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  • The irrepressible Chloe Dao acknowledges the audience at the end of her runwayshow. She's wearing a colorful look from her spring collection.
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Dao's spring/summer 2012 collection features bright colors and accessories fromElaine Turner. The collection will be Dao's Lot 8 store in February 2012.
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Dao closed the show with a kaleidoscope-print chiffon gown with contrastingstraps over lace hot pants
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Green/white striped keyhole halter top with blue high waisted shorts
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Abstract Aztec print jersey halter dress with contrasting yellow pockets andbelt
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Multi-colored patchwork knit 3/4-sleeve dress with front and back slits
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Blue open shouldered fitted dress with printed piping detail
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Blue shift with scoop neckline
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Jade 3/4-sleeve deep V-neck dress with printed belt
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Patchwork shift
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com

Many designers are in a state of panic before a runway show. But with less than an hour before her Fashion Houston show was set to begin last week, Chloe Dao seemed cool, calm and collected as she mingled with guests in the Audi Fashion Tent in Fish Plaza.

As fans of Season Two of Project Runway recall, Dao remains unruffled in even the thorniest of situations. (She developed a national following after winning the competition in 2005 and has continued with projects on QVC as well as her subsequent collections at Lot 8, her Rice Village boutique.)

That same bright, easygoing feeling permeates Dao's spring/summer 2012 collection, which is characterized by a riot of color.

That same bright, easygoing feeling permeates Dao's spring/summer 2012 collection, which is characterized by a riot of color. Dao's entire collection is a paean to bright hues, with colorblock dresses in bright shades of tangerine and blue, Aztec prints and kaleidoscope chiffons.

Some of the prints are different color combinations stitched together into one piece of fabric. Each look was accessorized with bright Elaine Turner handbags and shoes.

"It's bold and bright and very colorful. I think it's the most colorful collection I've ever done. It's the most amount of prints I've ever done," she said.

CultureMap: Why have you discovered color?

Chloe Dao: I think I'm more fearless. I've stepped out of my comfort zone. I'm using fabric I don't normally use. Usually I'm more (into) eveningwear (made of) silk chiffon, silk charmeuse. It's only a quarter percent of the collection this time. I'm piecing together different prints. I'm spreading my own fabriciation my own way. Just stepping out.

I think it's very on trend because color has been in the vocabulary for a while. I just want people to be happy, you know what I mean? Put on some color and you'll be happy, no matter what.

CM: How was it working with Elaine Turner?

CD: Amazing!

CM: Have you worked together before?

CD: No we haven't. We had always been speaking about it.

I think Anya got really lucky because she's so damn pretty. She's talented but she should have been elimated a few times.

CM: You both are such great examples of being able to stay in Houston and make it in the fashion business.

CD: We're working girls and we're working it. It's important to show that you don't have to fly off somewhere to be successful. I look up to Elaine for how successful she has been. She's truely the entrepreneur. I want to be like her, to be at her level of success.

CM: Has married life changed your design sensibilities? (Dao recently married Kenneth Pursley in a Bahamas beach wedding)

CD: You should ask my husband (laughs). That's a great question. We've been together for six years, so I kind of don't care anymore. I'm with a man who loves me for who I am.

CM: Do you watch Project Runway or are you over it?

CD: I do try to watch this season. I do try to watch every season, but then I get sick of it. So now I just read it on Tom & Lorenzo because I just can't embrace some of the designers. They're going to hate me for that but I'm just going to be honest.

I think this year, Viktor should win. And I think Anya got really lucky because she's so damn pretty. She's talented but she should have been elimated a few times.

CM: Do you really believe Anya just started sewing four months ago (before the season began)?

CD: I believe her because the stuff she made was obvious. You can tell when someone has skill. She's done very very simple pieces. People who have real skill, it's much more complicated.

I hope next year there are more local designers besides me and Cesar. There are so many amazing young designers here (in Houston).

CM: What are your thoughts about Fashion Houston?

CD: I think it's better (than last year). It's more organized, too. And I think it's really nice that they're bringing in other very well-established New York designers. I hope next year there are more local designers besides me and Cesar. There are so many amazing young designers here. I work with HCC and the Art Institute. There's an immense amount of talent in this city and hopefully we embrace them a little bit more next year.

I think its nice that they can see through me that you can stay in Houston and be successful. You define your own success not about being in New York or LA, it's being where you want to be and being happy about it. And it's the fourth largest city in the U.S., so come on people!

  • Off-the-shoulder red gown from the Cesar Galindo Rojo collection.
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • A look from the Cesar Galindo Rojo collection, with jewelry from ElizabethPettit de Montfitchet's Baroness Elizabeth collection.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Cesar Galindo poses with his ladies in red at the end of his Rojo by CesarGalindo runway show at Fashion Houston
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Calindo incorporated shiny fabrics into his designs.
    Photo by Federico Villamayor

Cesar Galindo unveils red evening gown collection for World AIDS Day

Wear Rojo

On the final night of Fashion Houston, Cesar Galindo unveiled his Rojo by Cesar Galindo of red gowns that he designed in tribute to World AIDS Day.

Galindo, who is co-chairing the World AIDS Day luncheon with Fred Smith and Ken Newberry at the Hilton Americas-Houston on Dec. 1, decided to whip up the gowns to create a festive atmosphere at the annual event and, hopefully, raise some additional funds for AIDS Foundation Houston.

Galindo showcased 11 gowns, incorporating shiny fabric and dramatic styling, in the runway show and plans to create an additional six gowns before the luncheon. At Fashion Houston, the gowns were accented with glittering pieces of jewelry from Houston designer Elizabeth Pettit de Montfitchet's "Aristo Goddess" Collection by Baroness Elizabeth.

Galindo says he has had offers for three of the gowns, which start at $3,000, and plans to donate a portion of sales to the Houston AIDS organization. He plans a runway show at the World AIDS Day luncheon and hopes to auction off all the rest of the gowns for charity.

For more information contact Galindo directly at info.cesargalindo@gmail.com or AIDS Foundation Houston.

  • A party dress with tired skirt has a frayed edge.
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • One of my favorite looks: A gown of sweat shirt fabric paired with a croppedjacket
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Rodriguez featured gowns in citrus colors.
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Robert Rodriguez acknowledges the Fashion Houston audience after his show.
    Photo by Federico Villamayor

At Fashion Houston, Robert Rodriguez mixes style and practicality

Fashion Houston 2011

On the closing night of Fashion Houston, Robert Rodriguez showed a resort collection that mixed style and practicality. He opened with a sequined minidress topped with a crisp gold blazer that could just as easily be worn with jeans and featured evening gowns in lush colors of teal and citrus, along with party dresses with frayed edges and short shorts paired with sequined tops.

My favorite look: A gown made of sweatshirt fabric paired with a hip cropped leather jacket. It had an easy casual style that looked chic and modern, yet just right for these uncertain times.

My favorite look: A gown made of sweatshirt fabric paired with a hip cropped leather jacket. It had an easy casual style that looked chic and modern, yet just right for these uncertain times.

While in Houston, Rodriguez explained his style to Merritt Beck, creator of the fashion and style blog, Manolos and Martinis.

Merritt Beck: I know Christian Dior was a major influence on your decision to start a career in fashion. What other things influence you in your designs?

Robert Rodriguez: I’m very inspired by many things… Architecture, art, just beautiful things. You know, sometimes I just get a reference of something…even something as simple as a flower or a piece of rock. I always go with my gut, so really anything that I feel is right.

MB: Out of your pre-fall and fall collections, which piece is your absolute favorite and why?

RR: I love the leather trench – it’s one of my favorite pieces. I would style it with a T-shirt, dress the leather down a little bit.

MB: With all of the major fashion week events coming to a close all around the world, which trends from the spring/summer 2012 runway collections are you most excited about?

RR: One of the things I was inspired by for spring was the '50s and early '60s, which is what my collection is all about. I found that this has been the major trend in Europe – all very retro. I like that I’m seeing this femininity coming back. Spring for me was all about color, so lots and lots of color!

MB: Your pieces have been featured on a number of A-list celebrities. If there were one person you could style or design a dress for, who would it be?

RR: Lady Gaga. She would be one that I would love to dress because she’s so out there and I think I would have fun with her.

"One of the things I was inspired for by spring was the '50s and '60s... I found this has been the major trend in Europe — all very retro."

MB: What do you have planned for the rest of 2011?

RR: We have LA fashion week next week and we’re doing a show in Brussels for the U.S. Embassy. Those are really the next big things. Come spring we’ll see what happens!

MB: You currently have three different labels (signature Robert Rodriguez collection, Black Label evening wear and Robbi & Nikki). Are there any plans to expand your lines to include handbags, jewelry, etc. anytime soon?

RR: We are thinking of doing accessories, handbags and shoes. I think you should expect them sometime next year.

He also spoke with Annina Stefanelli, creator of the fashion and style blog, Cinched at the Waist.

Aninna Stefanelli: When you design, what is more important, the process or result?

Robert Rodriguez: I think both are important — the design process takes a lot of planning and creativity, always thinking of what is next. This is very important for me because it then really tells you what the end result will be.

AS: For whom do you design? How do you see the Robert Rodriguez Collection wearing gal?

RR: I design for real women, and I love seeing my clothes on all types. I love designing real wearable clothes and don’t really believe in one particular muse. This point of view has always been successful for me.

AS: What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?

RR: That’s simple, always stay true to yourself and your beliefs.

Gap leaving a gap, closing 21 percent of its stores: Which local spots are onthe hit list?

China's Rocking Though

Gap will be downsizing by 21 percent in North America over the next three years — going from 889 stores to 700 by 2013.

Simultaneously, the brand will expand its outlet stores and its market abroad. Especially in Asia, where Gap will triple its storefronts in China from 15 to 45 by the end of 2012.

Arthur Peck, president of Gap's North American business, blames the company's decline on the individual stores, some of which are "tired and worn out."

"I’ll be the first to say that our stores have not been executing with the consistency that they need to execute at in order to deliver the kind of brand experience that we are committed to delivering," Peck said at the company’s investor conference on Thursday.

The company's release claims that Gap "is making progress on its goal of reducing square footage in North America and is on track to achieve a 10-percent reduction in overall store square footage by fiscal year 2012." This idea of "improving productivity" in company real estate seems to put a positive spin on a grim financial outlook.

After Gap's logo fiasco in October of last year, and many seasons of used styles and unflattering fits, I have given up on everything but their denim. But the release promises that the company recognizes its recent failures: "Customers will see product improvements starting in spring with more color, emotion and clearer points of view."

Gap has eight stores in Houston — two in the Galleria alone — and that many more in the suburbs. The company says that will look "store by store" over the next 26 months to see which ones are performing and which will be closed.

Are you concerned that your neighborhood store may be on the nix list?

  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Becca Cason Thrash and John Thrash with Holly Moore
    Photo by Robert Hunt
  • Haute couture crocodile tailcoat and gown by Jean Paul Gaultier.
    Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Fashion Houston creative director Neal Hamil makes the award presentation.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Becca in Giambatistta Valli at Fashion Houston.
    Photo by Emile C. Browne
  • Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • The Alexander McQueen gown that Becca wore to Liaisons au Louvre II.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Photo by Federico Villamayor
  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Becca Cason Thrash and John Thrash
    Photo by Robert Hunt

Becca Cason Thrash shares her sartorial savvy as the 2011 Fashion Houston StyleIcon

From her closet to the catwalk

Just hours off of a plane from London, Becca Cason Thrash showed no signs of impending jet lag Thursday night when accepting honors as the 2011 Fashion Houston Style Icon. Wearing a Giambattista Valli cropped jacket over cocktail slacks with Louboutin boots and black leather gloves, she was an impeccable standout amid the chic coterie that gathered in the Grand Foyer of Wortham Theater Center for the finale of the four-night fashion extravaganza.

Prior to the presentation of more than two dozen designer ensembles from Becca's closet, Neal Hamil, Fashion Houston creative director, did the honors describing this lady of the hour as "a global game changer, raising millions for chairty."

"The fashion world has no better friend than Becca," he said.

Her one basic rule of dressing: "Never walk out the door without something of incredible quality."

Before the parade of Ralph Rucci, Alexander McQueen, Naeem Khan, Christian Dior and Jean Paul Gaultier designs, Becca talked fashion and her philosophy on the subject via video. Her one basic rule of dressing: "Never walk out the door without something of incredible quality."

Her love of fashion began, Becca said, when she saw her first copy of Vogue in the Piggly Wiggly in Harlingen, Texas, where she grew up. From there the passion evolved to the point, she confessed, that she has "designed an entire party around a dress that has inspired me."

Of particular note on the runway were the haute couture cinnabar-hued Rucci gown with ostrich evening jacket, the haute couture crocodile tailcoat over a matching ball gown by Gaultier, the Marchesa beaded cocktail dress that she wore last winter for her receipt of the French Legion of Honor and the McQueen gown that she wore in June to Liaisons au Louvre II, the Paris event that raised more than $3.8 million for the vaunted museum.

And then there were the diamond Cartier clips from the '30s, her favorite accessory — other than her husband, John Thrash, she quipped.

The proud husband was seated on the front row along with notables including Holly Moore, Valerie Sarofim, Monsour Taghdisi, Bob Devlin, Liz Zaruba, Lucinda and Javier Loya, Dr. Yasmine Haddad, Gregory Fourticq, Jeff Shell, Sofia Adrogué, Jeff Gremillion, Trish Millard and Antonio Marziale and Fashion Houston honcho Jared Lang of Momentum Audi. Audi was sponsor of the four-day presentations.

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Santa Claus comes to town for a fight in Violent Night

Movie Review

When it comes to movies themed around Christmas, there are an infinite number of heartwarming films and a surprising number of horror movies. But, unless you are among those who count Die Hard as a Christmas movie, there are almost no holiday action films, and even fewer where Santa Claus is the hero at the center of it.

That makes Violent Night a unicorn of a film, one in which Santa (David Harbour) is a disillusioned, drink-addled mess whom we first meet downing beers in a bar on Christmas Eve. After stumbling through house after house, complaining all the while about kids’ obsession with video games, he makes his way to the estate of Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo).

Instead of seeing a happy family, he encounters two jealous siblings and their families, and a coordinated attack by an outside group led by a man nicknamed Scrooge (John Leguizamo) looking to steal $300 million in cash. Somewhat reluctantly, Santa uses his holiday magic – and long untapped military experience – to take on the bad guys and ensure a merry Christmas for those who deserve it.

Written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller (the team behind the two Sonic the Hedgehog movies) and directed by Tommy Wirkola, the film more than lives up to its title, splattering much of its running time with enough blood to satisfy any hardcore action fan. The creative ways in which villains are killed or maimed are numerous, including a fantastic final death and an homage to Home Alone that’s only slightly more graphic than the sequences in that classic kids movie.

Photo by Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures

David Harbour in Violent Night.

It’s surprisingly easy to accept Santa Claus as a vengeance-seeking action hero. Harbour is clearly having a ball in the role, and because he plays Saint Nick as grizzled and grumpy, there’s no disconnect between the kindly version we know and love and this more intense one. He also gets the majority of the laugh lines in the film, with a good number (though less than expected) giving a fun twist on holiday clichés.

The problem with the film is that it can’t sustain the momentum of the Santa mayhem scenes. The filmmakers try to have it both ways, pairing ultra-violence with a (dysfunctional) family story, using a cute girl who still believes in Santa as the bond between the two tones. The lack of attention paid to the dialogue of the Lightstone family is glaringly evident, especially since all of their roles, with the exception of D’Angelo, are filled by relatively unknown actors.

Anytime Santa Claus is on the screen – which is less than you might think – the film works. But any other time, it’s clear that they’re just trying to come up with something – anything – for the characters to do until they can get back to Santa kicking ass. And most of the time, what they’ve come up with is so eye-rollingly stupid or poorly written that you wonder why they included it in the first place.

Harbour is the glue that keeps the film watchable, committing himself 100 percent to the idea of the role. He doesn’t go overboard with the typical Santa elements, and the fact that he looks different from your typical Santa Claus also helps with the believability factor. Almost no one else is worth mentioning, save for maybe Leah Brady, the aforementioned cute girl who shines amid the depravity.

The potential for an alternative holiday classic was there with Violent Night, but the filmmakers focused too much on balancing the film instead of delivering on what the concept promised. If there is a next time, they should just let go of the reins and let Santa Claus go completely loose.

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Violent Night opens in theaters on December 2.

3 tony Tanglewood dwellings open their doors for Houston's oldest holiday home tour

decked-out halls

Since 1941, the Kappa Kappa Gamma Charitable Foundation of Houston and the Kappa Kappa Gamma Houston Alumnae Association have hosted the biennial Holiday Pilgrimage Home Tour. It's allowed guests into some of Houston's finest addresses to see their holiday decor, while also raising millions of dollars for area charities.

The home tour is back this year, with a focus on Tanglewood. Three homes are available for viewing, part of Kappa Kappa Gamma's Making Spirits Bright for Our Community campaign. Homes are open Friday and Saturday, December 2 and 3 from 10 am to 4 pm.

Go inside 414 Shadywood Rd., 5936 Deerwood Dr., and 5950 Stones Throw Rd. to see examples of beautiful architecture, lovely holiday displays, and gracious living. This is an opportunity to gather inspiration for seasonal decorating and learn more about what makes each home unique.

Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased online, as well as at fine retailers such as Berings, Briargrove Pharmacy & Gifts, and Memorial Designs.

Those who purchase tickets online must bring their receipt to the first home they tour, where it will be exchanged for the number of tickets purchased. The home tour is self guided, and guests may begin at any of the homes and proceed at their leisure to each during the tour's hours.

Kappa Kappa Gamma is a national sorority, with chapters at colleges around the country and a history dating back more than 150 years. Houston's Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumnae Association was founded in 1928 and boasts more than 900 members in the Bayou City.

Photo courtesy of Kappa Kappa Gamma Charitable Foundation of Houston

The classic 414 Shadywood Rd.

Houston beauty experts share skincare tips, products, and procedures for an ultra-glam holiday glow

MERRY AND BRIGHT skin

Ah, the holidays. The season ahead can make even the most bah-humbug person feel a bit indulgent. Parties, shopping and extra treats or cocktails (like Emma D'Arcy's TikTok famous "negroni sbagliato with prosecco in it") are par for the course for the next few weeks.

Although finding perfect outfits and presents is important, prepping for a holiday-ready complexion – that doesn't take too long and will counteract all those celebratory indulgences – is essential.

Even the most devout skincare enthusiast may want extra help to look photo and celebration ready, so we sat down with local skincare experts who share tips on how to get and keep a glowing complexion throughout the holiday season.

Customized skincare

SkinCeuticals Skin Lab by Dr. Roth offers a completely customized skincare experience with cutting-edge technology by one of the best medical-grade skincare brands. SkinCeuticals Custom D.O.S.E. (Diagnostic Optimization Serum Experience) is a personalized formula that addresses an individual's unique skin concerns, including discoloration, blemishes or aging skin.

The quick and painless process begins with a customized consultation where a unique serum is identified from over 48 possible combinations with ingredients like glycolic acid, retinol and niacinamide.

"D.O.S.E. streamlines a skincare routine. It is quick and easy, and the serum addresses many concerns," says Tori Lane, product and skincare specialist at SkinCeuticals SkinLab by Dr. Roth. "The serum typically lasts for three months, and it is a great way to incorporate medical-grade skincare into your routine. D.O.S.E. also makes a unique gift at a reasonable price point."

Perfect products

Dr. Quynh-Giao Sartor, a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery - River Oaks, recommends incorporating products that lift and smooth the skin. Aside from a broad-spectrum SPF (which everyone should use daily), she recommends three products for a stress-free holiday skincare routine.

  • A daytime eye cream containing vitamin K, such as the ISDIN Kox Eye cream. This type of cream stimulates lymphatic circulation around the eyes, brightens the appearance of darkness, and decreases eye puffiness.
  • A nighttime treatment with retinol/retinoid such as SkinBetter AlphaRet Overnight Cream or bakuchiol ISDIN Melatonik Recovery night serum to stimulate collagen production and cell turnover, increase skin firmness, improve skin texture and repair photodamage. Bakuchiol is an excellent alternative for those sensitive to retinol/retinoids or for those trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding (retinol/retinoids are unsafe in pregnancy or breastfeeding).
  • A simple hydrating moisturizer, such as over-the-counter La Roche Posay Double Repair, is suitable for most skin types. It has natural skin healing properties due to its base of prebiotic thermal water.

Non-invasive reatments

During the holiday season, no one has time to recover from elective procedures, so Dr. Edward Lee of Nuveau Plastic Surgery and Medical Aesthetics recommends three treatments to help patients look party-ready with little or no downtime.

  • BBL HERO is the fastest, most potent IPL in the industry. BBL HERO allows us to treat the entire face and body with four times the speed, three times the peak power and two times the cooling capacity. The result is clearer, smoother and younger appearing skin. BBL HERO can quickly correct vascular lesions, pigmented lesions, sun damage and age spots. Patients can reach outstanding results with minimal to non-existent downtime within as little as a single treatment.
  • Morpheus 8 is a radio-frequency microneedling fractional skin treatment that stimulates collagen production from the underlying layers of the dermis to reveal a more radiant, youthful appearance. With Morpheus 8, visible results can be seen in as little as a few days and continue to improve for weeks to come. Topical numbing is used during the procedure, and the downtime is about three to four days.
  • Moxi Non-Ablative Laser gently revitalizes the skin by correcting the initial signs of damage and aging. It is safe for all skin types any time of year and is performed with topical numbing. The downtime can range from zero to two days; makeup is allowed after 24 hours.

Photo by Fleur Kaan

Get a holiday photo and celebration worthy complexion with skincare tips from Houston experts.