At this year’s Tony Awards on June 12, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Vice President of the Broadway League of the Road and Arizona’s only Tony voter, will dazzle the red carpet ceremony in an original dress by the designer of Phoenix Melissa Torres.
“Fashion designers are artists,” said Jennings-Roggensack, vice president of cultural affairs at Arizona State University and executive director of ASU Gammage. “Creative and passionate events like the Tonys give local designers a chance to be seen, connecting the local fashion community to the world of Broadway. It was an honor not only to work with a local designer, but also someone one with such immense talent and passion for his craft.
The dress specially designed for Jennings-Roggensack is Torres’ first creation to walk the red carpet.
“This is my first official red carpet debut,” Torres said. “A big part of my goal as a designer is to create outfits for the red carpet, so it’s a dream come true.
Also known as Mia, Torres was born and raised in Phoenix and has always had a love for fashion. In 2019, Torres began to pursue her dreams when she graduated from Phoenix College with two associate degrees in arts and fashion design.
Shortly after graduating, Torres launched her fashion line by hosting an event in downtown Phoenix. This is where she hooked up with ASU Gammage and then Jennings-Roggensack.
“Colleen was already on my radar; I knew she used designers from Arizona for her Tony dresses. I was beyond thrilled to have this opportunity and design something just for her,” Torres said.
The process for Jennings-Roggensack’s dress began in December 2019, with the intention that the garment be worn at the 2020 Tony Awards.
“I originally wanted to associate the dress with Broadway shows that were to open in 2020. I did my research and took inspiration from the musical ‘Diana,'” Torres said.
Torres began working on a dress inspired by Catherine Walker’s white beaded dress made for Princess Diana in 1989.
“When I started working, I realized the dress was too heavy and very bridal. Then the pandemic started, and I just knew I wasn’t supposed to work on this design,” Torres said. “COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise because it’s given me two years to redesign something comfortable and suitable for Colleen. I’m so happy to have had a second chance.
Keeping “Diana” as her inspiration, Torres went back to the drawing board, adding her own twist to the new design.
“I changed it to purple and made it my own by shortening the length to give it the Melissa Torres feel,” she said.
With the dress in the works for over two years, Torres and Jennings-Roggensack have built a strong relationship, working together through every step of the design process.
“My favorite thing about working with Colleen is her enthusiasm,” Torres said. “This dress is different from what she wore before, and I love that she likes my ideas and is willing to try something new. It’s amazing to work with a client like that.
Torres has made it her mission to “design statement pieces for influencers,” with this dress setting a precedent for her future designs and red carpet looks.
“I’m all about thinking it, believing it, receiving it,” she said. “When I think of my future, I think of working with clients who are going to walk the red carpet at the Emmys, at the Oscars, at the Grammys. My goal is to be a EGOTEmmys, Grammys, Oscars and Tony Awards. designer, and it all starts with opportunities like this. If I can give anyone one piece of advice, it would be to never give up, believe completely in yourself and take every opportunity that comes your way.