By Allison Mistlebauer[This weeks guest blogger writes from Phoenix, AZ.]

Despite the fact that fashion design did not officially emerge until the late 19th century, the principle of projecting a certain image using clothing and accessories was already well-established by royalty and wealthy land owners in Europe. Henry VIII was masterful at using clothing to portray a specific image; power. He chose only the finest silks and most expensive fabrics and jewels when he met with other Kings and he was keenly aware of how his image and clothing reinforced his position as King.

Once a formal profession fashion designers used clothing and accessories to express their unique styles and ideas while pushing forward new ideas that might challenge the cultural norms of the time. Many designers, like Coco Chanel took already up and coming styles and made them more mainstream and fashionable by using their well-established name. Though Coco Chanel did not originate male-like sports wear for women, she did make it popular.

Fashion design is almost inevitably tied to the social and political happenings of the time and serves as a key element in any history lesson, especially one that focuses on the role of women. Design during wartimes were vastly different than those of the Golden Age in Paris, as the clothing for women needed to be more practical as they took positions in factories to support war efforts. The main colors of a given time-period also reflected culture. Darker colors were more prevalent during wartime which is in stark contrast to the neon colors of the 1980’s era of freedom and choice.

Fashion design sometimes dictates the trend and sometimes follows the needs of the time. Though today London, Paris and New York may still arguably be the centers for fashion design, many other smaller US cities are starting to develop their own set of fashion designers and create their own fashion culture. Democratization of fashion design has led to an explosion of designers in cities large and small across the globe. Small niche markets have cropped up each with their own set of well-known designers and followers.

Though Phoenix would not rank very high as a fashion design center, it is starting to develop its own place in fashion by hosting a Fashion Week, showcasing local designers who have a more global following and recognizing new and aspiring design artists. Given the growing population of the Phoenix market, it’s a good market for some made-to-measure and ready-to-wear designs. Angela Johnson, one particular designer in Phoenix has not only been recognized locally, but has started to create a more global presence. Her unique designs take an eco-friendly approach where she uses old, vintage and thrift t-shirts to create new designs. She has created ball gowns out of old t-shirts that have an edgy and unique look to them as compared to the traditional ball gown.

Fashion design in the Phoenix market will continue to evolve and grow even though the global fashion centers will likely remain unchanged. A smaller market like Phoenix affords new designers great opportunity to create a name and build a reputation.