Flood destroys work by Project Runway finalist from Taos

Fashion designer's collection of coats, capes, blouses and pants are nearly a total loss


Noted fashion designer Patricia Michaels planned to unveil a new collection for full-figured women at this year's Indian Market, Aug. 18-19.

But her plan washed away down the Santa Fe River.

Like so many other Santa Feans, Michaels -- and her studio on Camino Carlos Rey, north of Cerrillos Road -- fell victim to the July 23 rainstorm that left the city a big, muddy mess.

"Sometimes I'm really strong about it; sometimes I'm numb," Michaels said as she surveyed the damage to her studio.

The Taos Pueblo artist, who gained fame as a finalist on the 11th season of the popular reality TV show "Project Runway," said her collection of coats, capes, blouses and pants was nearly a total loss.

"That's why it's so devastating," she said.

Michaels pegged the damage to her studio, which contained everything from shoes and fabrics to photographs and autographed books, at about $70,000.

"I cry in and out of this whole experience," she said. "But at the same time, being creative, you just then bring your creativity out. The show must go on. I keep telling myself, 'The show must go on. The show must go on.'"

The fashion show has "basically turned into a flood-relief fashion show," said Craig Allen, who co-owns True West Gallery.

"Her sewing machines are still wet because they got soaked," said Allen. "They were sitting on low pedestals or on the floor underneath the work tables. For her, it's been a major disaster."

A fundraiser is in the works. Once plans are finalized, Michaels said she will share the details on her website, pmwaterlilyfashion.co­m, or on her Facebook page.

Allen said there isn't a lot of demand for the type of clothing that Michaels sells during Indian Market. But the gallery, which represents Michaels, is promoting the fashion show "to try to raise funds to help her get back on her feet."

"She has put her business on the back burner many times to help her community and help other designers within Santa Fe, and we felt it only right that someone help her," he said, adding that about a dozen models are donating their time.

Michaels, who said she recently moved to Santa Fe to be closer to her parents because her father has Parkinson's disease, said she signed a lease for the Camino Carlos Rey studio in April and got the studio situated in June. Leaving Taos wasn't easy, she said.

"I love Santa Fe. I was born and raised here. I have so many great memories and success here in Santa Fe. To not have that right now, because this is like my hometown, it just, it sucks," she said, crying.

Like many other artists who show at Indian Market, Michaels said she relies heavily on sales during the annual event.

"It's not just about me," she said. "This time of the year, I usually do contract work and employ people to get the production done for Indian Market. Now I can't, so it takes food off of other people's table."

Michaels said she didn't have insurance. "I'm drying as much as I can, the best way I can -- even the leather, the little pieces that are salvageable," she said. "If I don't try to save all the ribbons, the silks and the wools that are still salvageable, then I'm out even deeper."

Michaels said she never imagined she would be hit by flooding but that her studio is actually in a "perfect flood zone." A retaining pond and a brick wall separate the building in which her studio is located and a residential neighborhood.

"Their wall that was separating us acted as a dam because there's no place for the water from this little pond to go out," she said. "When that wall eventually broke, then the water started to drain out and then they got hit, poor things."

Coincidentally, Michaels' studio is located in the same building as a business called the Good Water Co.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon. This story first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a sibling publication of The Taos News.