Heart of Fashion went out with flair at the Million Air hanger near Hobby Airport Friday night as an Italian designer with a sexy, '60s "bondage-meets-flower power" collection for the French fashion house Emanual Ungaro stole the show.
The final evening of the three-night extravaganza also featured collections from two Texas designers with different ideas about fashion and an appearance by the world's oldest supermodel. At 84, Carmen Dell'Orefice, rocked the runway in a unembellished black gown designed by her good friend, Peter Cohen, and earned a standing ovation.
At the end, models from all four shows filled the runway with Heart of Fashion founder Vivian Wise, who was speechless. A bout with laryngitis had robbed Wise of her voice, so she flashed a piece of paper that simply said, "Thank You."
Among the appreciative crowd were Tiffany Smith, Judy Margolis, designers David Peck and Chloe Dao, Sarah Jawda and Saba Jawda, Duyen and Marc Nguyen, whose daughters modeled in the show, Mickey Rosmarin, Shannon Hall and Marcus Sloan, Page Parkes, Fady Armanious and Bill Baldwin, Jeff Shell, Ally Shell van Kollwijk and the Suffers lead singer Kam Franklin.
"I feel like a lot of people don't realize that fashion is as much an art form as music is," Franklin said. "When they overlap it's a surprise for both sides."
Ungaro: French flair with Italian passion
Italian designer Fausto Puglisi has resuscitated the venerable French brand Ungaro with a youthful vibe and impeccable tailoring. His spring 2016 collection, which closed Heart of Fashion, featured eye-popping colors of teal and neon pink, along with black patent leather, in styles that could appeal to a young customer (hot pink trapeze coats, a midriff-baring flower-studded mini-dress and thigh-high boots) or someone older (high-neck lattice-print blouses and floral guipure capes).
"It adds a little sex," said Marcus Sloan, who is featuring the collection at his store, Sloan Hall. "And the color is crazy. It's still a little bit ladylike, but he's made it more young and brought it into the 2000s. The workmanship is insane."
In a video, Puglisi said the collection is a tribute to femininity, with a sense of modernity and power. He was represented at the show by Michelle Stein, president of Aeffe USA, the parent company of Ungaro, who flew in for the event and huddled with longtime pals Becca Cason Thrash and Tootsies' Mickey Rosmarin.
Thrash wore a vintage Moschino black studded leather jacket in tribute to Stein, who also oversees the brand in the USA. The only other jacket of its kind was made for Madonna.
Texas designers: Abi Ferrin and Paola Contreras
Dallas designer Abi Ferrin presented a colorful beach-themed collection that included gauzy blouses, embroidered boho dresses with flared sleeves, flowing floral capes and pants and a bright orange one-pieces swimsuit well-suited to the Texas climate. Ferrin's designs can be found at Maggies in The Woodlands and her flagship boutique in Dallas.
Houston designer Paola Contreras was in a more subdued mood for her Inclán Studio collection. Showing at Heart of Houston as an emerging designer, Contreras said she was influenced by a recent trip to China to produce a pared-down look with clean lines. The largely black and white collection features tunic tops, tie blouses, soft dresses with asymmetrical hemlines and three-quarter length slacks.
"It's a relief to have it done, but it was such an amazing experience," Contreras said, acknowledging the fact that she was the only Houston designer to show at Heart of Fashion.
She will show her designs at a trunk show at Sloan Hall Monday from noon to 4. Why many designers feel compelled to leave Houston to further their design career, Contreras plans to stay put.
"Why be a small fish in a big pond?" she said. "I'd like to tackle the Houston market where this is a lot of disposable income to be able to spend on clothing. And then go from there."
Peter Cohen: Aiming for the big reveal
Unlike some designers (like Ungaro) who believe the more embellishment the better, Peter Cohen aims for a clean, minimal look with hidden details that promise a "big reveal."
"My clothes are for circumstances: The right light, the right moment, the right gestures. They are tools, you have to use them," Cohen said. "I'm also very suggestive. Somebody unbuttons a button, it's like a big deal to me. It means something is going on. It doesn't take much."
The Los Angeles-based designer, whose minimalist style has been compared to Jil Sander maintains a Hollywood following among celebrities who like his refined look that draws attention by not trying too hard. His longtime friend, 84-year-old supermodel Carmen Dell'Orefice, was perhaps the best advertisement for Cohen's philosophy as she closed his Heart of Fashion show.
Wearing an elegant long-sleeve black blouse and long skirt designed by Cohen with a double strand of pearls, Dell'Orefice epitomized elegance as she walked the runway to thunderous applause.