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  • Kelly Wearstler
  • Turquoise cube ring
  • From the Kelly Wearstler fall collection: Mia jacket, reversible Undergroundsweater and Jagger pant
  • Perforated quartz pendant
  • "Feline" scarf in mulberry
  • Kelly Wearstler

NEW YORK — Call it the changing of the fashion guard. A number of interesting female designers have burst on the scene with casual clothing for the hip, fashion-conscious customer. Gela Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy, the former owners of Juicy Couture, debuted a new line, Skaist-Taylor, during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week featuring clothes with a '70s-style California vibe.

Bravo reality star and celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe showed a runway collection that also had a California rock star vibe, with velvet tuxedos and flowing gowns, while Tory Burch featured a polished fall collection with moody undertones that is sure to extend her burgeoning brand.

Now add Kelly Wearstler to the list.

"When I'm at work, I'm working. I don't chat on the phone with friends. I don't take lunch. I don't socialize during the day. It enables me to leave by 6:30 to have dinner with my family."

I admit I hadn't heard of Wearstler until Tootsies contemporary buyer Jennifer Cunningham raved about the designer's fresh casual look. So I decided to pop into her showroom before leaving New York.

Like the other designers mentioned here, Wearstler has an interesting back story. She made a splash on the interior design scene in the mid-1990s, redoing the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills for real estate developer Brad Korzen, whom she later married.

Her "retro-theatrical" interiors for Korzen's Viceroy Hotels and Resorts earned her a lot of attention, which she parlayed into a thriving career as a commercial and home interior designer. She followed that up with a number of best-selling design books, an appearance as a guest judge on Bravo's Top Design and a line of decorative home goods, bed sheets, rugs, fine china and wall treatments sold in top stores.

(Wearstler just put the Beverly Hills mansion she shares with her husband and two children on the market for $39 million. The 14,000-sq.-ft. estate was designed for movie stars William Powell and Carole Lombard in 1934.)

Last year, Wearstler launched a clothing line that quickly got noticed. It, too, has an edgy "California cool" vibe, although the look is more contemporary than some of her contemporaries. For fall, there's a nod to the '80s punk scene with muscle T-shirts in hand-dyed luxe cotton, unisex boyfriend shirts in a variety of colors, metallic leather mini dresses and surrealistic prints. She also has introduced jewel-tone jeans and leggings in a variety of colors. And nearly everything has her trademark logo featuring perforated details.

Her jewelry collection, which mixes metals, also is eye-catching. She got the idea of mixing metals from her home design business, she explained by email from southern California, which remains her home base.

CultureMap: A lot of people know you as an interior designer but not as a fashion designer. What link do you see between the two?

Kelly Wearstler: Designing a ready-to-wear collection felt like a natural extension for me. I've always loved fashion; it's been a huge source of inspiration for me in my interiors and vice versa. For example, a print in the collection could have been inspired by a wall covering. I've loved working with fabrics, metals and stones for years in my interior design projects. Translating the use of those materials into clothing and accessories has been a fluid process.

CM: Your clothing line has been described as "edgy California cool." What does that mean?

KW: California has a great laidback sensibility that I love. I try to incorporate that into the clothes. I don't like anything to feel too fussy. I just want to make clothes that are feminine, edgy and wearable.

CM: You feature lots of color, which Texans love. California-based designers seem to understand that; New York designers don't. Why is that?

KW: Color provokes an emotional connection. California is a much more relaxed and free-spirited and New York more traditional and intense. Maybe that is why we gravitate toward color more in California.

CM: What's new in your collection for fall?

KW: I introduced a line of colorwashed denim, which I'm super excited about, and a collection of knits.

CM: You're a busy person. How do you find time to do all your interior design work and fashion work, too?

KW: My days are super-organized and I stay focused on whatever it is I'm doing. When I'm at work, I'm working. I don't chat on the phone with friends. I don't take lunch. I don't socialize during the day. It enables me to leave by 6:30 to have dinner with my family. When I'm with my boys, I'm focused on them.

CM: What's in the future for the Kelly Wearstler line?

KW: I’d love to expand into more categories, but for now I'm focused on designing my first holiday collection.

  • Yigal Azrouel fall 2012 collection includes coats in pastel blue.
  • Yigal Azrouel python print wool pants and merion wool hand knit cable sweater
  • Yigal Azrouel created this distinctive blanket coat for his Cut 25 collection,.
  • Yigal Azrouel punctated his monocromatic fall 2012 Cut 25 collection with burstsof cobalt and copper shades.

Yigal Azrouel stays a cut above with two collections for fall while spring ismeant for a surfer girl

Which is your favorite season?

NEW YORK — He's not exactly a household name, but Yigal Azrouel regularly draws young fashion-obsessed celebrities to his shows. Before the unveiling of his fall 2012 collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Camila Alves entertained reporters with tales about her handbag line for QVC and her engagement to Matthew McConaughey. She flashed a big diamond and said, yes, she was surprised when the actor proposed on Christmas Day.

Jennifer Nettles, the female half of the popular country duo Sugarland, admitted that she is fashion obsessed. "I love fashion," she said. "It's something I do as a joy and passion. It's not my job."

Jennifer Nettles, the female half of the country duo Sugarland, was a happy camper at Azrouel's show because there was a lot to layer.

Her job revs up again April 5 when Sugarland embarks on a multi-city, five-month tour. Nettles admitted she's not sure if the duo will stop in Houston this time around. "There are so many places, it's hard for me to remember," she said. (For the record, tour dates through August do not include a Texas stop.)

Though she's a Georgia native, Nettles said she favors fall fashion over summer attire. "I love being able to layer," she said. "That's so much more fun."

Nettles was a happy camper at Azrouel's show because there was a lot to layer as the collection featured chunky handknit cable sweaters (as sweaters and below-the-knee sweater dresses), wool pants and dresses in a python print fabric, pastel wool coats, bombers with shearling collars and jackets with quilted sleeves.

In addition to his namesake line, Azrouel has a contemporary collection called Cut25 that will be featured at a trunk show at Tootsies on March 21 and 23. He came up with the name to describe his design technique. "I am a drape designer and much of my designs come out of simply cutting and sewing various fabrics. The number '25' is the numerical value of the letter Y," he told the International Business Times.

For fall, Cut25 features lots of separates —jackets, blouses, above-the-ankle trousers, coats — in muted black and grays, occasionally punctuated by copper or cobalt shades. What's most noticable about the collection are the many shapes —short dresses with above-the-knee pleated skirts or a long trailing hem in the back and a blanket coat with a cowl collar and three-quarter sleeves.

Unlike his namesake collection, where most dresses fall to mid-calf, nearly everything in the Cut25 collection is several inches above the knee.

While Nettles likes fall styles, I much prefer spring/summer collections. Designers are usually in a cheerier mood for the warmer time of year and feature brighter colors that are perfect for the Houston climate. And there's a more athletic vibe.

My favorite Azrouel collection is his spring/summer line in stores now; it's suited for a surfer girl, with neon and graphic prints in high-tech fabrics. It's playful and not nearly as serious as what most designers are showing for fall.

Here's a peek at Yigal Azrouel's Cut25 spring/summer collection:

  • Naeem Khan opened his show with a black/silver/gold paisley metallic threadworkembroidered evening coat.
  • Naeem Khan acknowledges the audience after his runway show.
    Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
  • Kahn closed the show with a sterling silver pailette gown with open back. It isheavy but wearable, he says.
    Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
  • Naeem Khan black/white abstract swirl print one-shoulder evening gown inbasketweave silk
  • Naeem Khan gold swirl metallic threadwork embroidered trumpet gown

Passage to India: Naeem Khan talks about his fall collection and new best palMatt Damon

Opulent splendor

NEW YORK — For Naeem Khan, it doesn't get much better than this. As the featured designer at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, he unveiled his fall 2012 collection in The Theater, the largest fashion space, before an audience that included his pal, Matt Damon, who was the best celebrity spotting during fashion week because it was so unexpected, along with GCB's Kristin Chenowith and Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi.

Kahn paid tribute to his home country of India, with a glittering collection based on the designs of body art, featuring paisley patterns embroidered with silver and gold threading, fabrics with delicate swirls and sequined scallop-pattered evening gowns evoking the image of peacock feathers.

"India runs through my veins. My love for India keeps me constantly returning to it for inspiration. This time I was inspired by the idea that design can be created from gold or dust."

After the show, Khan was mobbed by admirers. After I quickly congratulated him, we agreed to have an email conversation later after the hoopla quieted down. In addition to discussing the collection, he talked about his friendship with Damon and his upcoming Houston visit for a dinner with George Clooney.

CultureMap: What was it like showing your collection in such a large space before such a large audience?

Naeem Khan: I was honored to have been chosen by Mercedez-Benz. Showing in the The Theatre, the largest venue, was overwhelming but very exciting. I am thankful to my great team who works effortlessly to make the show happen. I love a good challenge and to design the space in terms of background, lighting and color scheme was inspiring. I loved showing in front of such a big audience and I think it will be my venue for future shows.

CM: There was no doubt that you drew upon your homeland of India for the theme. What story were you telling with the collection?

NK: India runs through my veins. My love for India keeps me constantly returning to it for inspiration. This time I was inspired by the idea that design can be created from gold or dust. The Sadhus and the people living in remote India create designs from the most basic elements such as dust, ash, chalk, lime, vermillion, etc.

Then you have the other side of India which is so opulent — pure gold, silver, diamonds and various forms of hand techniques are used to create the design. The royalty of India is a prime example of the decadence that is found in India.

Indian women decorate their foreheads with vermillion to signify marriage or coal to mar their beauty in order to protect themselves from the Evil Eye. I used the dot in my prints in a very abstract design. The body painting of the Sadhus was beaded and printed on silk and tulle.

CM: Of course, you featured plenty of evening gowns, which are a favorite of your Houston customers. How heavy is the final look — the showstopper sterling silver pailette gown?

NK: I love Houston; this collection had many gowns in it that are perfect for my Houston ladies. The finale gown was made in sterling silver metal sequins. The design is scallops from the peacock feather, which is a very symbolic bird in India; it was my sterling silver Bird of Paradise. It is heavy but wearable. It's a dress destined to make a bold and chic statement.

"The finale gown was made in sterling silver metal sequins. It is heavy but wearable. It's a dress destined to make a bold and chic statement."

CM: A lot of people were surprised to see Matt Damon in the front row since he has never attended a fashion show before (as far as I know). Why did he attend your show? Are you friends?

NK: I am so happy my friend Matt and his beautiful wife Luciana came to the show. Yes, it was his first fashion show and and he loved it. He came to the show to support me as a friend and I am so thankful. Matt and I are new friends. We recently met and vacationed on a friend's yacht in St. Barths.

CM: It seems that a lot of designers at fashion week, including you, are showing evening gowns with an exposed back. Why so you think that trend has developed?

NK: I have been showing open backs for the last few seasons. I love open back dresses. They are very flattering. The back is a very sensual part of a woman's body. The right amount of exposure is very sexy.

CM: With fashion week over, what are doing to relax?

NK: As a matter of fact I am sitting a the pool at Amangiri Resort in Utah as I write these answers. I love it here. It's very Zen and somwhere I can recharge before the next collection.

CM: Any plans to come to Houston in the near future?

NK: Of course, very soon. I'll be there to attend a dinner at Becca and John Thrash's home in honor of George Clooney (who will be in Houston May 3 for the Brilliant Lecture Series).

  • ICB by Prabal Gurung chartreuse brushed wool cape coat with smocked back yoke,midnight wool knit snood.
  • See by Chloé red jacquard jumper, red jacquard cardigan, pink corduroy slimpants, off-white calfskin and suede pointy boots.
  • ICB by Prabal Gurung persimmon stretch wool twill blazer with midnight lambleather lapel, indigo silk double georgette collared blouse, midnight woolsaxony double pleat trouser with tuxedo side trim detail.
  • ICB by Prabal Gurung azalea silk crepe de chine kaleidoscope print sleevelessdress with drop waist double layer skirt and hibiscus silk crepe de chinekaleidoscope print collared blouse.

Virtual runway: Prabal Gurung for ICB and See by Chloé unveil digital-onlyfashion shows

The wave of the future?

NEW YORK — The future is now.

For the past few years, designers have mulled over the idea of staging a digital fashion show, where the only way to view the collection is online. This fashion season, for the first time, two have taken the plunge.

During Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Prabal Gurung debuted a line he developed for International Concept Brands, which is owned by Japanese retail giant Onward Kashiyama. The ICB collection will appear in U.S. stores in the fall.

It's easier to see the clothes on video than in a crowded room where it's oftentimes hard to get a good head-to-toe look. But without an audience, the show has a sterile feeling.

The show, accessible to select retailers, buyers and fashion editors who signed in to a website with a special code, featured 32 looks, as models walked around in a stark white room while music played in the background — just like at a runway show.

In addition to head-to-toe views, there were close-up shots, so you could see the intricate smock detailing on a chartreuse cape, the flowing angel wing ribbons on the shoulders of a white blouse or the lace insets on a dress, thanks to the wonders of HD technology.

The collection is clean and modern, with stark shades — persimmon, aubergine, chartreuse, indigo — and colorful hibiscus and azalea prints. Clothes are cut in a way that a young hip twentysomething girl would love, with colorful cropped jackets, a shift with slashes that reveal a contrasting shade underneath and tiered ombre dresses with ethereal floating hemlines.

Gurung praised the digital runway format as a modern way to make lives easier for buyers and the fashion press. "It's a tool that I think will change the fashion world and make us see fashion shows in a different way," he said.

He has a point. It's easier to see the clothes on video than in a crowded room where it's oftentimes hard to get a good head-to-toe look. But without an audience, the show has a sterile feeling — and since clothes often look different when seen in person rather than on video, there are some nagging doubts that what you see is what you'll get in stores.

And I miss the final runway walk where all the models come out one last time to rapturous applause and the designer shyly waves to the adoring audience while Anna Wintour, trailed by her bodyguard/driver,scurries out to beat the crowd to the next show.

On the first day of Paris Fashion Week Wednesday, the fall collection of See by Chloé also debuted in the same way. (Both shows were shown in a format devised by KCD, the New York agency that handles many top shows like Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen.)

Against a white marble wall flecked with veins of black, models strolled out in loose diaphanous dresses, belted jackets, wrapped silk blouses and skinny trousers in muted colors. A flannel coat with leather sleeves and a red jacquard cardigan were among the eye-catching items in the collection, which featured 32 looks. And the accessories — pointy ankle booties and a doctor's bag carried upside down — have a cool, urban vibe.

As the secondary, lower priced Chloé line, though, it probably wouldn't have attracted near this much attention if it weren't shown on the virtual runway.

See by Chloé fall 2012 collection:

  • Even the casual looks look more formal in Billy Reid's fall 2012 collection
    Photo by David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com
  • Billy Reid acknowledges the audience at the end of his runway show.
    Photo by David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com
  • Womenswear is becoming more of a part of the Billy Reid collection each season.For fall, he envisioned a Charleston, S.C. woman with chic New York and Parissophistication.
    Photo by David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com
  • Billy Reid camel wool/cashmere blanket coat with brown leather trim, camel/woolbrown bowler and leather clutch
    Photo by David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com
  • Billy Reid navy/wool sport jacket with leather detail, oxford blue striped clubcollar shirt, gold mohair open-sweater and cordovan leather skirt
    Photo by David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com

Paris by way of Florence, Ala.: Billy Reid mixes Southern spirit & Europeansophistication for fall

All dressed up

NEW YORK — Billy Reid has always been a good ol' Southern boy. But in his latest collection, set for fall, he's gone uptown and overseas.

As the winner of the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and the GQ Best New Menswear Designer in America awards, the Florence, Ala.-based designer has already pretty much conquered the New York fashion world. So for the first full-scale fashion show under his Billy Reid label, he's crossed over the Atlantic in search of a more sophisticated style to combine with his down home ways.

"For some reason it just felt right," he said afterwards about the collection's more formal feel. "Last season was so casual."

The fall 2012 collection he presented during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is dressier than his previous efforts. There wasn't a stitch of denim in the collection; no chinos either. Instead the menswear looks highlighted hand-tailored three-piece cashmere tweed suits, luxe dinner jackets in ivory and black, and parkas lined in mink-like nutria.

"For some reason it just felt right," he said afterwards about the collection's more formal feel. "Last season was so casual."

Reid said the collection was influenced by a trip with his wife to Paris and London, which may account for its Old World refinement.

While known for his menswear collections, Reid has been branching out more each season into a full-fledged womenswear line. He cited the influence of a "Charleston girl, (who) moves to downtown New York — then to Paris (where she) falls in love," for this collection. Among the terrific looks: A cobalt blue blazer and flared trousers, cropped bomber in distressed leather with an embroidered mohair pencil skirt, and a camel cashmere blanket coat with brown leather trim.

Reid said he is excited about moving his Houston store from The Galleria into a former antiques store located on Westheimer near Kirby. "It's a house with a kitchen," he exclaimed. "We've been nomads, back and forth looking for the right location. This environment works perfectly."

He plans to be in Houston for the opening late next month.

  • Mathie Mirano in front of his Fall 2012 Collection in the Box at Lincoln Center
    Photo by Steve Hellerstein
  • Sequined-embellished cropped jacket reminiscent of Balmain at Mathieu Mirano.
    Photo by Steve Hellerstein
  • Dragon-inspired jewelry at Mathieu Mirano
    Photo by Andrew Werner
  • At Karen Walker Fall 2012, paisley prints and vibrant orange
    Karen Walker.com
  • Karen Walker's fuzzy yellow sweater gives a nod to the 1960s.
    Karen Walker.com
  • Boxy coats and paisley booties at Karen Walker
    Karen Walker.com
  • Brocade dress at Karen Walker
    Karen Walker.com
  • Another personal favorite of mine, a high-neck, long-sleeved black velvet gown
    Photo by Andrew Werner
  • A personal favorite, a red and gold satin v-neck gown
    Photo by Steve Hellerstein
  • Dragon-like scaled embroidery at Mathieu Mirano
    Photo by Steve Hellerstein

Discovering new talent at New York fashion week: Mathieu Mirano & Karen Walker

Off the Cuff

Editor's Note: With 350 designers at fashion week, there's no way Clifford Pugh could see all the shows. CultureMap contributor Lindley Arnoldy sought out some new fashion talent. Here's her report.

NEW YORK — Viewing the runway shows of major fashion houses at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is a thrilling experience. There is something truly glamorous and titillating about being a stone’s throw away from the key editors and photographers who have long standing presence in the industry.

However, there is also something to be said about seeing an emerging designer present for the very first time, where the talent is palpable but the crowd is much thinner.

There is something to be said about seeing an emerging designer present for the very first time, where the talent is palpable but the crowd is much thinner.

One of my favorite experiences from fashion week was viewing the presentation of newcomer Mathieu Mirano in the Box at Lincoln Center. Unlike a typical runway show, Mirano’s presentation felt exotic and otherworldly, paying homage to his background in piano with intense classical music setting the tone.

His 2012 fall collection was inspired by a dream he had involving women and dragons, which was visible in his use of fiery reds, golds and blacks with the incorporation of exposed zippers, claw studs, dragon heads and talons.

The result was a dark, somewhat mystical collection that reminded me of the sort of ostentatious, regal feel of something put forth by Balmain or Versace. My favorites were actually two gowns — a black turtleneck velvet gown that had a sort of renaissance appeal to it and a red and gold floor length satin with a V-neck and cap sleeve.

At only 20 years old, Mirano is making a name for himself for his sense of imagination and couture skills focusing on high levels of construction. He dropped out of Parson’s School of Design and in the last year morphed from a student trying to sneak into the tents at Lincoln Center to a talented, emerging designer presenting from the inside. I was very impressed with his work and predict he will be one to watch.

Sea monsters on the runway

Another favorite at fashion week was newcomer – though not first timer – designer Karen Walker. She has really made a name for herself in the industry with her sunglass line, a gift to all of the attendees in the first two rows at her runway show. She used the Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea as the inspiration for her “Sea Monsters” presentation, which translated into lots of navy, yellow and orange separates with funky paisley prints, brocades and boxy coats.

The wild colors and prints were refreshing next to all of the black seen at many of the other shows.

I love Walker’s ability to offset a sweet peplum or pussybow blouse with a boyish, drop crotch trouser. There were also '60s mod undertones, seen similarly in her signature round sunnies, with her use of fuzzy sweaters and A-Line silhouettes. I particularly loved how she brought the paisley prints into her pointy toe booties with vibrant colors and sweet ruffles. The wild colors and prints were refreshing next to all of the black seen at many of the other shows.

The show attracted some notables. I spotted well known blogger Man Repeller tweeting from the front row and Elle style director Kate Lanpher seated directly in front of me. Walker’s knack for eclectic mix and her ability to execute multiple influences really made her stand out to me as a whimsical, talented designer who we will continue to see more of.

Lindley Arnoldy writes the fashion and style blog The Flip Side.

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Hill Country town puts a Texas twist on Carnival season for 18th-annual Cowboy Mardi Gras

Cowboy Mardi Gras

New Orleans may be top of mind for Mardi Gras, but Texas has its fair share of Fat Tuesday festivities. While Galveston's may be the state's oldest celebration and San Antonio wins points for actual floats (courtesy of the River Walk), one little Hill Country town has put its own spin on the annual event for almost twenty years.

Known as the "Cowboy Capital of the World," Bandera hosts a three-day Cowboy Mardi Gras that attracts over 15 thousand people from all over the world to the town of 839 residents. Featuring traditional cajun bands, country music, a Cowboy Mardi Gras parade, costume contests, gumbo cook-off, and more, the 2023 iteration takes place from February 9 to 11.

Bandera is located a little over two hours from Austin, a pleasant trek for those looking for a colorful start to Carnival season. This year's event honors James and Stella McGroarty, former owners of Bandera's 11th Cowboy Bar, who will act as the 2023 Cowboy Mardi Gras Parade Grand Marshals.

With a 20,000 square foot bar and 70-foot stage, the bar is one of the largest music venues in the Texas Hill Country, housed in a historic wood-framed building with a porch out front and expansive outdoor venue area out back. James McGroarty acquired the bar in 2006, transforming it into the destination it is today and elevating the town's annual Cowboy Mardi Gras Parade to the party it is today.

In July 2022, D. Foster, Melinie Ivey, and Richard and Sasha Sutton purchased the bar from McGroarty, planning to carry on McGroarty's legacy.

"We are so honored to take on the tradition of the 18th Annual Cowboy Mardi Gras Parade," says Richard Sutton in a release. "Bandera is a remarkable town that knows how to throw one hell of a party and we're looking to carry on that tradition."

“James McGroarty has said that 11th Street Cowboy Bar is all about providing the best Country Western music experience in Texas and sharing drinks with good friends," adds D. Foster. "He wanted to make all things in Bandera bigger than life. This is why we bought the bar and we want to carry on James McGroarty's legacy."

This year's lineup of live music will feature a variety of artists including Deanna Carter, Gary P. Nunn, Dale Watson, Jake Worthington, and many more. Find a full lineup of music and daily activities at cowboymardigrasbandera.com, as well as ticketing information. Tickets for the festivities start at $75 in advance or $85 at the door.

Photo by Tessa Kolodny

The three-day celebration brings over 15,000 people from all over the world to Bandera.

Houston's Top Chef Season 19 star joins NYC veteran to open Heights 'New Asian American' restaurant

Top Chef star's new restaurant

One of this year’s most eagerly anticipated new restaurants has opened its doors. Jūn begins dinner service on Tuesday, February 7.

Chefs Evelyn Garcia and Henry Lu have teamed up to open Jūn. Best known for her run to the finals of Top Chef’s Houston-based, Season 19, Garcia also served as the executive chef at Decatur Bar & Pop-up Factory, where she earned praise for her Thai dishes, and as the chef-owner of Kin, the stand she operated at the Politan Row food hall that evolved into a regular vendor at a number of Houston-area farmers markets.

Prior to returning home to Houston, Garcia worked at a number of prominent New York restaurants, including Jean George Spice Market and Kin Shop, which was created by Top Chef season one winner Harold Dieterle. Lu brings a similarly impressive resume from New York, including time at Pearl and Ash, Brooklyn’s Llama Inn, and as the executive chef of the Four Happy Men Hospitality Group.

Together, the two friends have created a restaurant they’re describing as “New Asian American.” It includes a range of influences that blends their diverse professional experiences as well as their time living and eating in New York.

“[The menu] showcases our background as first generation children with an eclectic upbringing and having both worked in New York City restaurants,” Garcia writes in an email. “We think of food in a similar way, which is why it's so effortless for us to create together.”

Jūn’s menu includes a wide array of dishes, including a charcuterie board with house-cured meats and smoked rye bread; beef tartare with toasted rice; and carrots with salsa macha, Salvadorian cheese, and quail egg. Entrees include a whole roasted fish that’s seasoned with guajillo and fried chicken that’s marinated in shrimp paste.

Top Chef fans may recognize the shrimp aguachile, which is similar to the snapper dish Garcia created to win the challenge in episode six. Similarly, the lamb with curry takes inspiration from the brisket curry she served in episode five that had Padma Lakshmi raving “Where have you been all my life? This is the curry I’ve been looking for.”

All that eating happens in a 57-seat dining room. Located in the former Steel City Pops/Central City CoOp space at 420 E 20th St., Garcia explains that one specific design feature sold her and Lu on the space.

Courtesy of Jūn

Chefs Evelyn Garcia and Henry Lu have teamed up at Jūn.

“The location has always had the bones for a beautiful restaurant in my eyes so when it was brought to us as a potential location we were ecstatic,” she writes. “We both have only worked in open kitchens in New York, so just the thought of us having a completely visible kitchen is what sold us.”

They worked with Houston’s Gin Design Group (The Lymbar, Mala Sichuan’s Heights location) on the interior. Local artists, including Sierra Estes and Demi Mixon Kahn, have their work on display at the restaurant.

Garcia and Lu introduced Jūn with a series of pop-ups over the past few months. Word of mouth from last week’s invite-only, friends and family services has been overwhelmingly positive. All that’s left is to open the doors. So, chefs, do you feel ready?

“We prepared, prepped and even prepped our staff for what's about to come. Eventually, you have to let it all just happen,” Garcia writes. “One thing we know for sure is that we are able to adapt and pivot as we need when these doors finally open.”

Jūn opens for dinner nightly at 5 pm. Weekend brunch service will begin in the coming weeks.

Be the matching puzzle piece for Shila, a smart foxhound mix at the Houston SPCA

Adoptable Dog

Did you discover a love of puzzles during the pandemic? So did Shila, the three-year-old foxhound mix that's currently at the Houston SPCA.

Thanks to her breed instincts, Shila loves to learn and is happiest solving treat puzzles, playing games, and digging into a challenging bone-type chew. Stuffed toys, however, might not last long.

She also excels at learning new commands, having already mastered "sit" and "back up." Another bonus: She is completely crate-trained.

Shila tends to do best around more mellow dogs, and always wants to be by her humans' side.

Thanks to Houston Texans punter Cameron Johnston and his wife, Tia, who are sponsoring Shila, her adoption fees are completely covered.

That includes Shila's microchip, spay surgery, up-to-date vaccinations, a free sample bag of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and a free post-exam from any VCA Animal Hospital.

You can meet Shila and all the other adoptable pets at the Houston SPCA, which is open every day from 11 am-6 pm.

spca adoptable dog shila

Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA

She's crate-trained and good at learning commands.