A St. Pete local, Connor Totten first started sewing and designing clothes when he was only 10 years old. By the time he was 12, he had been labeled a child prodigy and hosted his first fashion show. Now 17 years old, Totten is hosting his fifth annual show, “Time Will Tell,” on Saturday, April 30 at 8 pm.
Tickets for the show, which raises money for the St. Petersburg-based charity Jump For Kids FL, have already sold out, but the entire show will be livestreamed from the beautiful Amanyara House on the water in Snell Isle. The walk showcasing Totten’s designs and creations starts at 8:04 pm and can be viewed here.
Totten’s journey as a fashion designer began in elementary school when he designed and created a dress for his teacher in school. While the teacher was touched by the kind (and impressive) gesture, some of Totten’s classmates poked fun at him. Rather than abandoning the passion, Totten dove headfirst into it.
Not long after, Jeff Pope, the founder of Jump For Kids and a friend of Totten’s mom, heard the story and said, “Hey, I’ve been wanting to do a fundraiser. Would you like to make an entire line of your dresses and have a fashion show? ”
The show – featuring some of Totten’s teachers as runway models – was a success before it even began, selling so many early tickets that the team had to find a bigger venue. Local papers and TV news stations got wind of the story and interviewed Totten, brought him into their studios and shined a light on a promising young star in St. Pete.
Totten’s rising star continues to shine
All these years (and shows) later, Totten is a high school student in his junior year, having racked up awards and honors throughout his young career, with plans to attend fashion school in New York after graduating.
Among his many accolades, Totten was selected to be the youngest designer in the history of the Dali Museum’s Fashion Design Runway Event where local senior high school designers create surreal works of wearable art. When Totten was still in middle school – well below the usual age limit – his teachers joined together and implored the organizers: you don’t understand – you have to include this incredible young talent, age limit or not.
One interesting note on Totten’s designs: they can’t be bought. While he’s had opportunities, and even received offers from boutiques and galleries as far as Los Angeles, Totten for now is just enjoying the designing and sewing of his products, using his skills every year to help out a local charity and work the crew that gave him his first shot at hosting his own show.
To date, his shows have raised more than $ 50K for Jump For Kids, a number that could push closer to $ 100K after this Saturday’s fashion show. Jump For Kids is a local charity giving Florida youth the tools to establish healthy habits at a youthful age so they can enjoy a better quality of life. Using the funds raised from charitable donors, they provide students with fitness equipment and a personal trainer / mentor who will educate students in exercise, proper fitness training and nutritional tips to combat and prevent childhood obesity.