles of fabric draping and how to make patterns. She says she’s long wanted to create a show for youth.
“I have this whole view on teens,” she says. “If we start younger and younger, having people do what they want to do, by the time they get older and they’re running our country, they’ll be happy.” Romero’s parents encouraged her to be a lawyer or a doctor. They couldn’t see design as a career. Romero wants to show teens they can create pathways in whatever field they choose. Warehouse 508 has a similar philosophy and goals, so it was a tailor-made partner for Romero’s plan.
“I knew I wanted to do fashion when I was in middle school, and there was nothing here for me to do. There were no classes I could take.”
Teresa Romero of the Designer’s Lounge
Fall into the Stars was a collaboration between dozens of volunteer teenagers—the models, the photographers, the DJs, the show’s host—from different schools, with varied schedules and lives. “There were so many teenagers that got involved,” Romero says. “It made me so excited and so happy.” She also rounded up adult mentors, like professional photographer Wes Naman and model Deidre Deane.
Romero helped the young designers with their pieces for months, but some have been with her much longer. Mikayla Kadas, who won the award for most creative clothing line in the adjudicated event, has been taking classes at the Designer’s Lounge for more than two years.
“I started at Designer’s Lounge not knowing anything about sewing,” Kadas says. “Ms. Teresa taught me everything.” Kadas learned to use a machine, sew straight seams, sketch and, eventually, advanced techniques such as how to make patterns and how to turn store-bought patterns into her own. She says the fashion show was the first time she put all her skills to the test at once.
Kadas’ line was made of bright, solid-colored satins. The slinky fabrict juxtaposed square tunics and sharp angles. Sprays of sequins offset military-esque black pants. “I was reading, for school, the book A Wrinkle in Time, so time travel inspired me to do a futuristic warrior princess theme,” she says. “The colors—the blues and pinks, orange, purple, teal—they all came from the galaxies. Some of them came from the sunsets. The sparkles, the sequins, were inspired by stars.”
The blossoming Chanel says she likes to watch “Project Runway,” and that she can relate to the frustration of the contestants. Although Kadas can’t really read them, she says she also gets inspiration from French fashion magazines.
Now at age 17, the home-schooled Kadas has created an 11-piece clothing line, had her work modeled in a fashion show, won an award and begun a portfolio. She wants to go to design school in a bigger city and cites New York at the top of the list. “I would like to start my own business,” she says about plans after school. “I would like to start small first and get bigger as I learn more.”
Since the fashion show, her friends and family members have bought the pieces that traveled the runway. And she’s stayed busy as people ask her to make clothes for them. But for her, the greatest part of the whole experience—from creation to the night of the show—was when her first model stepped out. In this moment, Kadas started crying. “It was totally real. It was there.”