Carrie Carter Cooper wasn’t born in Las Vegas—Reno, actually—but she’s been an integral part of this community for a long time. She moved here in 1970, started modeling at age 15, attended UNLV and, after working in LA and Asia, found her way back to Vegas to create Best Agency, now one of the most prominent entertainment and management companies in the city.
Cooper’s entrepreneurial spirit is matched only by her passion for philanthropy and community-building; she’s a founding member of Nevada Women’s Philanthropy and has served on several nonprofit boards. She recently took another big step in merging her professional and philanthropic efforts by founding the Las Vegas Fashion Council, a nonprofit trade association with the ambitious goal of making Vegas into a major player in the global fashion industry.
How did the Las Vegas Fashion Council come to be? I started working on it in 2009 based on the vision that Las Vegas is growing and evolving in so many amazing ways, and of course we have some of the most amazing retail experiences in the world here, and big convention events like MAGIC twice a year. In other nonprofit work that I do, I’ve been involved in these talks with different community leaders, and it’s all about diversifying the economy. I’d always thought, how is it that we don’t have a fashion week here in Las Vegas as they do in so many other cities around the world? London, Milan, those other cities all have something in common, an association, a community effort coming together first before turning into a fashion-industry destination.
So is the goal to get Las Vegas mentioned among those fashion-centric cities? We want to make a name for ourselves as a fashion city. Typically people don’t make that association with Las Vegas. Shopping, yes. We want to change that.
How? One immediate way is to better expose what we do have. Schools that have a great fashion curriculum. The Stitch Factory Downtown is kind of a hub for emerging artists to have a workspace. We are creating competitions and fashion presentations where designers will have greater opportunities to be seen. We have incredible talent here in Las Vegas and we want to create great partnerships in media and through nonprofits and corporations that will provide better support. And we do eventually see bringing an established educational component like an Otis or a Parsons to Las Vegas, whether that’s creating a free-standing facility or expanding on what UNLV, for example, is already offering.
What kind of fashion city would you like to see Las Vegas become? I see it a little more diverse, like LA or Chicago or Miami, or maybe San Francisco. It won’t be like New York, which can’t be [duplicated], but then again you’re never going to be able to create another Las Vegas, either. No matter how many places get gaming and resorts, there’s only one Las Vegas. Fashion is like that, too. There is room for everybody.
The Las Vegas Fashion Council officially arrived last year, but you’ve already staged some pretty big events. We have. Our first was in December when we partnered with the Art Institute for the Little Black Dress student design competition, with scholarship money for the winner. In January we did ArtLive!, a collaboration with the Modern art museum, which was just the perfect marriage, a win-win partnership. We auctioned off “Madison” mannequins painted by 10 different artists. And our next event is at the Springs Preserve, an eco-fashion event with four different types of presentations featuring work by students and emerging designers. Everything is geared toward continuing to grow awareness of the organization while creating opportunities for students to earn grants and scholarships, and opportunities for designers to showcase what they do and who they are.
As someone who grew up in this industry and has done so much charitable work in this community, this must be a special effort for you. It is. I’ve been in business here since 1997 and I love giving back to the community, and I’ve been lucky to have opportunities to engage with our great local nonprofits. It’s great to take my passion for what I know and what I’m familiar with and create events around it all. Fashion really speaks to me, but also the chance to be able to help spark that something, that recognition a teenager or a young person might have that really makes a difference in their life, when you discover a passion you didn’t know you had, that means a lot to me.
Metamorphosis Eco-Fashion Show April 23, 5-8 p.m., $25-$150. Springs Preserve, springspreserve.org.