Though only 21, Jonathan Tinkle has always longed to be a fashion designer. "I decided to do this at 14," he explained. "It was always in the back of my mind." So, he figured, why wait any longer?
Tinkle recently rented out the Junior League ballroom and invited 300 guests, including actor Lee Majors and philanthropist Carolyn Farb, to be the first to see the unvelling of his Jonathan Blake collection, a line of day dresses and separates in jewel tones and glamorous evening gowns made in Houston.
"Every element is Houston-based, except the fabric and the notions, which come from New York," Tinkle said. "Everything is All-American."
Tinkle, with close friend Brittany Booker in red gown, acknowledges applause at the end of his runway show.
After graduating from The Tenney School in 2009, Tinkle enrolled in the Art Institute of Houston, where he took one of the fashion sketches he had drawn and made a fitted cocktail dress for his sister. Impatient to get to work, he left school to embark on a plan to create his own fashion line. "I took my first and middle name (for the label) because it sounds better for the kind of clothes I want to sell," he explained. "It's a sophisticated collection and those two names sound very sophisticated."
Shown here, a model walks the runway in a scoop neck ruched-front magenta dress from the Jonathan Blake collection.
Some of the evening gowns in the Jonathan Blake collection are unembellished so that they do not compete with a piece of statement jewelry. Here, a model wears a bold green gown and a jeweled necklace from Valobra Jewelry.
TInkle, who counts Coco Chanel and Tom Ford as his fashion icons, said he wanted to create an effortless look for his collection. "I believe that every woman, no matter what she looks like or what her size is, should always feel beautiful."
"I tried to make it so you could wear a dress to lunch at the River Oaks Country Club and go on to a cocktail party at a private house and not have to go home and change first," Tinkle said.
Shown here, magenta silk organza off-the-shoulder dress with ruffle and flower detail. Tinkle said the dress was inspired by flowers he had seen in a rainforest in Hawaii. His ready-to-wear pieces range in price from $275 to $3,000.
Miss Texas USA 2012 Brittany Booker closed the show in a silk crepe red gown with more than 700 silk organza roses applied to the train.
Though he is young and doesn't have a lot of fashion experience, Tinkle is convinced he can be a success by remaining in Houston. He is refurbishing his studio on Post Oak Boulevard so that he can meet individually with clients there.
"New York is a great place to be for a designer, but I don't think it matters as much where you are," he said. "If you look at Elaine Turner and David Peck, they have managed to make their mark without going to New York."
He points out that it's much less expensive to design and produce a collection in Houston and the market for designerwear is strong. "Women here like to dress well and they like to look good," he said.
Jonathan Tinkle, third from the right, poses for a photo with supporters, from left, his mother Mandy Tinkle, Toan Nguyen, Carolyn Farb, Brittany Booker and his father John Tinkle.
Tinkle singled out Zarine Boyce, pictured here, for her support, along with Boyce's husband, Dr. Meherwan Boyce, and Carolyn Farb.
Fashion forward Houstonians Joyce Echols and Elizabeth Petersen were in the crowd.
From left, Lee Majors and wife Faith joined Carolyn Farb and Franco Vallobra.
Channel 13's Sharron Melton, left, and Dorit Kamman
Jennifer Simmons, left, and Tena Faust
Lee Majors, center, with fashion bloggers Valerie Anderson and LeRenda Howard
Jonathan's sister, Amanda Tinkle, looked sylish in black cocktail dress and ankle booties.