A Couture Couple

Local models take their relationship to the runway for Phoenix Fashion Week

Photos by Jim Fury Hesterman.

cole_spread1By Desi Rubio, Sept. 25, 2014.

With a fierce stare and a bold stance, Cole Sudduth is a natural in front of the camera and on the catwalk. His dense eyebrows hover over his clear green eyes and high cheekbones giving him an innate ability to capture someone’s attention right away.

Sudduth, a 20-year-old Seattle native, has been living in Gilbert for the past decade and is simultaneously pursuing a degree in fashion design from Mesa Community College and a modeling career.

Growing up in the adjacent city, Mesa, 23-year-old Colten Hebner had the same aspirations. His love for art and character enhancement projects into his own personal style, which he describes as an editorial, East-Coast look.

He seizes audience’s eyes with his thick brown hair; every strand lying perfectly in a high wave just like James Dean. His lips are adorably pouty and lend themselves to his endearing baby face.

colten_spread1-(1)Just over a year ago, the two alluring models met at a mutual friend’s party and connected over their admiration for Lana Del Rey, a pop singer/songwriter influenced by the ’50s and ’60s. Not only did they have the same taste in music, but they soon discovered their shared interests in fashion, art and design as well — commonalities that would serve as the foundation for a budding relationship that blossom into personal, and professional, chemistry between the two.

“I was drawn to him because he was just super nice and had that golden boy vibe,” explained Sudduth, who had began his modeling career after being approached by a modeling scout while working at a coffee shop after high school.

“I had always wanted to model but never knew how and she really helped me out a lot, she managed to get me free photo shoots and now [we’re] just focus on trying to get signed to an agency,” he said.

In turn, Sudduth encouraged Hebner to pursue his modeling aspirations as well and, shortly thereafter, Hebner caught the attention of The Agency Arizona, a local modeling agency that represents all ages for runway, fashion and commercial print, who signed Hebner last November.

Mixing business and pleasure can be quite precarious for any couple. However, both men explain how their personal bond does not interfere with, but actually enhances, their business affiliation.

“We are always talking about fashion, so when we go to work it never feels like work,” Hebner said. “We keep it very professional and make sure to project the right image in front of the camera.”

Conducting business in front of a live audience or a camera comes naturally to both models. And, behind the scenes, most of their contemporaries are in same-sex relationships as well.

DSC_5681-(1)Hebner, in particular, believes the LGBT community has actually gained a lot of support from the fashion industry, which made it easy for the couple to make their relationship public.

“Fashion is a huge outlet for creative expression and most of the defining designers have been gay,” Hebner said. “It has influenced the LGBT community in many positive ways.”

The ambitious couple has already worked together on various test shoots for friends and Toni & Guy hair salons. However, their greatest collaboration yet is set for in October, when both models will hit the runway as part of Phoenix Fashion Week 2014.

As part of the annual event, Sudduth will model a collection designed by Chandler-based State Forty Eight, who are competing in Phoenix Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer Competition.

Sudduth was also chosen as one of the Top 40 models to compete in a Model of the Year competition, the winner of which will be announced Oct. 4 and awarded a contract with The Agency Arizona (ironically the same agency Hebner is currently signed to).

Hebner knows he will be will be walking the Phoenix Fashion Week runway, but has yet to find out which designer’s work he’ll be wearing.

“As a model, we just show up,” Hebner said. “It is going to be so nice to see people of at the top of the field there.”

The couple agrees that working together in a supportive industry has been a career highlight. And, collectively, they’re looking forward to being a part of Phoenix Fashion Week and supporting one another through what promises to be an unforgettable experience. e

A Passion for Fashion

Phoenix Fashion Week expands for 2014

Phoenix Fashion Week will unite designers, buyers, models, media and enthusiasts Oct. 1-4, at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.

Throughout the year Phoenix Fashion Week hosts a variety of events, many of which culminate around the runway each October.

According to Brian Hill, Phoenix Fashion Week executive director, the ultimate goal of the annual event is to garner global exposure for Arizona’s fashion industry.

Hill said the annual event, which will showcase Holiday 2014 and Spring 2015 collections, is always growing and expanding. And, he added, this year’s expectations are higher than ever before.

“This year we have better education seminars and better-established brands,” he said. “Arizona designers are getting better and the bar has been raised. It is great because we are learning how to raise stable fashion businesses here in our own state.”

Hill said he’s seen tremendous growth in Arizona’s fashion industry in recent years, adding that just a decade ago fashion in Phoenix was merely a hobby rather than a booming business.

“Now, people are here building businesses and running with it,” he said. “Phoenix is now getting recognized nationally and national designers are becoming attracted to our boot camp.”

For the past four consecutive years, Phoenix Fashion Week has provided select emerging designers the opportunity to compete in a four-month-long brand boot camp, that leads up to the Designer of the Year announcement.

After visiting 10 major cities in search of worthy emerging designers, the Phoenix Fashion Week team selected 13 participants — seven of which are representing the the Phoenix metropolitan area. The winner, who will be announced Oct. 4, will receive prize packages that will help launch their brand to retailers.

According to Hill, past winners are experiencing current success by distributing their brand to retailers nationwide. And last year’s winner, Dolcessa, gained global exposure in the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

In addition to the runways shows and the Designer of the Year announcement, the event will also include the Model of the Year contest, the Style Villa Marketplace, the Business of Fashion Seminar Series and Fashionably Pink, a celebrity fashion show.

As part of the event’s humanitarian component — and Breast Cancer Awareness Month — models will be going “Fashionably Pink” on the runway Oct. 1. The show will benefit Don’t be a Chump! Check for a Lump and feature local breast cancer survivors and celebrities modeling pink creations revealed by each designer.

“The breast cancer survivors involved in the fashion show get all dolled on the cat walk and they all have fierce walks,” Hill said. “The truth is that fashion can have [an] impact on anyone.”

Phoenix Fashion Week
Oct. 1-4, 2014
Talking Stick Resort
9800 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale
Tickets start at $40