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Vivienne Tam’s Houston-Inspired Collection Debuts in Space City

World-renown designer Vivienne Tam made a stop here in Houston for the debut of her collection inspired by the Bayou City. The collection was initially revealed at New York Fashion Week last year. Now Houston will be the first city in the U.S. to carry the line. The event I attended was a private luncheon and runway show at Baanou, a store in the River Oaks District. I had the opportunity to interview Tam about the line and what makes Houston important to her. But the city also showed that love back. During the luncheon, it was announced that May 4 would be declared Vivienne Tam Day.

Another special moment at the event included live – yes, live! – butterflies. Read on to find out the touch of magic they brought to the luncheon. You can see the full story here or check it out after the pictures.

From CultureMap:

Talk to internationally-known designer Vivienne Tam for a few minutes, and you’ll quickly learn, her love for Houston runs deep. “This is perfect for me that I can express a love of Houston culture to the world,” Tam says. “It is a future city. It is the city of the moment.”

Houston is also now home to Tam’s 2017 spring/summer collection honoring the city through vibrant colors, 3D textures and iconic logos from Rice University’s owl mascot to “Howdy,” the bowlegged “H” of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and of course, NASA.

The latter combined to become the main theme of what Tam calls a “Space Rodeo,” paying homage to the technology-driven landscape of a city that is as modern as it is welcoming enough to feel at times like a small town.

The collection debuted at New York Fashion Week last year (where CultureMap editor-in-chief covered the runway show) and will now be sold at Baanou, making this the first time that the line will be available at a U.S. storefront.

Around 75 people gathered for a private lunch at the River Oaks District boutique to celebrate the collection’s landing in Space City. Judy Nyquist, Y. Ping Sun and Claire Cormier Thielke hosted the occasion.

Guests included local designer and Project Runway alum Chloe Dao, philanthropist Carolyn Farb, The Voice’s Tamar Davis, Staci Henderson, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl, Drs. Duyen and Marc Nguyen, Viet Hoang, Linda Toyota, Karen and Charlie Le, and Anika Jackson.

“The most important thing that I take from all of this is she put Houston on the map in the fashion scene,” Maryam Khreibani, owner of Baanou, said. “When you have someone like Vogue writing about a collection inspired by Houston, it just brings attention to how multicultural and how different we are.”

A portion of the proceeds from sales at the event benefited Buffalo Bayou Partnership.

Dressed in a red cowboy shirt with hand-stitched spoonbills and a matching red lace flounce skirt (both items are from her line), Tam says the collection was about incorporating what she saw during a visit to Houston last year where she made stops at places including La Pulga 59 flea market, Voodoo Queen and Comicpalooza. It was there where Tam says hearing the stories and seeing the craftsmanship of the vendors inspired her to create something that bridged the cultures in Houston.

Clear mission

Her mission was clear as models glided around the store wearing 16 of the 45 looks in the collection. Indian, Chinese and Mexican embroideries flow throughout jackets, tops, dresses and skirts made of cotton and rayon. In one sequin dress, Thai and Japanese are among the languages you’ll find weaved into the piece along with symbols like rockets and Mexican flowers. The words “Power City” are on the back because as Tam says, that’s exactly what Houston is.

Tam also mixed cultures in what she calls her rodeo lace dress, an outfit that blends pandas, stars and the Rodeo’s Howdy logo into a pattern.

Tam later slipped into her “city stripe” dress, which boasts logos from the Houston Ballet, Cactus Music, Buffalo Bayou and more, creating one print.

A motif that’s particularly hard to miss in this space rodeo adventure is the butterfly. Tam says it represents nature and Houston’s free spirit. Origami butterflies made by artist Kyle Fu dangled from Baanou’s chandeliers but real butterflies stole the show later. Guests each received a packet with a live butterfly and stepped outside to release them together and make a wish.

Houston on the map

Those who helped bring this vision of a Houston-inspired collection to life say it was more than a wish fulfilled. It was a fashion miracle that began when Mike Waterman took over as president of VisitHouston two years ago.

“How do we put Houston on the map from a global perspective? And I kiddingly said to my team, ‘If our desire was global domination for Houston, what would we do?’” Waterman said. “If you look at it through the lens of global domination, you look at things differently. You look at collaborating with an international designer, and that’s where the idea came out.”

Thanks to the previous ties that creative agency Asian Wives Club had through working with Tam on projects for Hewlett Packard, Waterman was able to help secure the collection. VisitHouston paid Tam nearly nearly $450,000 to create it and underwrote the Houston debut.

The experience won a place for Houston in Tam’s heart, bringing her back to town and into Baanou. “Houston is in my blood,” Tam says. And for good reason. During the event, it was announced that the city declared May 4 “Vivienne Tam Day.”

French restaurant Toulouse Cafe and Bar served a menu in her honor — Toulouse chopped salad, grilled Norwegian salmon and chocolate fondant.

Celebrate local artists

Even though the day was meant to recognize Tam, it also celebrated local artists and their talents. Musician Zubair Al Awadi, a refugee from Iraq, played the oud as attendees chatted. Poet Outspoken Bean closed the program, dropping a line that wrapped up a day focused on H-town. “All 646 square miles of Houston is a dinner table and you are all welcome here so make sure that you bring a dish. While you’re at it bring your wish and I guarantee you it will be granted here.”

Tam said she agrees: “You can do what you love here, and people accept you.”

“I hope people feel great in this collection,” she added. “That they’re proud of their city like how I love their city.”

Vivienne Tam’s 2017 spring/summer collection will be available at Baanou through the summer. T-shirts start at $175. Dresses start at $340 and go up to $1300 for embroidered lace.

 

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Project Runway Meets Chopped

My third story on CultureMap has finally made its debut. This time, I covered the designing duo behind Magpies and Peacocks, Sarah-Jayne Smith and Ahshia Berry. They take materials that would otherwise be headed to landfill and turn it into upcycled gold. Through a series of strategic moves, their goal is to transform and grow the fashion industry by giving emerging designers the raw tools they need to create and make a name for themselves.

Learn how they do it by checking out the article below.

You can also read it in its original format here.

Stay stylish!

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Sarah-Jayne Smith and Ahshia Berry are running out of room in their Midtown warehouse. It’s like a fashion Candyland, stocked with clothing, jewelry, bags and furniture. “We have Salvatore Ferragamo handbags, Forever 21 handbags, vintage Dior cuff links, wedding gowns, costumes,” Smith says.

But pulling back the layers of glamour will show you the big names are just a small part of Magpies and Peacocks: An organization branded as the non-profit that helps other non-profits.

“It’s always charity, community, business. That’s the roadway,” Berry says.

“We get a huge kick out of people stepping up to the plate, reaching across the aisle and helping each other out,” Smith adds.

Launched in 2012, Magpies and Peacocks works with local designers to upcycle, or increase the value of, items that would otherwise be headed to the trash pile. The new products are then donated to non-profits and sold at their events to help them raise money. So far, M&P has helped over 50 charities.

“If it’s not good enough, it gets remade,” Smith says. “We want it to be human. We don’t want it to be machine-made because that’s not our journey, but at the same time it has to be worth something.”

Partners with Peacocks

Another method happens each quarter, where organizations are nominated and two are selected to become partners with Magpies and Peacocks. This year, it’s Career Gear Houston and Houston PetSet. Collections are based on the organizations and sold online through the Magpies and Peacocks website. The chosen non-profits each get a percentage of the sales from their collections.

It’s part of a strategy that turns belts and ties into dog collars or tweed jackets into iPad covers and laptop cases. Each year, the charity diverts over 500 pounds of materials to be upcycled.

The push to make even a small dent in how much waste is created is why they collect everything from accessories and furniture to light fixtures and shoes.

Berry says you can get your item and monetary donations to Magpies and Peacocks simply by calling or emailing to let them know you have something to give.

But they also have a more social aspect to donating, where they partner with a local business to host a Closet Deposit event. You can drop off items, shop and mingle —usually with champagne and light bites to boot.

“We’re not replacing your Goodwill run or your Purple Heart pick-up. We’re not taking stuff from those charities,” Berry says. “We want to be able to curate stuff and make better use of it.”

Concept beginning

The organization’s concept really began to take shape when Smith worked as an interior designer. She noticed her clients all shared common habits when it came to clinging to personal belongings.

“We all kind of vet our stuff, but we don’t do it very honestly or openly,” Smith says. “There’s anything you’ve ever been gifted, anything you’ve inherited but it’s going to stay in that box until you figure out what to do with it. And I won’t even get into that category of stuff with swing tags on them because it makes you happy to look at it, but you’re never going to wear it.”

The good, the bad and the broken in those piles can easily clutter a closet. But Magpies and Peacocks says, give it to them anyway. If nothing else, it could offer the hidden treasure needed to continue growing “Artist in Nesting” – their program aimed at nurturing emerging designers. Smith and Berry describe it as “Project Runway meets Chopped.”

Designers are given a task and the donated raw materials to create pieces that will turn into a collection. A percentage of the sales from that collection will then benefit a local charity. Part of the program is also teaching designers about the fashion business and connecting them to the retailers where some of their products are eventually sold.

“They get the branding and marketing side such as being featured on the website down to the packaging,” Berry says. “Then each order is shipped with a handwritten note that mentions who made the collection.”

Artist in Nesting

Smith says the Artist in Nesting program (also known as the Designer Incubator) takes the guesswork out of it for stores partnering with up-and-coming designers who might initially be seen as a risk if they don’t have experience with pricing, packaging or quality control.

Since 2012, Magpies and Peacocks has helped 30 young designers. The latest is painter and art teacher Karen Roberts. She owns the company Zelda & LUCY, which features her collection of 1920s-style cloche hats made from men’s suiting and brooches. They range in price from $60-75.

Roberts’ collection was recently highlighted at an Artist in Nesting event at Langford Market in the Heights.

“We’re saying there’s a place for young designers here, and we can showcase them,” Smith says. “We don’t want to lose our graduates to New York. We need to show them that they can be successful here.”

That’s also why Magpies and Peacocks will host their signature event, “Catwalks and Classrooms” in September. The design competition will have 25 students create two to three upcycled looks from donated materials. Students as young as 14 taking fashion design courses can participate. Scholarships are among the top prizes awarded to the winners.

“We’re talking about building relationships with people,” Smith says. “Getting designers to collaborate with schools, getting schools to collaborate with charities. We’re trying to build bridges so that Houston’s a better place to incubate designers.”

You can find collections made for Magpies and Peacocks at CarrieAnn in Uptown Park and Impromptu and Olivine in the West University/Rice Village area. Wardrobe Boutique in Montrose will carry a Magpies and Peacocks accessory collection beginning in mid-July.

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Designing Woman: A Fashion (Article) Debut

As of January 5, 2015, I have officially written my first article for CultureMap. It’s a goal that I’ve been working to reach for the last couple years or so. I was looking for something that showed me what’s going on around Houston and at the same time encompassed so many of my favorite topics including fashion, entertainment, and fine arts. So, when I started reading CultureMap, I knew I had to be part of it.

For my CultureMap debut, I wrote about Houston designer, Chekwube Emebo and her budding brand, Ada Kwube. It was truly a blessing to work on this story and I can’t wait to start writing more. Send me your ideas!

I pasted the story below, but to see the original in all its’ glory, go here.

Scientist-turned-fashion designer aims for global appeal with unique made-in-Houston dresses

“I think it takes courage to stand out, whether it’s in your clothing or your ideas. I really want women to feel empowered.”

For Chekwube Emebo, part of that empowerment starts with the bold colors, classic silhouettes and African wax prints that make up her clothing line, Ada Kwube.

“I have always loved fashion, always wanted to start my own brand,” she said. “And it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do.”

The scientist and recent Rice University graduate found inspiration in her own heritage through the wax prints her mother used to wear as a member of a women’s club back in Nigeria. “Every month they would have this fabric that they’d all have to buy,” Emebo recalls. “She’d have this big trunk full of bundles and bundles of wax. She would open it, and you would just get this waft of the smell of the wax print. It was just something really special.”

And something that is still popular in her hometown of Lagos.

The distinct prints are often worn for social occasions such as weddings and funerals. They’re also used to make everyday items like baby carriers. But don’t dismiss the tribal prints as the same ones hanging on the racks at some of the trendy retailers in the mall. The prints Emebo uses date back to the 19th century, when they were originally made in Indonesia. European companies then started mass producing them for countries in Africa, where there was a bigger market.

Now Emebo hopes to expand that market into the United States but admits helping women in Western culture feel comfortable wearing it could be a challenge. “Wax print is still associated with a certain ethnic group,” she conceded. “There are so many people that look at it and go, ‘Oh, that’s cute,’ but they won’t wear it because traditional wax print is so colorful.

“That’s the gap that I’m trying to bridge.  Even if it’s just hints of it where you don’t feel like you’re wearing this thing that is loud, but it’s exotic enough to be interesting.”

Three dresses

A look at the three dresses on the Ada Kwube website showcases Emebo’s desire to meet that goal.

Known as the brand’s signature dress, The Ada ($189) mixes the feminine elements of white polka dots and bows with multicolor wax prints on the collar and insets. Known as the brand’s signature dress, the Ada is designed to be dressed up or down, whether it’s with a cross body bag and sandals or a pair of bright-colored pumps and a clutch.

Emebo says the Aisha dress is for any woman looking to channel her inner Southern belle. Aisha ($179) blends a red, high waist, silk dupioni skirt with traditional wax print and polka dots on a navy blouse. But there’s also a hidden feature.

“The full skirt has pockets. If you don’t feel like carrying your purse, just throw your lipstick or whatever else you need in your pockets, and you’re good to go,” Emebo said. “The high waist is also really comfortable and makes you feel small because of where it sits.”

And like many designers, Emebo agrees that every woman needs a little black dress. Ada Kwube’s version comes in the form of the Femi ($189). The cocktail flounce dress boasts an hourglass silhouette, wax print multicolor panels, and red piping.

Captures attention

Emebo says the three looks were the closest to her heart, so making them the introductory pieces of her brand was an obvious choice. The move also proved to be pretty smart, since it captured the attention of fashion industry heavyweight Greg Fourticq.

“When she brought in her samples, I could see there would be an audience for them,” Fourticq said. “They were also very unique and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. That, combined with knowing what she was doing, peaked my interest.”

Fourticq knows the real deal when he sees it. He took over as the owner of Moo Boo’s Manufacturing five years ago when he moved back to Houston. But before that, he worked in New York for Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. Fourticq later launched his own business as a retail consultant for brands such as Carolina Herrera, Paco Rabanne and Nina Ricci.

With a sharpened eye for talent, Fourticq is now using what he learned to help emerging designers like Emebo manufacture their brand in Houston. In fact, Emebo says she has no plans of producing her dresses abroad and was blessed to find Fourticq after being turned down by another factory owner.

“She was like, ‘Oh, no, I can’t make your clothes. They’re too complicated,” Emebo said. “I just sat outside her store and almost cried. I thought, ‘Oh God, what am I going to do?’”

After researching for the last two years about manufacturing and pattern making, Emebo connected with Fourticq through an online forum. They began working together in August of last year, and as of about one month ago, Ada Kwube was born.

The wax prints used in Emebo’s line are imported from a small town in the Netherlands known for making high quality wax print. The base fabric is 100 percent cotton. Then a wax resin is used to make a double-sided print that doesn’t fade.

Now that Ada Kwube has officially arrived, Emebo says she’s one step closer to realizing her vision of seeing women of every color in her dresses. Creating the brand also serves another purpose: paying homage to her mother, Ada. Sound familiar? The first part of the brand name is for her mother who she says “has always been a pillar of support.”

Ada also has a few words to describe her daughter. “She calls me small, but mighty,” Emebo laughs. “She says, ‘Chekwube, you’re so small, but you’re doing all these things.’”

Look for more colors in the existing three dresses to arrive soon on her website, adakwube.com. Emebo plans to roll out new designs starting in summer 2015.

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LookBook Live

On the heels of New York Fashion Week, the Houston Galleria transformed the ice rink into a runway and lounge area to host its own preview of upcoming trends: LookBook Live.

The event brought together local fashion bloggers and style experts from Glamour Magazine, Kiersten Geiger, and from GQ, Sabir Peele.

Sabir Peele was named a GQ style ambassador last year.
Sabir Peele was named a GQ style ambassador last year.

Peele also runs the mens fashion and lifestyle blog, Men’s Style Pro. As panelists, they talked about what trends to look forward to for fall and how to wear them. The show kicked off with a mini fashion show featuring some of this season’s most anticipated looks.

1) Retro – Leather meets 60’s mod in this jumper

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2) Blue – Pops of color like the hue in the picture below are expected to show up on clothes this season like coats, scarves and pencil skirts (another trend). This particular color also tends to work on everyone.

photo 5 (2)3) Knitting – The weather in Houston is fickle, but that doesn’t have to affect your outfit. If you start off with a sweater in the morning when it’s cooler, layer with chiffon underneath to keep things from getting too toasty.

photo 2 (2)4) Gymwear – OK, when I first saw this I wasn’t convinced I’d want my man casually rocking sweats if he wasn’t hitting the gym. But here’s how the style pros sold it. They say the key to winning with this look is the fit. Pants should be on the slimmer side.

photo 3 (3)6) Casual Pinstripe – You can’t really tell from this picture, but the model has on a pinstripe jacket. This is a nod to taking a normally more formal element and dressing it down.

photo 2 (3)Other trends to look forward to this fall are leopard print, shades of grey, and lots of orange for the ladies and corduroy suits and parkas (yes, parkas!) for the men. Of course, use your judgment here. Houston is notorious for starting off cold and heating back up to the 80s by the afternoon. The style pros suggest layering to combat any weather surprises, so you can peel away clothes without overheating.

I noticed many things that are considered “in” have actually been “in” for a while. For example, pencil skirts (my personal fave) have been a mainstay in my closet for at least the last five years or so. What keeps changing is the length, with some starting just above the knee to others hitting between the ankle and the bottom of the knee as the “midi” style. Leopard print is another one that makes an appearance season after season. I’ve seen it again this year on shoes and the aforementioned pencil skirt.

But the experts weren’t the only ones who talked trends and fashion advice. They turned the tables on audience members who competed in style challenges.

photo 4 (3)The objective was to create the best outfit for the theme like “Date Night” or “Going to Brunch.”

And guess what?

photoI got in on the “style challenge” action, too. Participants received $50 gift cards to spend anywhere in the mall. How far do you think this will get me at Chanel?

I also entered to win a $2500 shopping spree, so fingers crossed on that!

Stay stylish!

 

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Leave It to the Masters

From the classroom to the runway…students in the Houston Community College collections class have been working for two semesters on designs they hope will wow audiences next month at the HCC Annual Fashion show May 2 at the Central Campus. The show is usually sold out, with only standing room left after the event kicks off typically around 7 p.m. This year’s show is called “Masters of Design” and could feature well over 20 different collections.

Not all of the students in the collections class taught by Alex Chapman and Vi Hua, HCC professors and working professionals in the fashion industry, will have their work featured. But if they are one of the chosen ones – they could rake in the rewards. In the past, students have won full scholarships to the Paris American Academy School of Fashion and Interior Desgin in France, magazine spreads, photo shoots and have received, of course, exposure. Attendees have included Project Runway Season 2 Winner Chloe Dao and fashion pioneer Kay King, whose own resume boasts designing the uniforms for the Houston Rockets and Houston Oilers cheerleaders.

Alfredo “Freddy” Saucedo, stopped by to talk with me about the fashion show and his own budding career as a designer  – complete with examples of his work. You can see the interview below and check out the dress I have on – Freddy created that, too!

 

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Haute in Houston

Before I launched my website, I started my own blog last year. I love fashion so that’s mainly where the idea for it stems from. Check it out here:

http://brittwilmore.blogspot.com/

So far, it has my study abroad experience to France last year, and the latest, Houston Community College Central’s fashion show. I’m always looking for interesting tidbits to cover about Houston’s fashion scene, so if you have any ideas, please share them with me. More content to come! Enjoy!