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One Year in, Valentina Leon's Fashion Happy Hour is Still Mingling

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In Miami, a 3:05 cafecito is like a right of passage, whether you're sipping a plastic, thimble-sized cup at the office or you've ventured out to the nearest ventanita. Knowing that, we thought an afternoon pick-me-up would be the perfect chance to get to know some of our city's most stylish and talented players. Welcome to A Cafecito With, where we let you sit in on our quirky conversations with our friends in Miami's fashion scene.

Image Via Ashley Brozic

There's a magical event on the last Friday of every month where a crowd of bloggers, vendors and any fashion-forward being in need of a cocktail comes together to mingle and talk shoes, handbags and good ole' Miami style. We, friends, are talking about Fashion Happy Hour, and Valentina León is about to throw a banger for her event's one year anniversary.

For starters, Valentina never saw herself in fashion, however in one short year this former school teacher has been able to consistently hold up a networking event that has connected hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Miami's growing fashion scene, in at least one way or another. Contrary to most months, Fashion Happy Hour's one year anniversary party will be taking place this Sunday, April 27, poolside at the Catalina Hotel, because what celebration in Miami doesn't take place next to a pool? In lieu of the celebration, we sat down with Valentina over almond milk lattes at Panther Coffe in Wynwood, to talk about her boozy fashion party's first year and what's in store for the next one.

Tell me a little bit about fashion happy hour and how far it's come.
So it's almost been a year and, as I told you, it started as a need for designers or sales reps to network while selling their products... and so a year ago we started at RedBar Gallery. It was a very small event; pretty much a few friends of mine and people I invited to sell their products. Over the next few months people started wondering what it was, especially people who had merchandise, and designers and boutiques that were looking for a place to showcase their products, and that's how it started growing. Eventually bloggers started coming as well and seeing what the event was about and that's how the bloggers started coming in... and then of course when you involve the bloggers a whole roll of people start to know more about the event and want to be involved and what not. It's bigger every month.

Have you ever had to turn any vendors away?
Yeah I have. I can't put another vendor unless we're on top of each other and sometimes I confirm bloggers who want to be a part of it and I'll have others who say, 'hey, can I be a part of it this month?' and I have to say no. I can't really include ten bloggers for an event. I don't know if you notice but we have bloggers hosting and then we're doing style by bloggers segment where I invite another group of five bloggers so that they can style a model.

Out of the years that you've been doing this, what's your biggest standout Fashion Happy Hour moment?
I feel like November's event was a big step forward. It was the first time bloggers were involved and it was at Wynwood. This year has been great. We had two at RedBar Gallery and one at Wynwood, but I feel like November set the bar really high.

What do you have planned for this Fashion Happy Hour in April?
It's a big one. It's at the Catalina Hotel in Miami Beach by the pool on Sunday from 4 to 8pm. We have international and local designers showcasing their spring and summer collections. So that's very cool, having mostly designers because we mostly have boutiques. We're going to have a fashion show by the pool, but it's a surprise. We have two fashion bloggers hosting: Jana from OJ and Cigs and Julie from A Fashion Soiree. They hosted November's, so I wanted someone familiar to be a part of this event. We have five bloggers doing the style by bloggers section, a do it yourself station, a DJ and we're adding a surprise at the end.

Do you think after your anniversary party you'll go back to RedBar, or will you have to find larger venues?
I'm definitely going to go back at least once this year. I feel like we started there and they kind of defined us as an event. They have new owners so they rebuilt the place really cool, but right now I want to jump around, get different people, different crowds. It's kind of experimental, but the venue sets the pace for the event, whether you're going to do a fashion show, how many vendors you can put on or what activities you can do. It's easier to evolve and do your thing.

When you're not planning Fashion Happy Hour, what are you doing?
Planning Fashion Happy Hour! Thinking about Fashion Happy Hour! [laughs] I was a teacher and I also have a company with a friend of mine. I'm not as involved as I used to be but I help her with stuff because it's within my background.

Did you ever see yourself working on something related to fashion?
Not at all. I'm usually the kind of girl that wakes up, puts on some jeans and sneakers. When I dress up I have to think about it. I'm not a natural person who says, 'oh I dressed up! I didn't notice.' I have to think about it.

You worked with shoes once. Tell me about that.
I worked with a Venezuelan shoe brand called Hot Chocolate Shoes. I know the designers and when I got married and quit my job teaching, I thought, ok, I have to do something. They said, 'ok, perfect. We're expanding so see if you can represent the shoes and sell them.' I did that in Chile, before I started Fashion Happy Hour. When I came here I realized I needed some kind of event to sell the shoes at.

Speaking of shoes, if you were a shoe, which one would you be?
A very comfortable sneaker. Running shoes with socks.

What color sneaker would you be?
All the colors. Multi-colored, definitely.

What's your cocktail of choice at Fashion Happy Hour?
I'm definitely a wino. I always end up with a wine in my hand. But if I had to go with a cocktail? I would have a cosmopolitan.

How old do you feel right now?
I feel like I am my age.

Well, how old are you?
I'm 30. I feel like I'm young enough to go party with friends, but old enough to have my own business

If you had to have your own nail polish color, what would it be called at this stage of your life?
Too many colors are popping in my head right now! I feel like it'd have to be something like Red is the New Black because of all my transitions right now in my career.

What is your favorite thing about Miami?
There's definitely a few things. I like the fact that we're a growing city and every weekend there's a new event, a new personality, that makes it unique. I heard someone say once that Miami is a small city with a big city complex. We're trying to be like New York, trying to be like L.A. You see a lot of entrepreneurs here and I also like that about it. I also like the fact that it's so mixed and cultured that you see someone who's Venezuelan, Cuban, 100 percent American and you see everybody blending in. This is home.

What do you find the most annoying about Miami?
Maybe the same things I like! We're fighting for an identity. We're struggling to find, Miami as a city, who we are. It's also one of the things I like. And traffic is terrible at times.

You live in Brickell. Do you have any places you like to go that people may not know about?
I feel like everyone just stays in the Mary Brickell Village area and it's so fun to walk.

Totally agree. What about any boutiques?
There are two boutiques I like to go to when I do my nails in Brickell. One is Blush and the other one is Atik Shop.

Where do you see Fashion Happy Hour going? How far do you see it expanding?
Very far. I've gotten questions like, are you going to take it into Broward? L.A.? New York? People start following Fashion Happy Hour, like the concept and ask, when I'm coming to [places like] D.C? I'm like, I don't know! I'm glad I'm staying here right now! But in the future, I feel like it could go anywhere. I don't feel like there's any other events like that here in Miami. Mostly are yearly events, or are held twice a year but every month, to have all these people have the opportunity to come together, meet new designers, talk to other bloggers, there's nothing like that in Miami and a lot of places where fashion is a big thing. It can go as big as I want it to be.

If you could describe your life right now in a hashtag, what would it be?
· Fashion Happy Hour [Official Site]
· All A Cafesito With Posts [Racked Miami