Fashion Prize wraps up to views from around the world

Angel Albring | BIZ. Magazine

Film Fest 2020 kicked off October 2 and this year, film, food, music and fashion all online to audiences in more than 10 countries and 36 states. So far, there have been over 35,000 streaming views for Film Fest. The first to wrap was the Fashion Prize Fest, which held its competition Saturday, October 9th.

Fashion Prize 2020 is a collaboration between Prize Fest, The Agora Borealis and Fairfield Studios which showcases local designers and their collections.

This year, seven designers showed off their creative skills and unique styles as they competed for a $2,000 cash prize, and it wouldn’t be 2020 without one very fashionable accessory that we’ve all come to need- the facemask.

The designers this year were Crystal Green, Krisi Hardy, Brittani Shabazz, Victoria Smith, Donna Strebeck, Hephzibah Thomas and Emily Zering. Katy Larsen, owner of The Agora Borealis and director of Fashion Prize, said that there were originally 15 finalists, but many had to drop out because of the pandemic and other stresses.

Fashion Prize Fest was slated to host a fashion show in April 2020, where the top three designers would be chosen to advance to the Fashion Prize show in October. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the Film Prize went virtual for 2020, which meant that the remaining designers had to finish their collections for filming faster than anticipated. That doesn’t mean that this year was harder in the designers, though.

Shabazz is co-owner of Pop N Pizza and this is her second year in the Fashion Prize. Her 2020 collection was inspired by the effects of the pandemic on our social interactions and time we spend with those in our community.

Shabazz said that “last year’s Fashion Prize was a lot more demanding. Very hectic with lots of moving parts.”

“This year, my life had basically changed in an instant because we purchased Pop ‘N Pizza, so I had less time for all the extra meetings and rehearsals,” Shabazz said. “So when we found out it would be virtual it was kind of a sigh of relief because I was able to do things in my own time.”

Strebeck is the winner of the 2019 Fashion Prize. She is always thinking about the details that go into her designs, so this year she created a logo and sewed masks, bags, a hat, and even a gun holster for her collection.

“I would say this year was more relaxed than in the past,” she said. “Normally there would have been monthly meetings with the designers and multiple rehearsals with models, but with going virtual this year we were unable to do that. I also felt like some of the models were more relaxed because they weren’t nervous about a crowd.”

Larsen said that she was “really nervous” about doing a virtual fashion show, but she also really enjoyed the way it was done, and that the new format was “exciting.” 

“A lot of the elements of a fashion show is being able to see it in person,” she said. “But we were able to create an essence of the show and have it unfold in a different way than it ever has before. We were not locked into one space, and the different spaces allowed the designers to reflect their own pieces.”

Zering found inspiration for her collection within the themes of up-cycling and finding beauty in the unpredictable and she used everyday objects, like plastic shopping bags and found/reclaimed clothing, in her designs. This was her first year participating in Fashion Prize. 

When she was chosen to be a part of Fashion Prize, the pandemic had not happened, yet, so changing to a virtual platform gave her “less control of how (her collection) would be presented” but she was happy with the way the film team showcased her collection.

“I think Katy and the team did an awesome job, though, with such a short time to prepare for everything. I am very thankful to be included in the event,” she said. They could have canceled it, but I appreciate that they worked so hard. It was a huge honor to be included.”

As far as the individual collections, all three designers said the pandemic impacted their designs.

“When I was told the models would need to be wearing masks it changed the direction of my collection and I decided to go with a post-apocalyptic theme,” Srebeck said. “My collections seem to have a story with them. My models became a girl army scavenging for supplies and making their own clothing out of whatever they could find. I used details to hopefully bring that vision to life.”

For Shabazz, the change gave her the chance “to really give you Louisiana” due to shooting the show outside. 

“My collection changed a lot,” she said. “At first, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do for the Fashion Prize. However, when things began to shut down… it took me a while to really come to grips with what was going on.  When we finally got the word the show would continue, I just really wanted to show my view on the pandemic in a fun, light-hearted kind of way. I could focus on the fear, sorrow and devastation that this year brought, but I didn’t want to. I saw people finding creative ways of staying safe, being productive and surviving. So I just had fun with it.”


Zering said she had originally designed a SPring collection, but when the Spring show was canceled, she had to switch to a Fall collection. And incorporating masks changed how she approached hair and makeup.

“The design balance was different due to masks, so I wasn’t able to do the original styles I had planned,” she said. “I also had fewer models to work with.”

Despite the challenges, Zering (who makes pieces that would normally be trashed into art) said she was proud of the hard work of all the designers and what they were able to do. For her collection, she offered a few pieces that were simple- very simple, in fact.

“One piece was just a t-shirt that I cut into a dress,” she said. “I want to show people that you don’t have to be a master seamstress or have brand new equipment to create. I want to encourage people to think about what they have and know that their creativity is enough. You can find solutions for what you are trying to do.” 
And finding solutions was just what the Fashion Prize did this year.

“Juggling all the parts and having a live element to the productions was really difficult,” said Larsen, “But we made it happen!” 

Larsen also said that, moving forward, the virtual element is something Fashion Prize would be interested in using, again.

“We want to see a blending of the two formats. We are ready to ease people back into going to a live event, but we also want to stay flexible and use this type of element in the future,” she said. 

The winner of Fashion Prize will be announced live on Tuesday, October 13, at 7p.m. on at prizefest.com and on the Prize Fest Facebook page.