An Eventful Life
An Eventful Life
Paula Taylor’s life revolves around fashion. The owner of Paula Taylor Productions has been involved with the fashion world for about 18 years — as a fashion and events producer, stylist, retailer, instructor and author. In fact, she has literally written the book on How to Produce a Fashion Show from A to Z.
“I give step-by-step instructions to ensure a high-quality, successful event,” says Taylor. “I hope people get concrete skills and use the tools I lay out to apply to their events. Writing the book was quite a challenge; it took two years to complete and was a great learning experience.”
Taylor was born in Boston, lived in Michigan as a child, and moved to Tucson when she was 12. “Growing up, I loved to play dress-up, but I also was an athletic tomboy,” she remembers.
A career in fashion was not on her radar in college: she received her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree in environmental science from Leslie University (in Cambridge, Massachusetts). “Sustainability and environmental science are still near and dear to my heart,” she acknowledges.
“After grad school, I came back to Tucson and worked at the Tucson Botanical Gardens giving tours,” she recalls. “I couldn’t figure out what to wear for the job, so I started designing A-line dresses for myself. I loved doing it and women were practically buying them off of me!”
With help from accomplished designer Pegi Golden, Taylor put together her first collection. Soon after, in 1996, she opened her first boutique: Ultravivid. “Ultravivid was ahead of its time for downtown Tucson. It was a great lesson in what not to do!” she laughs.
She next opened Pour Moi, a boutique that focused on big-name designers and small avant-garde collections. “I brought designer labels to Tucson that had never been here,” she says.
After selling Pour Moi in 2008, she worked for Bill Blass New York, producing events and trunk shows on the West Coast. “That helped solidify how much I loved putting on events,” she observes, and led to starting her own company, Paula Taylor Productions. Last year she orchestrated 26 events, working with malls, charities, designers, artists and retailers. Nearly 75 percent of her work is here in Arizona with 25 percent national and international. She also teaches at the Art Institute of Tucson.
“Even if I did not have to work, I think I still would,” Taylor admits. “I believe it is very important to have a work ethic and stick to it.”
Her next big projects are producing “The Fashion Show: Monte Carlo” for The Tucson Ladies Council on Sept. 28, then the following month is Tucson Fashion Week (TFW), being held Oct. 17-19.
She and Melanie Sutton of MHS Styling are the creative directors for that event, which will showcase local and international designers, as well as designs from national retailers and local boutiques.
Student designers will be featured at La Encantada on Oct. 17; there also will be a meet-and-greet for designers and sponsors, which will be held at the Tucson Desert Art Museum, scheduled to open in November. “Oct. 18 is our big night at the Tucson Museum of Art,” Taylor enthuses. “Designer Betsey Johnson is scheduled to attend, and we are hoping to attract 500 people. Emerging Arizona designers will be highlighted on the runway, while other designers will create art-based exhibits in the lobby.” General admission to that event is $25.
Rounding out TFW on Oct. 19 is a show at Apex Gym focusing on menswear. “Holding an event at a unique location helps with an experience.” Taylor says people may think her life is glamorous, but she is quick to point out that fashion production is hard work. “On the day of an event, we will put in 15 to 16 hours — we are on both the set-up and the clean-up committee,” she jokes. It takes about 12 to 15 people to put on a fashion show.
“During an event, it is organized chaos in the back room,” she observes. “If something goes wrong, we just roll with it. One year, an assistant left a steamer on and it was spitting hot water on $6,000 silk dresses! Someone got a hair dryer, blow-dried the water off the dresses, and the crisis was averted.”
“My favorite part of event production is conceptualizing and story boarding. I enjoy translating an idea into reality — that is where the art and creativity come in. I like to think outside the box.”
When it comes to her personal style, Taylor prefers a very clean and simple silhouette. “My inspiration is the ’70s era. In my closet you will find a lot of vintage clothes, mini dresses, wide-legged pants and jumpsuits. There is a fine line in fashion. I try to be a little forward in fashion, but I don’t want to become a victim of trends. I don’t get rid of the classics, but I do add key new pieces each year.” Her fashion advice to others includes: “Don’t overdo it. If you feel like you are wearing a costume, take it off! Be yourself, but do not be afraid to try what’s on trend.”
Looking ahead, Taylor would like tohave a large-scale production company in town; “I would like to create opportunities for talented, young, creative people so we could keep them here.”
She has been married for 12 years to another creative soul — Clif Taylor, a musician (often performing as Chick Cashman) and filmmaker. Their four-legged family member is Sadie, a mini-Australian shepherd. Taylor has worked with several local charities to support causes in which she believes. “The American Heart Association is important to me because heart disease and stroke run in my family. I also love contemporary art and am on the advisory board at the Museum of Contemporary Art.”
When not working, she loves to read. “I am ‘old school’ and read ‘real’ books,” she says with a laugh. She also likes to hike and enjoy nature. “In fact, years ago, I spent a year on a bus with 18 other people traveling around the U.S. and Canada, studying the environment. The program was affiliated with the Audubon Society. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was an amazing learning experience!” — Wendy Sweet