Jonathan Tinkle thinks big. To showcase his spring 2014 Jonathan Blake collection, the 22-year-old designer erected a winding runway over the pool in the backyard of Deana and Larry Blackburn's palatial River Oaks home and invited more than 200 guests to view 20 models in more than 60 pieces, ranging from a lush French blue crocodile cropped jacket to a princess gown with full tulle skirt dotted with leather paillettes.
"With this collection, I wanted people to feel the elegance and femininity and the colors and textures from wherever they were sitting," he explained.
"I've learned you really had to listen to what your client wants. If they look good, I look good. And I want them to look good because they will come back."
In designing only his third full collection, Tinkle believes he was subconsciously influenced by music of the '70s and '80s, along with The Great Gatsby. "I wasn't looking at visuals. Maybe music can influence you subconsciously," he said.
Some of the standout pieces in the collection include a gold lame chiffon blouse and palazzo pant combo that has a Studio 54 vibe, a fitted sheath with vertical python panels on each side and matching python jacket ,and several unadorned dresses in soft pastels and jewel tones.
Tinkle said he purposely did not add a lot of beading because Houston women like clothes that don't compete with their jewels. "They like things they can wear over again with different jewelry," he explained.
Tinkle's throwback to the '70s and the use of animal skins — eel, python, crocodile — usually considered more suited to fall clothing mirror two top trends from New York fashion week. The secret to using such skins for warmer weather collections is not to load them down with hardware so they look so heavy, he explained.
It is also the first time he has worked with prints. The closing showstopper, a blue print strapless ballgown, was based on the pattern of a Swallowtail butterfly. He purchased one online from a California company and when it arrived, he opened the box and found the wings had disintegrated.
"At first, I freaked out because I couldn't get another," he said. But then he decided to create an abstract computer print based on the veins and scales that remained. "You can see them on the print because everything is magnified," he said.
The collection is more polished than previous ones (even he admits it has less of a beauty pageant look than his first collection) as Tinkle continues to hone his craft. Being a designer in "not a glamorous as everyone thinks it is," he said. "It's changed my perception, but I love it. I've learned you really have to listen to what your client wants. If they look good, I look good. And I want them to look good because they will come back."
Among those admiring his collection were Channel 13 morning anchor Sharron Melton, who emceeded the evening, Diane Caplan, Debbie Festari, Zarine and Meherwan Boyce, Carolyn Farb, Leisa Holland-Nelson, Karina Barbieri, Jared Lang and Joyce Echols, Laura Max Nelson and Ben Rose, Yasmine Haddad, Janine Iannarelli, Diane Roberts, and Franklin and Cindi Rose.