Designer for Hire

Fashion Crush

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In celebration of the upcoming Tucson Fashion Week, we profile some home-grown fashion designers. Our fashion crush this month: Elizabeth Denneau of CandyStrike. By Gillian Drummond.

3S: Why ‘CandyStrike’?

Elizabeth: “I was painting a lot of vintage clothes by hand and I was into learning about sweatshop labor. Candy represented this mass production, fast fashion, and the strike is a strike against it. I like that it’s a little confusing. People have to ask me what the name is all about.”

3S: When did you start playing around with fashion?

Elizabeth: ” I grew up really poor in Tucson. We didn’t have money for getting new things. You became really resourceful, especially if you were fashionable. There were a lot of thrift items that were re-sewn. I did what I could to make sure I could express myself. I was raised by my single mom and two aunts. Each of these women was different but they all knew how to sew. I was drawing and painting from a very young age and I’ve always loved textiles and manipulating things.”

3S: How would you describe CandyStrike?

Elizabeth: “The majority of plus sizes are very boring, so I strive to use very unique, edgy things you would never see provided in a size 18. They’re one-of-a-kinds [bought and re-designed] and also originals, made from scratch. A lot of time I’ll paint on them and do screen printing. My latest piece is a swimsuit with the Virgen de Guadalupe on it (modeled, above, by Elizabeth’s friend, blogger Jes Baker). She’s a recurring theme.

“The line I’m working on for Tucson Fashion Week is inspired by British bands like Joy Division, The Cure and Siouxsie [and the Banshees]. It may be the only plus size on the runway, which I think is really awesome.”


Elizabeth Denneau. Photo by Gillian Drummond

3S: You are the founder of Tucson Fashion Week. What is it like trying to be fashion-forward living in Tucson?

Elizabeth: “Tucson is like a bad boyfriend. Sometimes it can be that boyfriend that has so much potential and then he turns around and smacks you in the face. Then he does something awesome again and you’re like ‘I’ll try again’. After a while he stops smacking you in the face. It can be a very amusing relationship. Everyone gets really excited about things here, even officials. Then it could be a permit, it could be so many walls you just run smack into.

“It’s hard to find your tribe here as a designer, that’s one of the biggest challenges I have. But that’s why Tucson Fashion Week is really great.”


A sneak peek of what CandyStrike is planning for Tucson Fashion Week. Photo by Gillian Drummond

3S: Where do you find your clothes?

Elizabeth: I find clothes on eBay and around town – places like How Sweet it Was on 4th Avenue. Sometimes I’ll find a $2 item at Target and know I can do something with it. And don’t discount places like dollar stores, Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul. You have to dig and be willing to take something that you’re going to have to do repairs on.”

3S: What designers influence you?

Elizabeth: “Alexander McQueen. I feel a kinship to him and what he’s done, and things I read about him and his whole aesthetic. He was an ‘aha’ moment for me, when I found him. That was a decade ago.”

3S: Who was your first fashion crush?

Elizabeth: Lisa Bonet in The Cosby Show. I grew up with my family on my mother’s side, and they’re all Irish. There weren’t a whole lot of black people around, none of them looked like me. And here was Lisa Bonet. She wore the coolest outfits.”

* You can find the CandyStrike store online or at  197 E. Toole, Tucson… although not for long. Elizabeth plans to close her brick-and-mortar shop soon and have pop-up shops instead. Follow Elizabeth’s funny, warts-and-all blog, Your Life in Design, for the latest CandyStrike news.

3 Story is a proud sponsor of Tucson Fashion Week, which runs October 17th to 19th, 2013. For tickets and info visit


Elizabeth’s signature touch is to paint and silk-screen clothes. Photo courtesy of CandyStrike



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