Safety in Numbers
While New York is America's fashion capital and Dallas lays claim as a regional center, some stubborn-minded Houston designers aren't quite ready to leave the Bayou City in search of fashion fame and a mention in Women's Wear Daily.
They insist that Houston has a lot of natural advantages — low cost of living, an entrepreneurial mindset and a nurturing atmosphere — that make them want to stay close to home.
Leading the pack is David Peck, who has recently opened a spacious design studio and manufacturing center in the heart of the Upper Kirby District. In less than three years, Peck has expanded his business so that he now has 23 full-time employees and 17 contract workers manufacturing his collection as well as three others.
"There's such a demand for domestic manufacturing," Peck says. "People want quality over quantity and that's refreshing for me."
Peck recently teamed with two young Houston designers, Amir Taghi and Jonathan Tinkle, who designs the Jonathan Blake collection, for a two-day trunk show at Peck's studio to showcase the quality of work going on here. (Peck manufactures their collections, along with a Birmingham, Ala.-based children's wear line.)
"It's one-stop shopping," Peck says with a laugh.
The large contingent of Houston fashion followers, including Fashion Houston founder Jared Lang, Roz Pactor, Edward Sanchez, Diane Lokey Farb and Monsour Taghdisi, packed Peck's showroom as the three designers alternated their latest collections in one major presentation.
Each designer has a different look — Peck's fall collection pays homage to classic films, Taghi's creations exude European refinement, the Blake collection is edgier, with leather and suede detail — but they meshed effortlessly into a cohesive presentation.
Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, owner of the Vintage Contessa, accessorized the looks with vintage Chanel clutches, pearl necklaces and other fine jewelry. "I try not to over accessorize because the clothes are so amazing," she says.
"They're just starting on the journey; that makes it exciting. It reminds you of why you went into (fashion) in the first place."
Peck, a fashion veteran at 33 (although the baby-faced designer looks much more youthful), and the two young designers — Taghi is only 17 and Tinkle is 22 — say they have learned a lot from each other in a short time — proof that the Houston fashion scene benefits from such synergy.
Taghi says Peck has helped him how to translate a sketch into an wearable design while Tinkle says Peck has taught him how to manipulate fabrics like crocodile to achieve the intended result.
Peck finds the young designers' energy and enthusiasm contagious. "They're just starting on the journey; that makes it exciting. It reminds you of why you went into (fashion) in the first place."
Sharing his craft with the young designers also forces him to analyze his own work and the decision-making that goes into it. "When you teach people, you learn so much about yourself," Peck says.
Manufacturing in Houston also helps to develop a bond between the designer and the client, who can see the dress while it is being made and also other work going on in the window-filled workroom.
"There's a lot of crossover. We have some really good clients who buy all three collections," Peck says. "To see how dress gets made has helped to make a connection with the customer."