Having conquered the fashion scene in Dallas and Austin, Matt Swinney is now targeting Houston. The Austin entrepreneur brought his Fashion X runway extravaganza to Silver Street Studios Thursday night with a wide array of eclectic designers, from Project Runway winners to Texas design talent that ranges from an out-there Austin twentysomething to a Houston designer who specializes in elaborate eveningwear.
"We know our audience is really wide so I want to give everybody something," Swinney told CultureMap on the opening night of the three-night event. "I hope every single person that comes looks at it and goes, 'Oh my god, such and such was my favorite tonight.' If you have eight designers, hopefully you get eight different answers."
Swinney said that bringing Fashion X to the state's largest city was a natural fit. "I used to live in Houston so I've spent time here. I just felt like Houston needed a little more of (showcasing) local and indie designers. It's an opportunity for a social event that really shows what Houston has to offer and bring some new designers to town."
Asked to explain how Houston might differ in a fashion sense from Austin and Dallas, Swinney said, "Austin is like the super creative crazy crowd, I think in a good way. Dallas is more conservative; the audience doesn't clap a lot. It's a very stoic audience. That's not a bad thing necessarily, but it's conservative.
"I think Houston is almost somewhere in between. It's got a creative arts community more than Dallas does so I think they can appreciate funky a little bit more than Dallas can," he said. "I'm very interested to see the Houston audience response."
In welcoming the crowd, Swinney urged them to have fun. "You are allowed to hoot and holler and act like fools. It's OK," he said. "If you love something, let the designer know you love it. These men and women have put in amazing hard work to do what they do. So please support them and show it with your voices."
On the first night, the standing-room-only audience — a mix of social figures, including Carolyn Farb, Neal Hamil and Jerri Moore, along with funky and fashionable twentysomethings — showed their appreciation with applause and chatter (several guys behind me were obviously feeling no pain as they continued a running commentary on the proceedings).
Applause and chatter
Houston designer David Peck led off the evening with 20 looks from his Miles David collection. Standouts included glamorous gowns in a variety of shapes, including an athletic racer-back gown in purple, a blue-to-green ombre gown with a plunging draped neckline and an-off-the-shoulder tiered gown in an artistic blurred "Showe Me the Monet" pattern.
Austin designer Sloane Lenz, barely 21, thrilled some in the audience (including me and BethieLife's Beth Muecke) and puzzled the rest, with her vibrant This is Sloane collection that featured plastic-coated dresses, velvet separates and velour leggings and tops, emblazoned with stars and such sayings as "Don't Look At Us" and "My Planet or Yours?"
Another Austin talent, SixChel by Dina Chavez, presented an eye-catching collection of florals and bold fuschia colors, while Allison and Jannika Rask, who were originally from Houston, and Houston designer Jimmy Burner mixed in some beefcake, with bare-chested male models showcasing some of the styles (Rask featured cool oversized denim coats in teal shades for men and women while Burner led off with a men's striped swim suit and jacket combo).
After intermission, Style Setter Caroline Knapp was honored with a runway showing of looks from her stylish closet. (A portion of the night's proceeds went to her favorite charity, Heroes for Children.)
Project Runway designer Daniel Esquivel and Sean Kelly presented alternating visions. Kelly, who was the Project Runway Season 13 winner, showcased an edgy white-and-silver lamé collection while the Austin-based Esquivel mixed in deer print trench coats, leggings and evening gowns with bold red coats, grey sequined slacks and purses in the shape of lips or happy faces.
Nicholas Phat Nguyen, the Houston designer of Mysterious by NPN, closed the evening with an ornate collection of rich brocades that mixed his Vietnamese heritage with western silhouettes. Nguyen, who came to the United States at the age of 15, won a standing ovation and was named the first local recipient of the Bernina Fashion Fund award, receiving two sewing machines valued at $2,600.
More to come
On Friday night, Hannah McNair and Joanna Marks will be honored as Style Setters, with a portion of proceeds benefiting The Periwinkle Foundation. Among the designers showing collections are Project Runway's Amanda Valentine and Gunter Deatherage, and Houston labels Becky Hollands, Tropicouture, and Shalon B.
Fashion X Houston will conclude on Saturday night, with a salute to Style Setter Lucinda Loya, and a portion of proceeds benefiting the Children’s Assessment Center. Project Runway Season 2 winner Chloe Dao, Inclan Studio, and Alantude will be featured, along with Project Runway designers Korto Momolu, Sonjia Williams, and Michelle Lesniak.
For more information and tickets, visit the Fashion X Houston website.