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LRFW 2013 Fashion Icon: Connie Fails | Arts & Culture

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LRFW 2013 Fashion Icon: Connie Fails
LRFW 2013 Fashion Icon: Connie Fails


By: Samantha Stephan

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In December of 1978, an arsonist caused an eruption of flames that led to the fall of a tiny, two-story clothing boutique in Little Rock, Ark. — just four months after it opened its doors. As the inferno persisted, a woman stood outside waiting for the responding firemen to dissipate the blaze. Watching the commotion, the neighborhood mailman approached and handed her a small envelope with handwriting on it — the sender was Hillary Rodham Clinton.  

‘Dear Connie,

You may not know who I am, but you may recognize me if you see me. When people come from out-of-state to visit Little Rock, I love to bring them by your store. My husband has just been elected governor. I would like to know if you would like to make my inaugural gown. – Hillary Rodham.’

Fashion designer Connie Fails instantly reacted to the news:

“I thought …My store just got burned down. I have no equipment. And now, I have this fabulous opportunity to design a gown for the new First Lady [of Arkansas]!” Fails said.

That first inaugural gown was put on permanent display in Arkansas' historic Old State House. Fails and Clinton quickly developed a friendship that is as strong today as it was over 30 years ago. In fact, it was Fails's custom designed inaugural suit that Hillary wore, following Bill’s swearing-in-ceremony as the 42nd president of the United States. Hillary also wore several Connie Fails coats for the inaugural ball and other festivities that week.

Fails has been nationally recognized because of her unique and fashion-forward style — selling designs to Henri Bendel in New York, etc. Fails and her designs have been featured at international fashion productions, in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Vanity Fair, People, Today Show, and Good Morning America. She selflessly contributes to various non-profit organizations worldwide, has served as a White House Delegate of the Private Sector on the International Treaty on Adoption in The Hague, Netherlands. Currently, Fails manages the Clinton Museum Store for the Clinton Foundation in Little Rock.

From being the fashion designer for Hillary, to owning a greatly successful fashion business, to working nonstop as a community leader for charities, now Fails can add another title…Icon. On Saturday, July 20, Little Rock Fashion Week (LRFW) will honor Fails as its “LRFW 2013 Fashion Icon” at LRFW’s BIG Night. The event is being held at Robinson Center Exhibition Hall, located at 7 Statehouse Plaza in downtown Little Rock.

LRFW Founder Brandon D. Campbell coincidentally met Fails and was immediately in awe.

“Mrs. Fails was very humble and soft spoken,” says Campbell. “She is so accomplished, yet I could still see that youthful sparkle in her eye when talking about fashion and the community. I’ve wanted to meet her for many years, but honestly, didn’t know how to approach it. I’m glad I did. I must say she’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever gotten the chance to know. Little Rock Fashion Week honoring Mrs. Fails with the 2013 Fashion Icon Award was a no brainer for me and my staff.” 

After meeting with some key LRFW staff members on the award recipient, Campbell and team agreed on Fails. Campbell sent a message to Fails, informing her of the honor. Fails accepted the award and will be attending the LRFW on July 15-20.

“It was totally a surprise to me,” says Fails. “I’ve seen some publicity on Little Rock Fashion Week, so I’m interested to see what will happen [next week]. I was told that there would be different events during the week and [mixers], so I’m excited about it. I just had a second grandbaby born [about] 3 weeks ago and so I changed all of my travel plans so that I could be here for the whole week of fashion week. Then on Monday the 22nd, I’ll leave and go out and see my baby for a week.”

Fails’s husband Leslie Singer, daughter Hannah Singer, and her three year old granddaughter Cerilean Singer will be in attendance on Saturday, July 20th.

Each year, the “LRFW Fashion Icon Award’ is given to a native Arkansan who has made a considerable impact on the fashion industry both locally, nationally and in Fails’s case globally.

Long-time friend Mary Anne Radmacher believes that Fails’s award is well deserved for a being a hardworking and caring individual.

“She represents someone that doesn’t like to talk about ‘why things can’t be done,’ but ‘how things can be done’ — that is what is so special about Connie,” Radmacher said.

Devoted customers, co-workers, and young aspiring fashion designers supported and believed in Fails’s fashion eye within the community, inspiring her to rebuild her fashion design business, once again. This time, the boutique lasted over 20 years. Stylist and customer for 30+ years, Babbie Lovett owns almost one of all of the designs that Fails has ever created.

“I have kept her things because they are figure-friendly,” Lovett said. “They are the kinds of things that really make women look good.”

Fails sold her clothing store 9 years ago, devastating her fans, but now even more convinced that her decision to work for friend and former President of the United States Bill Clinton was the best decision she ever made.

“A year ago, last December, I set up all of my sewing equipment in the back part of The Clinton Museum Store and made a little studio,” Fails says. “This store eventually led to my involvement in Curbside Couture.”

Curbside Couture gives young designers the chance to participate in a fashion event using only recyclable material. Starting next year, it will also be the site of educational scholarship funds of $5,000+ that will be distributed amongst selected winners based off of their clothing creations.

“Connie will take her relentless commitment to create into all sorts of media. Connie takes fashion wherever she goes. Fashion will be a part of her life — always,” Radmacher said.

At LRFW 5, Fails is lending her expertise in several categories, as a judge for LRFW’s Youth Fashion Sketch Competition for students of grades 1st to 12th and evaluating showcasing designers Fall/Winter collections for the LRFW 2013 Clothing Line of the Year award.

“I’m just interested in seeing how people see fashion, whether it’s ready-to-wear, or custom stuff or stuff that’s just strictly designed for shows,” said Fails.

See Fails get honored with “LRFW 2013 Fashion Icon Award” at LRFW’s BIG Night on July 20th at the Robinson Center Exhibition Hall, 7 Statehouse Plaza in Little Rock, Ark. 72201. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Advanced ticket prices are $45 (VIP); $35 (general admissions) $55 (All Week Pass); $75 (All Week Exclusive Pass) Tickets to LRFW 5 are available at www.LittleRockFashionWeek.comLRFW.TicketLeap.com, Hearne Fine Art, Gallery 26, Uncle T's and The Treasure Chest in Pine Bluff, Ark. 
Sponsors of LRFW 5 are Oneofakind Talent Inc., Regency Beauty Institute, Parker Cadillac, Grisham Law Firm, Sync Magazine, The Italian Kitchen at Lulav, Savannah College of Art & Design School of Fashion, Holiday Inn Presidential Hotel, Cornerstone Pub, J Kelly Referrals, Hearne Fine Arts, Little Rock Zoo, Sweetness Boutique and Belk.

To learn more about LRFW 5 designers visit LittleRockFashionWeek.com, or contact Samantha Stephan at media@littlerockfashionweek.com.