Chic chicas

The Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport bustled with activity during Thursday’s Latino Fashion Week event. Patrons, vendors, and participants moved through the front hall of the center, which was filled to the brim with tables lined with bright signs and colorful clothing. Proprietors of high fashion at the tables included Walgreens, Fiat, Chiro One, Fuze, and McDonalds. The organizers also asked a handful of local stores and organizations to participate. One such group, Princess Closet, provides free dresses to girls for prom and special occasions, all of which come new from boutiques around Chicago. At their table, an elaborate floor-length light pink dress was on display, with patterned beads of darker pink near the waist and collar.

For the expo attendees, there were plenty of opportunities for engagement–from makeovers to contests for prizes ranging from cars to exotic vacations. Along the walls of the center hung paintings, photographs, sculptures, and various arts pieces created by different Latino artists.

Teen Day Fashion Show and Family Pavilion started at 2pm with the fashion expo. But the runway show was to be the main event of the evening, featuring Cuban designer Jorge Pérez de la Havana’s new quinceañera line for Macy’s. As the time of the show approached, the din began to rise with excitement as more people entered through the doors. Parents of one model, Carmen Guerrero, stood waiting anxiously and announced proudly, “It’s her fist big show.”

Upstairs above the expo and mounting crowd, the runway area was full of energy.  Past several rows of white chairs–each with a Macy’s bag on it–and behind the curtains on the stage, the models prepared themselves for the big entrance. A pile of shoes were stacked up on the left, waiting to be worn in the show. Workers steam-ironed long dresses, while professional beautification staff applied make-up to the young models: hairspray, straighteners, and curling irons tossed about as they sculpted the models’ hair. Arabel Alva Rosales, one of the co-executive producers, hustled about amidst the many people backstage.

The ring shaped platform in the center of the room loomed, calmly awaiting the teen models that would soon be walking out. Colored lights shown about the room, and projections flashed over the empty chairs onto the wall.  The show was ready to start.