Since launching Haute Hippie from her New York apartment five years ago, Oklahoma native Trish Wescoat Pound has built the bobo luxury-chic line into an emerging fashion powerhouse. But she has never put on a full-scale runway show — until now.
For the final night of Fashion Houston, Westcoat Pound sent out an eclectic collection of glittery flapper dresses, floral print gowns, tuxedo coats and tartan blouses on the long runway that occupied most of the Wortham Center Grand Foyer. The collection, which ranges from a sophisticated black jersey gown with sequined cutouts in the back to tight leather pants with zipper detail at the calf and a spangly vest with embroidered roses, belies the "hippie" label and offers a variety of designs for the fashion-forward Houston woman.
"The idea of doing a fashion show is scary. What do you gauge it on, trends or style?"
"What I like about Houston is women are alive," said Westcoat Pound, who has visited numerous times and made a personal appearance at Tootsies Saturday. "It's like this vortex of energy. It's like watching Steel Magnolias but it's in Houston. They are alive and vocal and funny and there's a high energy level everywhere.
"They're so excited and they're so real. And they're having fun. And I find them to be much freer than women I know in other places. I don't know what it is about this town."
She admits she has mixed feelings about runway shows, although they are a necessary step as a brand expands and gets more attention. "The idea of doing a fashion show is scary. What do you gauge it on, trends or style? When does fashion stop being about judging people on what trends they picked up on and become more about style?"
And Pound has ambivalent ideas of what constitutes fashion success, even though her business has doubled every year since it started. "What is success? I felt like I did a good job. I did my best. I'm a good person. That's all success, but when does it come? I'm not sure."
Australian-based designer Johanna Johnson is hoping for success with the Hollywood red-carpet crowd. Her collection of glittery gowns is headed to Los Angeles early next week just in time for the awards season. The Houston fashion crowd got a sneak preview of the collection as Johnson led off the evening with a dramatic runway show featuring gowns in shades of deep red and mauve that will photograph well on the red carpet.
Many of the gowns had exquisite back detail, with draping and embellishment that make an impact coming and going. However, a number of models were gripping each side of the gown for dear life and hiking the hem up a few inches so they could make it down the runway. But slicing the length should solve that problem for a red-carpet event.
Johnson will make an appearance at Atrium on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and will showcase the collection in a suite at the Hotel ZaZa on Monday.
Let's hear it for the men
Zachary Prell has experienced a great deal of success since launching his menswear line in 2006. The former Wall Street financier-turned-menswear designer is attracting a following for a crisp line with a flattering V-silhouette that is broader in the chest and cleaner at the waist, and such details as shortening the shirt tail so it hits mid-pocket when wearing jeans, expanding the shirt cuff slightly to accommodate a larger face watch and lowering the top shirt button so it's not too tight at the neck.
"It really is something that's versatile. You can go from day to night. I want our guy to be able to wear something crisp and smart to the office, but then be able to untuck the shirt and put on one of our coats or leather jackets and go out for the evening," he said.
"Guys want to look good. They just need some guidance and some direction to help improve their wardrobe."
Prell names new products for good customers, friends and advisors. A new twill checked shirt, the "Fuller," is named for Ricci Fuller, the manager of the men's sportswear department at the Neiman Marcus Galleria store, who has been a big supporter of the brand. "It's my way of saying thank you," he said.
For his runway show Prell showed 30 looks, including sweaters and blazers with patch elbows, fitted leather jackets with zipper detail, plaid overcoats, and cardigans with buttons slightly askew. "Guys want to look good. They just need some guidance and some direction to help improve their wardrobe," said Prell, who is making a personal appearance at Neiman Marcus Saturday.
Wes Gordon, the 27-year-old Atlanta native who has been getting a lot of buzz lately, closed Fashion Houston with a fast-paced runway show combining hard and soft styles with different textures. The collection includes a frothy feather skirt with a crisp white shirt, a silver chain-metal crop top paired with a long flowy skirt, a striped racer back sheath and skirts with delicate lace panels.
"There's an Old World appreciation for the craft-making, but in a way that women want to live their lives today and tomorrow," he said in explaining the collection. "They want to look like they're not trying too hard, not too pulled together and slick, but at the same time they like femininity. They don't want to look so rigid and sterile."
"The Texas woman is certainly not afraid to take risks."
His Southern upbringing has influenced his style aesthetic, he acknowledges. "There's a romantic spirit to the South that is very infectious. That little bit of mystery and dreamlike quality is something that is definitely below the surface."
For this collection, he looked to the clean, slick look of the late '90s that also had a soft, feminine quality, with Carolyn Bessette, Kate Moss and Gwyneth Paltrow as the models of the era. Such features as spaghetti strap dresses and longer hem lengths are incorporated into the collection, Gordon said.
He had to race back to New York on Saturday, but a trunk show of his collection will be held at Neiman Marcus next week.
"The Texas woman is certainly not afraid to take risks," he said. "She loves fashion, which is always more fun for me as a designer. She goes for those crazy, fun pieces which are my babies. I know they'll always find a good home in Texas and I'll always love the Texan woman for that."