Benjamin Powell on Utah Pacific Fashion Show 2023

Art and Fashion

On Saturday, July 29, Utah hosts its very first Utah Pacific Fashion Show. Planned since October 2022, the show will feature prominent Pacific Islander designers from the area, including Afa Ah Loo (Project Runway designer), Kalolaine Pahulu Rapp (international jewelry designer) and Benjamin Powell (hair and makeup artist). The show will be 100% produced by Pacific Islanders and will highlight fashion pieces from each designer, with both couture and everyday pieces on display. The fashion show will be a great opportunity to open doors for designers in the area and to showcase the incredible talent within our community. SLUG spoke with Benjamin Powell, co-founder of Utah Pacific Fashion, to discuss the organization’s July 29 show being held at the Utah State Fairpark Grand Building. Get tickets here.

SLUG: How would you describe your personal relationship to fashion? What made you want to pursue it in this capacity?

Benjamin Powell: I have always been interested in fashion from a young age. I studied fashion merchandising and design during [my] high school years as an alternative subject and switched to cosmetology. I’ve always been creative and a non-traditional student in school. 

SLUG: How would you describe the mission of Utah Pacific Fashion? What is your goal for each show? 

Powell: The mission is to open up opportunities for all communities, especially the Pacific Island community, which is the community I come from. The opportunities include education, economic and professional development and guidance from experts in the industry.

SLUG: How long have you been planning this particular show? What goes into the process of planning any given show?

Powell: The show has been in the planning stages since October 2022. There [are] so many facets and moving parts in planning a show. … logistics, seeking out designers, hair and makeup artists. Another component is marketing and sales strategies, networking with existing businesses local and abroad [and] coordinating team meetings, including the expert volunteers who help build and work tirelessly behind the scenes. That is just to name a few [the things that] we’ve done for Utah Pacific Fashion.

SLUG: What’s significant about this July 29th show? What sets this apart from other Utah fashion shows? 

Powell: July 29 was the only open date for summer at a venue that can fit 400–500 capacity. This is the first fashion show in Utah, and perhaps in the states, that is 100% produced by Pacific Islanders. There [are] three founders and organizers: Afa Ah Loo (Project Runway designer), Kalolaine Pahulu Rapp (international jewelry designer) and [myself,] Benjamin Powell (hair and makeup artist). All three of us live in Utah and come from Pacific Island countries such as Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. 

SLUG: Which designers are you particularly excited about showcasing? 

Powell: We are super excited to showcase ALL the designers [and] what they bring to the industry. All have a specific client base from couture to kids, contemporary to modern with a cultural presence in their designs and collections.

SLUG: Tell us about the models who will be a part of the July 29 show.

Powell: We have over 100-plus models of all walks of life. The goal is to represent the inclusiveness we have within our Pacific Island community, American and other communities [such as] the LGBTQI+ community. Our models are of different shapes and sizes, realistic to the world we live in today!

SLUG: Anything else readers might want to know? 

Powell: They just need to come see what it is all about! We plan to expand in the near future, and we are so excited to share fashion, culture, diversity and [to] expand our horizon through our passion and love for what we do.

To learn more about Utah Pacific Fashion and buy tickets to the July 29 fashion show, head to Follow Utah Pacific Fashion on Instagram @utahpacificfashion.

Read more on Pasifika-centered organizations in Utah:
PIK2AR: Providing Positive Change for the Pasifika Community
PEAU: Uniting Cultures Through Education at the DIY Festival