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Building high fashion: High Tea & Fashion Extravaganza guest designer draws on architecture

Rodrigo Bunton Navarrete of Los Angeles is the guest designer at this year’s Pennies for the Homeless High Tea & Fashion Extravaganza on Sunday, Nov. 24. (Courtesy of Cuco Designs)

Fashion has always been a part of Rodrigo Bunton Navarrete’s life since he was child.

“Growing up in El Salvador, my mom always had a seamstress who would make her dresses,” he said. “So she would always take me fabric shopping and I think since then I’ve always had that in my mind. I would think, oh, my God, feel that fabric or look at that color or that blouse. It started with her, actually.”

Fashion design is not offered as a major at colleges in El Salvador so Navarrete decided to make the move to the United States.

“I had two degrees and then I decided to make the big step and come here,” he said. “I went to FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) here in (Los Angeles) and I started discovering myself. I closed that book and I started a new story and now I do fashion.”

Navarrete’s designs will be showcased during the High Tea & Fashion Extravaganza on Sunday, Nov. 24, at Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town. The event benefits Pennies for the Homeless, an all-volunteer, non-profit founded in 1993 by Joseph Saavedra and the late Diane Dal Santo, a former District Court judge. Its board consists of local business people dedicated to helping end homelessness and provide the homeless hope for a brighter future, according to the organization’s website.

Navarrete will feature 32 looks to include dresses, gowns, jackets, skirts, corsets and pants from his clothing line Cuco Designs. Navarrete is known for using bright and vibrant colors in his designs.

“Growing up, it was very hard for me. I got bullied a lot, so all my designs, I literally channel all of that anger and negativity into bright designs. So I put mainly a lot of colors like blues and golds and reds and pinks. I don’t use that many black though to be honest, or gray, maybe because it’s the same thing. That’s why I put a lot of sparkle as well because I want people to shine in my clothes. I want people to feel special and to feel like they have a light.”

The collection to be featured at the High Tea & Fashion Extravaganza was inspired by the Chrysler building in New York City.

“My inspiration for this collection was architecture,” Navarrete said. “I went to New York and fell in love with the Chrysler Building. I had 12 pieces and then I added another 20 pieces for this collection and my inspiration was that building in New York. For example, for the new collection my inspiration is still architecture. I go to different cities or old towns and just focus on the architecture. I really like the lines, how straight they are, or curves or circles, all that I love it. That is the main inspiration for the collection.”

Navarrete is currently working on a new collection that will be a little more punk and rock and roll using more leather, zippers and pleather.

Navarrete’s pieces showcased at the High Tea and Fashion Show can be purchased off the runway or people can visit Navarrete’s website to order. Saavedra of Pennies for the Homeless reached out to Navarrete to be part of the fashion show after seeing his designs on Instagram. Navarrete was happy to help after finding out more about Pennies for the Homeless’ mission.

“It feels great and that’s one of things that I was oh my God this is another reason I don’t want to use dull colors and I want to shine so these people can have hope,” Navarrete said. “I really love that feeling of helping people and mainly I was a dreamer once and I’m still dreaming and I want people to feel that like don’t give up keep going. I know it sounds cliché but at the same time it’s very true though.”

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