By Marissa Willman
When AuBrey Ward Jr. came to Palm Springs two and a half years ago, he had a vision: He was going to turn Palm Springs into a premier fashion mecca, one designer at a time.
“I had decided to come to Palm Springs as a designer,” Ward said. “But once I got here, I realized there was a huge need to support retail clothing stores in downtown Palm Springs.”
With little in the way of support for young designers, Ward decided to take matters into his own hands to support the local fashion community.
“We started out with just an idea,” Ward said. “What we had decided to do was to support the retail industry and create the fashion district.”
The Palm Springs Fashion Council functions similarly to a chamber of commerce, bringing resources, support and opportunity to local designers. Its offices at the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership allow the council to provide an incubator for young designers who otherwise would not be able to launch their careers.
“We have access to manufacturers, strategic planning and business planning,” Ward said. “We guarantee their success. That’s what the incubators are for.”
Through the young designers’ program, the council provides opportunities such as editorial shorts, fundraisers and trunk shows to up-and-coming designers.
“We’ve already brought in three or four designers,” Ward said, “all launching out of the Palm Springs Fashion District.”
The Palm Springs Fashion District will stretch from Amado Road to Tahquitz Canyon between Indian Canyon and Palm Canyon. Ward hopes to see the historic Town and Country Center become the ultimate headquarters for the fashion council by working with preservationists and mid-century modernism enthusiasts alike.
“We’re starting with the old Zelda’s building,” Ward said. “Town and Country Center will be the headquarters for our fashion community, where designers can come and access sewing machines, mannequins and do runway shows.”
Ward said the facility will also have facilities such as a photography studio for designers to access. Additionally, Ward is working with the Coachella Valley Enterprise Zone to bring manufacturers into the desert and grow the local economy.
The Fashion Council will host a mixer at CVEP’s Palm Springs office on the 15th from 6 – 8 p.m. The mixer will allow the public to meet members of the fashion and film communities, as well as hear the latest updates on the proposed Fashion District and an upcoming international fashion festival.
Next January, the Palm Springs Fashion Council will present the first annual Palm Springs International Fashion Festival. The festival will promote local designers and feature 30 international designers through the World Fashion Organization. With the support of the international organization, local designers will have the opportunity to grow their brands.
“People launching out of Palm Springs can go global,” Ward said.
The festival will celebrate the fashion industry, bringing designers, buyers, sales representatives, entertainers and performers to the Palm Springs Convention Center.
“The industry needs to know there is a fashion community in Palm Springs,” Ward said.
For more information on the Palm Springs Fashion Council and its upcoming events, visit PSFashionCouncil.com.