Swiping business from Seattle; luxury sportswear company relocating to Tucson

Stone, Toole fashion hub

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Tucson is known for its beauty, food, music, art and culture. Soon, the Old Pueblo can add fashion to that list.

After a string of bad luck for businesses, there’s something to celebrate. Instead of another closure, a luxury technical sportswear company is relocating its headquarters from Seattle, Washington, to downtown Tucson.

WOW Studios is projected to add 50 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy over the next decade.

“Joey Rodolfo is the pied piper of the fashion industry. When he went to Seattle from L.A., dozens - if not hundreds - of designers followed him,” said Fletcher McCusker, the chair of the Rio Nuevo board. “Our hope is if we can bring him to Tucson, others will indeed follow. They don’t manufacture here; these are $100,000 a year clothing designers. The impact of that is huge! That’s just from one shop, so imagine if we could recruit half a dozen or 10.”

Monday night, Rio Nuevo unanimously approved a maximum $500,000 incentive package for WOW Studios.

“I can’t think of anything more important to do than invest in an entire new industry sector,” McCusker said.

Joey Rodolfo, a co-founder of WOW Studios, is an accomplished designer. Most recently known for his signature line Buki, Rodolfo also helped revitalize the Tommy Bahama brand.

“I have had a long and very successful run in Seattle. But, in a matter of six months, Seattle was decimated by the riots. It’s unfortunate that we have a Mayor in City Hall that was not there for businesses to protect us from the looting. To this day, our business is still shut down there. So, we can’t wait to start moving,” said Rodolfo. “I have a passion for Tucson. People have asked me, ‘Why not Scottsdale, why not Phoenix?’ Here’s the thing; I really believe in Rio Nuevo. I think Rio Nuevo has a real eye on the economic development of Tucson. I think Sun Corridor and their team have great focus. Then of course, Dr. Robert Robbins who I have known, I thought ‘God, I couldn’t be involved with three better entities’, and they all happen to be right here in Tucson. This is where we want to be.”

A new year will bring a new chapter for WOW Studios. The company will lease a nearly 17,500 square foot space at One East Toole Avenue (at the corner of Toole Ave and Stone Ave). The facility will include offices, design studios and retail space.

“I think Tucson is ready,” Rodolfo said.

Local designer, Arturo Valenzuela, thinks so too.

“There’s so much here to appreciate,” he said.

Valenzuela says talent is stitched into every fabric of Tucson, but opportunity brings it out. Often flying around the world for shows, he would like to see the local fashion footprint grow.

“[WOW Studios] will open doors for people that want to be here for that center,” he said. “That will be great.”

WOW studios hasn’t said if local designers will be able to access the space, but told KOLD News 13 to stay tuned for several announcements. Rodolfo hopes to be moved in by January.

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