Tucson Designer Laura Tanzer Rewrites the Rules

It’s with beautiful irony that fashion designer Laura Tanzer opened her atelier in the historic depot of downtown Tucson. For the creations of this Parsons- and Fashion Institute of Technology-grad are definitively modern and forward. Yet, perhaps they do share one trait with the old train station—sustainability. “I really try to walk the talk,” says the elegant, flame-haired designer, who also holds a master’s degree in international finance and completed her dissertation at the UA’s School of Renewable Resources.  “I look for natural fabrics and fibers and work with companies that don’t add toxins to their fabrics.”

Tanzer’s aesthetic is refined and architectural for the 35+ woman who values quality construction and perfect fit.  A pair of luxuriously striped pants come in high and low-waisted versions. A white sculptural jacket covers as a chic, statement piece. A dress hem reaches to a distinct, flattering angle for older women. Her silk scarves, digitally printed with her colorful artwork, finish her chic, comfortable look. Inspired by her fashionable, doting grandmother as a girl, Tanzer went from sewing clothes for her Barbie dolls to attending New York’s most exclusive fashion schools and ultimately working for various designers on Seventh Avenue. Yet, in her own time, she was always freelancing, designing her own handbags, shoes and even furs. Now, in Tucson, Tanzer is building her signature design business in the desert.

She was just chosen for Phoenix Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer Boot Camp, where she will launch her Spring collection in October. She also plans to team with the UA Museum of Art for a Nov. 5 fundraiser at the museum. Sustainability will always be the soul of her business. Nothing is wasted at her atelier. “We save all scraps,” she says. Some go to her cousin who designs handbags. Others go to schools for art projects. She even sends pieces to Pima Community College’s Fashion Design Program. “We are careful about recycling anything and everything we can.” To that end, Tanzer also hosts a sustainability series on the fourth Wednesday of each month, which has lured as many as 40 guests each occasion to enjoy food, drink and valuable dialogue about guarding our natural resources. “We really get a good discussion going.”

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