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Couture

Haute For Charity: Couture At Its Most Creative

Gowns designed with recycled sign parts and steel cable; belts constructed of tile and linoleum. This is couture at its most creative.

Couture garments made out of commercial construction materials — two worlds you wouldn’t expect to collide in such beautiful ways — paraded down the catwalk at the biennial International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Couture event in March at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The event is the largest fundraiser for the Southwest chapter of IIDA and attracted more than 500 guests to “ooh” and “ahh” over the collaborative creations realized by the participating teams.

Each interior design team was paired with a vendor, given a color forecast and left to its own imagination to construct an outfit. This year’s color forecast was based on that of Sherwin Williams Paint’s 2014 color categories, which were inspired, as the paint company described it, by “the world around us.”

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Many design firms spent months putting together works of wearable art, and the effort was clearly seen in the finished products. The personal favorite of Board Member Jill Gibney was a flowing cream hi-lo dress by Creative Interiors, Inc. that won Best Haute Couture.

“You would never have known it was done out of commercial carpet products – I could imagine it being on display in a high-end wedding dress boutique,” said Gibney.
Yuki Nakai, chair of this year’s event, found herself in awe of creativity of the designers as well.

“There’s always a wow factor when I see a material utilized in a unique way,” she said. Nakai participated in the event as a design team member in 2012 and saw first-hand how the event “fosters an opportunity to let the local designers’ creativity shine and an opportunity for the vendors to highlight its products.”

IIDA Southwest has expanded its efforts to benefit people outside of the interior design and vendor industries. The majority of the funds raised by the Couture 2014 event will go to IIDA Southwest’s new philanthropic event, Connect4. Every other year, opposite the couture event, the chapter’s City Centers (Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and Albuquerque) redesigns a local nonprofit organization’s space.

Last year, for the Phoenix chapter’s first Connect4, IIDA renovated community areas in the U.S. VETS Grand Veterans Village, a facility that provides affordable apartments to local homeless and at-risk veterans. With the conclusion of the 2014 Couture event, IIDA Southwest will begin narrowing down candidates for its 2015 Connect4 recipient.

The introduction of Connect4 into the picture came after IIDA Southwest decided to host the couture event biennially. Designers and board members found themselves wrapping up an event just in time to start the next one and the lack of recovery time became too much. Additionally, board members found that the community anticipation of a biennial event is much greater and allows people time to really get fired up about couture. An event that sends models down a runway wearing the seat of a Bertoia chair as an elegant hat is sure to draw a crowd.

Q&A with Casey Potash: President, IIDA Southwest

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 2.37.17 PMQ:  Are IIDA Southwest members seeing a trend in a certain type of commercial design?

A: Although this trend has been happening nationally for quite some time, environmentally friendly design is definitely becoming more prevalent in the Southwest. There are more readily available eco-friendly products and clients are starting to embrace the benefits of designing with the environment in mind. Another trend, due to the economic downturn we have experienced, is that designers are definitely getting more creative on a tight budget. Clients have not necessarily reduced their expectations, and they still want to have the same “wow” factor, but they want that with a more conservative budget.

Q: What challenge or challenges are IIDA Southwest members facing, and what challenges do you see them facing in the future?

A: The biggest challenge the local design community is currently facing is stress as a result of the economic downturn. There are many designers that are still in search of job opportunities, and those who fortunately have not lost their jobs are suffering through various other effects of downsizing and are typically experiencing larger workloads. There are definitely signs of improvement, and we are a very tight knit group within the Southwest Chapter. We try to help our members in any way we can with networking, continuing education, and professional development opportunities. We also continually advertise job postings, as we hear about them, in our email blasts. I think the biggest challenge our community will have in the future is the loss of talented and experienced designers who have either moved out of state where the economy has improved more quickly or have moved on to new ventures in their life.

Q: Describe IIDA Southwest activities and share who is involved?

A:  IIDA Southwest is run by a chapter board comprised of volunteers, and our events are coordinated and planned by another group of volunteers. We have won many international awards for the success of our chapter, and this would not be possible without countless hours of dedication from these volunteers and the generosity of our sponsors. Our chapter includes four City Centers:  Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque. We have major chapter events, including the PRIDE Awards (Professional Recognition of Interior Design Excellence) in the spring, a trade fair/networking event in the fall, as well as rotating winter events, which include Couture (a fashion show where the fashion is derived from commercial building products and materials) and Connect4 (a philanthropic event that happens simultaneously in all four City Centers).

Q: The future of a group such as IIDA relies on the education and training of young designers. How does the Southwest Chapter reach out to students?

A: The students are the future of our chapter and industry, and we place a great deal of attention that is specifically targeted to help develop them into the professionals we need to have emerging from our local colleges and universities. We have a VP of student affairs, a director of student affairs, and a committee within the chapter that reaches out to students on a regular basis for design critique sessions. They also plan exciting networking and educational activities tailored to the needs they have. We have special student pricing for all of our chapter and City Center events, so they have more opportunities to meet with design professionals outside of our student oriented events.

Q:  Why is it important for a designer to be a member of IIDA?

A:  I’ve found it to be vital to the success of my career to be a member of a professional organization that fosters networking, educational, and social activities within the community. For me personally, I joined because I wanted to be a part of an organization that not only facilitated growth in my own design career, but also enabled me to be able to give back to the community. I truly believe that “you get what you give” in life. What I have found to be one of the most beneficial parts of my role as the chapter president is that I now have connections around the world in the design industry. I have the resources to be able to easily learn what trends are happening in other parts of the country, and this is invaluable.

Casey Potash is president of the IIDA Southwest Chapter. Prior to moving to the Valley, she received her BS in Interior Design from Indiana University. She is NCIDQ Certified and is LEED APl. She is a sales specialist for KI & PallasTextiles.