It should have been a sign that Tampa Bay would be making a huge fashion statement on one of my many trips to Florida, coming home with (surprise, surprise) fur-lined snow boots and amazingly warm and stylish winter coats at extremely low prices.

Tall cool woman in a Red Dress.

Go figure. Winter wear from Florida? Who knew.

A few years ago I was offered a writing position for a luxury watch magazine. “There's no fashion in the Tampa Bay area. Miami, maybe but not this side of the state,” I was told when I mentioned my new job.

Even after I visited the luxury watch magazine's office based in Clearwater, I myself started to wonder if there would be much fashion coming out of the West Coast of Florida.

In all fairness to the ones who said there was no fashion on the Gulf side of Florida, yeah this area really wasn't known for being fashion forward and it was not known for producing many designs that would set the nation stepping its fashionable foot forward.

Yet time has ticked, ticked away and designers, makeup artists, stylists, fashion editors, writers, photographers, the area's local residents and even those in the fashion scene from other states were not only dreaming, they were putting their passion into action.

Enter Fashion Week Tampa Bay with Nancy Vaughn and her entourage to blaze the trail and set Tampa Bay on the fashion map forever. Now all the coat-lugging that I did all these years can be found on the runways. Maybe I had more of a fashion sense then I knew!

The glam industry arrives for Tampa Bay Fashion Week.

An enormous white tent was set up riverside at the historic Tampa Armature Works location. This made for a unique setup because the Armature was a place where mining equipment and machinery were repaired. It was a surreal setting as it was a fusion of glam plus industry along a lazy river on Riverview. Beautiful, shiny new automobiles by the main sponsor Audi Clearwater sparkle against the rustic industrial buildings' interior and exterior, Audi reps in polished black suit and tie, and a mix of Florida's A-List mixing with the press made for a real live magazine photo shoot. Cameras clicked, clicked, clicked and video cameras rolled all evening as the media-infested event carried on.

Souped up streetwear for men.

I was able to sit back and enjoy the drinks and extras as I had VIP seating while my photographers did an amazing job of capturing everything that was happening in front of our eyes and the eyes of the cameras. 

Showcasing mixed designs and styles for different occasions, this year's designers mixed casual with glam. Luxury with everyday. Polished, smooth fabrics, sequins and dazzle, everyday and extravagant bikinis, glammed-out fantasy loungewear and lingerie, dream wedding dresses, military-inspired every day outfits,  dazzling flowing fabric gowns, custom design pill box hats and military mixed with couture hats, and even  a rhinestone-studded spandex swimwear found itself walking down the runway.

Men are people too and they need to be decked out as well. Imaginations were well crafted onto garments that will set the pace for Spring 2011

As I had attended all the events before the runway show, I had a chance to do my own little mingling with all those involved in Fashion Week Tampa Bay. Parties at Clearwater Audi, a charity event at Neiman Marcus, and more led to additional birthday parties and brunches. Lunch with a designer at the The Cheesecake Factory led to some custom hats which were designed by Neva Durham of Divas Joy, especially for my upcoming trips to NYC and Miami.

Models line up on the runway.

A hilarious karoake birthday party at some of Florida's A-list also led me to more rubbing shoulders with the designers and models. One designer who attended the birthday party is Audrey “Pat” McGhee. Her urban couture clothing rocked the house, I mean, the tent on the night of the runway show. Future brunch appointments with stylists and a fashion show at an art gallery are just a few of the upcoming events that came out of this one special week. Thanks, TBFW.

Hats for divas from Diva's Joy.

The music that was pumping during the evening was just as creative and varied as the designers' creations. From tropical to rock to a sick version of “Sweet Dreams are Made of This” (my personal favorite), Fashion Week Tampa Bay guests were well entertained. The refreshments, free gifts, and excitement kept right up with the models that were cat-walking down the runway one after the other. It was an intense evening; a cranking up the fashion notch by several levels that I'm sure will be topped during next year's event.

With two new makeovers, a bag of goodies from the event, hundreds of photos, new friends, a pile of business cards for more amazing networking, and a collection of custom made hats I have an even greater appreciation for the fashion scene. This was all possible due to Tampa Bay Fashion Week.

The only thing that I could have asked for (which I'm sure will be created soon) is an automated way to purchase the outfits that I wanted as it was brisking by. And no sooner than I can finish typing this last sentence, my new friend, owner of a modeling agency and also a programmer whose wife is a model, tells me that he has been working on creating such a device.

This year's events were a huge hit as it offered something for everyone. Whether you're more conservative or more glitzy in your fashion, whether you're there for the charity or there to grab the hottest fashion to hit the market, Tampa Bay Fashion Week offered something special. Bravo! A standing ovation to you, Tampa Bay, as you have permanently become THE perfect accessory for the Miami and NYC fashions and making yourself a permanent fixture on USA's fashion map. See you with your new title on Google Maps!

— Feature by Lena Hunt, Jetsetters Magazine Florida Correspondent.

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