From left, Chandler residents Nick Polano, Mike Spangenberg and Stephen Polano are competing in Phoenix Fashion Week's Emerging Designer Challenge. [Jennica Maes/Special to Tribune]

Jennica Maes/Special to Tribune

Three Chandler fashion designers received recognition for their new line inspired by their native desert surroundings.

Phoenix Fashion Week, a top fashion industry event in the Southwest region, chose Chandler-based State Forty Eight fashion brand as one of the top 13 designers and design teams as part of its 2014 Emerging Designer contest. State Forty Eight will compete in Phoenix Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer Challenge 2014 in October.

“Each year, our team travels to 10 cities in search of the best emerging designers in the nation,” said Brian Hill, executive director of Phoenix Fashion Week, in a statement. “When we discovered State Forty Eight this year, we were very impressed with the high-quality design and long-term vision.”

State Forty Eight designers Mike Spangenberg and siblings Stephen and Nick Polando are attending a four-month boot camp where they and the other designers will each work on their own 12-piece collection. State Forty Eight, along with the other Arizona designers, all meet every other Wednesday at the Phoenix Fashion Week Hub in Phoenix to partake in the boot camp. Spangenberg and the Polandos get together about twice a week to discuss their progress and ideas for their brand.

The emerging designers will present their collections on Oct. 2 at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. The designers will compete to win the title of Designer of the Year, gain exposure for their brand, and receive a package of goods and services valued at $10,000.

“We didn’t know what to expect at the beginning,” Spangenberg said. “Nick, Stephen, and I all have three different styles and for me, this is a no-brainer to be in this.”

The words “fashion show” made the Polando brothers hesitant at first, as they thought they had to create fancy dresses and elaborate clothing. But Spangenberg said they have taken the opportunity and learn from the classes and received a boost in exposure — he said the company has seen an increase in sales due in part to Phoenix Fashion Week.

The State Forty Eight designers decided to apply for the contest after attending Phoenix Fashion Week in 2013. Spangenberg said they realized this was prime opportunity for the design team to announce its appearance to the world of fashion.

Spangenberg and the Polandos founded State Forty Eight in April 2013, and the connection between the threesome traces back to the friendship Stephen Polando and Spangenberg have developed since elementary school.

Their goal was to create fashionable clothing for men, women and children that displays Arizona’s unique aesthetic.

“It never felt like there was any clothing out there that really represented Arizona without being one of those Walgreens T-shirts with a cactus or something like that,” Spangenberg said.

About a couple of years ago, the three of them started meshing all of their ideas and generated potential names. Stephen Polando finally asked his friends what they thought about the name State Forty Eight.

Spangenberg said it was perfect — exactly what they wish to market to and also leaves room for expansion beyond Arizona’s borders.

“We’re working on a design that is still State Forty Eight obviously, but because the logo is the outline of Arizona, we’re trying to find a creative way to still represent Arizona in our brand, but find a way to market to people who honestly don’t care about Arizona,” he said. He added this is something they will have a design for at the October runway show.

People frequently ask what kind of clothes they make, Spengenberg said. The common misconception is solely T-shirts, but he said the company also makes yoga pants, hats, off-the-shoulder looks, decals and children’s clothes.

“Our brand message is clothing for all, inspired by Arizona,” Spengenberg said.

Merchandise from State Forty Eight is currently available its website and is carried at four boutiques in the Valley as they continue to market for more — Clothes Minded in Ahwatukee, Here on the Corner in Tempe, Frances Vintage in Phoenix and Velvet Boutique in Old Town Scottsdale.

For more information, visit or

• Brittney Daigneau is a senior at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is an intern at the Tribune this semester. Reach her at

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