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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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FH5: Lebanese Elegance and Walking with Dem Boyz

The final night of Fashion Houston started off with a little help from the NFL. Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes played piano and sang back-up vocals on the slick, white runway for Taylor Crowley, who gave her own jazzy renditions of songs like Sia’s “Chandelier.”

Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes showing his musical skills off the gridiron
Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes showing his musical skills off the gridiron

With that, the first collection swept the catwalk with some of the most gorgeous gowns I’ve ever seen. They were from Lebanese designer Rami Salamoun. His work featured dresses that were lacy, daring (thanks to the high slits, low cuts and conveniently placed details over certain body parts)  and literally sparkled on the models. His bridal gowns almost made me wish I was getting married. Almost.

Salamoun also played up his pride for Lebanon — the lights went down and came up again to reveal a model wearing a robe of the Lebanese flag. Lebanon’s national anthem rang out during the display, which garnered applause from the audience.

Someone else who used music to send a message through his show was Haitian designer Fabrice Tardieu.

685During my interview with him, he gushed about his love for Houston — so much so that he’d consider moving here! FH5 also wasn’t his first rodeo (had to put that in there!). He showed in 2012 as co-owner of the brand Bogosse, which was a business he shared with his brother. This time around, he brought along his line of luxury jogging suits (think sets blended with leather and Japanese denim) floral prints and shirts with a print of Benjamin Franklin. He also dropped a hint to me during our chat: pay close attention to the music. It comes from artists who have worn his eponymous brand.

So, what tune helped give models their swagger during his show? Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz.” And it looks like the models were taught well — Tardieu did his bow or should I say, dance,  to the song, too.

While the crowd bounced to the beat (myself included), the musical hint reminded me of something a friend of mine used to tell me all the time: miss a moment, miss a lot.

Stay stylish!

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FH5: Southern Roots, Breaking Barriers and Jadakiss

The next designer to take the stage on opening night at Fashion Houston was New York-based brand, Tibi. But before she settled on the East coast, company founder Amy Smilovic grew up in the South on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. She was incredibly sweet and a gracious person to interview. Smilovic is also a huge fan of culottes (saying before they have the ease of trousers but look like a beautiful skirt) and presented a collection that was classic, laid-back and breezy for Spring.

Tibi founder Amy Smilovic and me
Tibi founder Amy Smilovic and me

Another favorite took the stage, following Tibi, Jonathan Blake. The man behind the brand is actually named Jonathan Tinkle, and he’s another designer who proudly keeps production of his garments local. He was also the youngest member of The Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2013.

But FH5 wasn’t just for designers who have established themselves as powerhouses in the industry (or at least are on the way there). It was also about touting the upcoming generation of designers who proved they deserved to be on the catwalk, too. That’s where Little Black Dress Designer came in — a competition that gives students the opportunity to create their own version of the iconic LBD and win thousands in scholarship money. LBDD was the brainchild of Neal Hamil Agency director Jeff Shell.

At the initial LBDD presentation back in May at the House of Blues, students were paired with mentors and muses. Their assignment was to create a LBD based on their muse. What they came up with was finally unveiled at FH5.

I also had the chance to interview Sameera Faridi. Originally a native of Pakistan, she’s brought the beautiful traditional wear of South Asia and blended it with Western culture to create a stunning line of bridal wear, gowns, formal wear and menswear. Faridi also told me — don’t think sarees are just for special occasions. She wants people to know they can be worn for any event. This is her way of breaking barriers. Proving that cultures can co-exist and bringing them to life for anyone to wear through fashion. Have nothing to wear for date night? No problem. Grab a saree! And you’ll definitely want to grab hers. They’re all hand-embroidered.

Faridi is the first South Asian female designer to debut her new collection at Fashion Houston.

Wrapping up the night was New York based, Grungy Gentleman. Contrary to the name, this line was anything but grunge. The collection brought to Houston was actually the same one debuted at New York Fashion Week and mixed traditional tailored menswear with luxe fabrics like suede and rich colors like oxblood.

But perhaps the biggest surprise in the whole line was who came out with the models. Jadakiss started rapping on stage, upping the “it” factor of the line and showing that Fashion Houston wants to step out of the “Houston-isn’t-a-fashion-capital” shadow.

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FH5: Hollywood Drama Comes to Houston

Fashion Houston turned five years old this year, and I was on deck for the celebration. It returned to the Wortham Theater Center downtown and featured 21 emerging and legendary designers in its’ most diverse year yet.

I had the opportunity to cover the show as part of the first-ever Fashion Houston TV, where I met and interviewed the talented designers of opening night. I also worked with a great production team, Michael Allendorf & Company, that specializes in high fashion photography and video production.

661Fashion Houston founder Jared Lang and KHOU 11 News Morning Anchor Lily Jang kicked off the night as emcees and introduced the lineup.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut before the models wowed us with each designer’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection, I sat down with Alexis Monsanto, a designer originally from the Philippines. Monsanto first made headlines in 2011 as the first designer in the U.S. to be part of a fashion show using 3D effects. He’s also known for adding dance routines to the runway (which one designer did this year, but more on that later in an upcoming post!).

667While there wasn’t any dancing in Monsanto’s FH5 show, it was multi-dimensional, complete with masks, feathered headpieces and four buff men carrying a model like she was a queen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Monsanto told me during our interview, “I’m bringing the high drama of Hollywood to Houston!” And he delivered on that promise. See pictures from his show below. I’ll post the interview as soon as it’s available!

 

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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!