Fashion and Arts Week 2011 dressed up downtown Clearwater in style

Stepping into the studio at System Productions for the night’s big event was exactly like stepping into any New York City studio, which seems to be owner and fashion photographer Troy Plota’s (pictured below) goal. A hodgepodge of art lined the dark gray walls, while red couches dotted the floor and lamps that looked like they might have had roots at IKEA glowed from every corner.

Guests were already spilling through the doors and gravitating toward the cash bar as a DJ played music videos on a large screen and caterers from Greektown Grill set up a tantalizing spread. One corner of the room was set aside for the modeling, with a stark white backdrop and large umbrella lights poised for photography of the models, which would be done by Plota himself that evening.

[image-1]In a small room toward the back, gaggles of young pretty things got primped before their close-ups, and in another room, a video presentation of some of Plota’s best work played in a loop. Guests were free to experience it all.

The models began to filter out, all dressed in designs by Lending Luxury. The line provides the opportunity to rent designer gowns at a fraction of the cost. The girls took turns in the photography area, while Plota snapped their photos and called out directions. While they waited their turn, they chatted with the guests, who ranged from scruffy teenaged boys with wide eyes to elegant men and women in suits who pretended not to be impressed with the festivities. Photographers from all over pushed and ducked their way into a good angle for the best shots.

[image-2]The overall event managed to be laid back and electric at the same time, making you feel as if you had been invited to the most exclusive party in town by a bunch of familiar friends. It was certainly a success that set the scene for another spectacular Fashion and Arts Week.

Feb. 8 kicked off Fashion and Arts Week, an event designed to bring new life to the beautiful Cleveland Street District.

Strolling the sidewalk on that balmy evening, one could hear music wafting from every lighted doorway and relaxed conversation from every outdoor table.

A good first stop was the new studio of Craig Taylor (pictured right), whose world-famous shirts have been worn by Oprah and other notables. His designs hung from racks in colorful disarray, lining the brick walls and reflecting off the strings of lights in the windowsills. Visitors strolled throughout the small rooms, stopping to ask a question of the designer, whose breezy nature and ready smile made him as easy to approach as an old friend.

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