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Photo courtesy of Thakoon

NEW YORK — With fake sunlight streaming through window slats and models in luscious silk prints moving languidly down the runway, the Thakoon spring 2015 runway show seemed like a scene out of the classic Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall movie, Key Largo.

Schilling, in a black-and-white polka dotted suit that mirrored the collection, posed for photos with Panichgul, who has called the star his fashion muse.

Actually, designer Thakoon Panichgul, whose eclectic clientele includes first lady Michelle Obama and Orange Is the New Black star Taylor Schilling (who admired the collection from a prime front row seat), said he was referencing the 1959 Brazilian movie Black Orpheus, set in Rio during Carnaval. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

The collection, which marked his 10th anniversary at New York fashion week, has the exotic feeling of a film noir travelogue, with a loose robe dress, cropped pants and pajama-like trousers in a wine-colored tropical bloom pattern and dresses and slacks in palm fronds prints on a turquoise background.

Known for his unique manipulation of fabrics, Panichgul embroiders slim skirts with raffia-woven stripes and pullover sweaters with feathery fringe yarn in contrasting shades — often worn with thick-heeled sandals that promise to be one of springs biggest trends.

While many of the looks seem ready-made for a tropical getaway, the designer closed the collection with a series of black and white ensembles in graphic shapes that evoke a more urban attitude. A long-sleeve mini dress in braided black and ivory seems ready made for New York or Houston streets.

After the show, Schilling, in a black-and-white polka dotted suit that mirrored the collection, posed for photos with Panichgul, who has called the star his fashion muse. At the 2013 Emmys, she wore an emerald-green gown that he designed for her.

Thakoon palm print silk jacquard strapless dress and cropped pants.

Photo courtesy of Thakoon
Thakoon palm print silk jacquard strapless dress and cropped pants.
Photo courtesy of Marc by Marc Jacobs

Rave on: Marc by Marc is hip again, thanks to designers with subversive spirit

Spring Fashion Preview

NEW YORK — Marc Jacobs finally realized one designer can't do everything. So as he poured more of this energies into his namesake label, he handed off design duties for his more youthful Marc by Marc line to two fortysomething Brits — Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley.

It sure has paid off.

The duo won raves for their initial Marc by Marc fall collection that's in stores now. And in their second collaboration for the brand, now dubbed MBMJ, the British duo have recaptured the spirit that made the collection so appealing to Jacobs' core teens and twentysomething audience in the first place and injected a needed dose of enthusiasm into the line.

A series of "patched" dresses mix pleats and prints, sweatshirt fabric and bubble wrap in ways that are truly innovative if not terribly practical.

The spring 2015 collection, which debuted amid a sound and laser light extravaganza that emulated a '90s rave, has a fresh attitude. Bartley, who was a fashion darling when she showed her own collection in New York over several seasons before shuttering the line in 2008, and Hillier clearly don't take themselves — or their clothes — too seriously. They believe, particularly for the brand's young customer, dressing up should be fun.

They update fetish gear in a playful way, with latex fabrics in black polka dots over pastel blue and yellow — wildly exaggerated at times in caplets, folded pencil skirts and dresses with excess fabric gathered at the waist. Rubberized boots and molded handbags, also in Jetson colors, have an impish cartoon quality.

Colorful satin dresses, three-quarter pants and blouses in pink, yellow and blue also have a sunny subversive spirit, along with oversized ninja pants, T-shirts emblazoned with the words "New World System" and cropped hoodie shirts.

A series of military-influenced looks — a trend for next spring among designers who aim at a young audience, like Rag & Bone and Band of Outsiders — are a bit more serious but offer a unique take. Rather that utilize Army green, the designers create crisp flight suits and jackets in white canvas.

A series of "patched" dresses that look like nothing I've ever seen closed out the show. They mix pleats and prints, sweatshirt fabric and bubble wrap in ways that are truly innovative if not terribly practical.

At the end, when the two designers came out for their runway bow, Jacobs, who was seated as a spectator, enveloped them in a joyous group hug.

Marc by Marc blue plastic polka dot bralet and skirt and white cropped shirt.

Photo courtesy of Marc by Marc Jacobs
Marc by Marc blue plastic polka dot bralet and skirt and white cropped shirt.
Photo courtesy of Alexander Wang

Alexander Wang mixes sporty spirit and sexy attitude in high-tech collection

Spring Fashion Preview

NEW YORK — Between designing for the famed French fashion house Balenciaga and creating a special collection for H&M, Alexander Wang has had an usually busy fall. But I get the feeling the 30-year-old wunderkind designer still gets the most joy out of spending time on his namesake line that started it all.

That seemed to be case at the end of Wang's spiffy spring 2015 show, when he came bounding out onto the runway like a young colt, his shoulder-length hair flapping in the fan-made breeze, with a joyful smile, to receive warm applause from the mix of seasoned fashion pros and admiring hipsters. It's hard to fake exuberance.

Wang's collection features attractive high-tech urban streetwear that's bound to be gobbled up when it appears in stores.

Unlike his fall show, which featured a finale in which all-black pieces turned into bright shades thanks to thermal color-changing technology from the heat of overhead warmers, Wang's spring collection doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles. It just features attractive high-tech urban streetwear that's bound to be gobbled up when it appears in stores.

The collection has a sporty attitude, incorporating perforated fabrics and mesh netting in skirts, jackets, flowing colorblock dresses and even in nifty sandals. All-white made-for-Wimbledon skirts and jackets with green collars provide a fresh riff on tennis togs while body-clinging Nike Flyknit-type fabric is reinterpreted in form-fitting bandage dresses in eye-popping neon shades.

For dressier occasions, terrific high-waisted slim pants, some with contrasting trim at the pockets, look smart. One such pair of satin pants, worn with a white cutaway jacket, offers a chic alternative to the usual gala attire. And for the woman who wants to be a little more daring, Wang offers red-and-gray pleated bra tops that look like high-tech flames licking the upper body.

The shoes also are interesting, with colorful woven flats that are sure to be big sellers and black sandals of techo-fishnet fabric.

Alexander Wang flame-inspired bra top and high-waisted slacks.

Photo courtesy of Alexander Wang
Alexander Wang flame-inspired bra top and high-waisted slacks.
Photo by Jennifer Cunningham

Rena Lange sees the light with art-inspired collection that's a little mod

Spring & Resort Fashion Preview

NEW YORK — Most fashion designer showrooms are located in stuffy midtown Manhattan towers. But Rena Lange is in the center of the trendy Meatpacking District, in a second floor corner of a brick building with large windows that allow sunlight to flood in.

If visitors didn't know better, they might think they are in a new boutique, not in a space open to store buyers only.

Turrell's cool colors and vivid shapes are instantly noticed in a white silk sheath with floating red and pink panels.

Perhaps the sunny surroundings have rubbed off because the Rena Lange resort and spring 2015 collections have a bright attitude, with graphic sheaths, dresses in abstract floral patterns, spiffy crop jackets with magnetic snaps, eyelet dresses and tailored tweed jackets in a blue, white and black weave. "We're known as the House of Tweed," says James Fletcher, vice president of sales.

The design team for the German label, a big seller in Houston for its feminine yet classic styles, looks to the work of artists James Turrell, Francois Morellet, Kazimir Malevich and Steven Naifeh as influences for the new collection. Turrell's cool pastels and vivid shapes are instantly noticed in in a white silk sheath with floating red and pink panels or a shift in strips of black, white, purple and blue.

Parts of the collection also have a '60s mod feeling, particular in dresses emblazoned with Morellet-inspired black and white test pattern images.

Look for even more changes in fall when new creative director Ludwig Heissmeyer unveils his first collection for Rena Lange. As the former design director at Carolina Herrera, Heissmeyer is expected to put his sophisticated stamp on the brand.

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A trunk show of the Rena Lange resort and spring 2015 collections continues at Elizabeth Anthony through Oct. 24.

Lace and florals: Two big spring trends.

Photo by Jennifer Cunningham
Lace and florals: Two big spring trends.
Photo courtesy of Rag & Bone

Zen-vs.-Walking Dead collection has Rag & Bone designers searching for simpler life

Spring Fashion Preview

NEW YORK — While many designers are touting big florals, bright colors and wild embellishments for next spring, Rag & Bone designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville are going a different route. The duo are instead offering a collection that's almost Zen-like it is beauty and simplicity, although there's a bit of a militaristic edge, too.

It's like Walking Dead meets yoga class. Maybe that's the sign of the times.

Wainwright and Neville present a polished pared-down look that feels right for their urban customer who doesn't want a lot of muss and fuss in this crazy, chaotic world.

Working with monocromatic colors — shades of white, navy, black and beige — with a dash of Army olive and a palm-print camouflage pattern in brown and white, Wainwright and Neville present a polished pared-down look with an emphasis on natural fabrics that feels right for their urban customer who doesn't want a lot of muss and fuss in this crazy, chaotic world.

There are virtually no preppy hipster looks that the brand is known for. Instead, the collection features clean, calm styles— floaty long dresses, sleeveless long tunic coats over pants, oversized blazers closed with a strap instead of buttons — and ready-for-a-rumble looks— judo pants with a long leather tank top, and a military vest and slouchy pants in army green silk perfect for hand-to-hand combat with Zombies or whatever an apocalyptic future might offer.

One particularly distinctive look draws a little bit of both sides of the collection with a pleated skirt that's looks like a pair of pants from the mid-thigh up, worn with a cotton crop top.

Outerwear is a highlight, with some terrific parkas in white cotton or a distinctive camo pattern, a stunning navy cropped double breasted jacket, a tan trench with contrasting white buttons and olive belt, and a cool-looking quilted hoodie.

Many looks are worn with thick, comfortable-looking black-and-white sandals or two-tone tennies with velco straps and close-to-the-body satchels for a street-style look that looks comfortable but is ready for urban life.

Randi parka in camo cotton canvas and Sidney sandal in clay/taupe combo.

Photo courtesy of Rag & Bone
Randi parka in camo cotton canvas and Sidney sandal in clay/taupe combo.
Photo courtesy of Herve Leger by Max Azria

Max Azria reinvents sexy Hervé Léger bandage dress for the fearless woman

Spring Fashion Preview

NEW YORK — You've got to hand it Max and Lubov Azria. The husband and wife design duo keep coming up with new ways to reinvent the iconic Hervé Léger bandage dress.

The Azrias aren't going to stray too far from their body-con ways.

The dress, with elastic fabric that hugs the body like a pair of Spanx, is known for its figure-hugging ways. But for spring 2015, the Azrias, who acquired the French label and relaunched it in 2007, have loosened up the classic bandage dress look at little. They have added peplums and diagonal fabric at the waist and ruffled hemlines. In this collection, dresses also come in softer tribal prints and woven fabrics with metal clasps or studs that trace the body.

The duo based the collection on an Japanese female warrior theme — those fearless women who fought alongside the samurai — with kimono tops in pastel shades belted at the waist and boldly-colored sheaths with tiny origami folds. Hemlines are longer and, overall, the look is a bit more modest than previous collections.

Even so, there are still plenty of skintight dresses in beaded patterns that hug every curve. The Azrias aren't going to stray too far from their body-con ways.

Models take a final runway walk at the Herve Leger spring 2015 show.

Photo courtesy of Herve Leger by Max Azria
Models take a final runway walk at the Herve Leger spring 2015 show.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston's best holiday events make the season bright with dazzling lights, performances, markets, and more

Good cheer for all

The holidays are in full swing across Houston, with a host of activities that offer something for every taste and budget. That means plenty of holiday performances on stages around town, concerts, and some beloved classics such as The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol.

Photo courtesy of Color Factory

IG paradise Winter Colorand features a confetti ski lift for that perfect snap.

Houston gets totally lit with dazzling holiday lights all around town, plus immersive activities — such as the only Harry Potter Yule event in North American — to get you into the seasonal swing. And what would the holidays be without shopping? Here's a go-to list for all the holiday fun around town.

Staged season fun
The Houston Symphony puts audiences in the holiday mood with its annual A Very Merry Pops concert, featuring sounds of the season and performances by the orchestra and the Houston Symphony Chorus, on stage December 15 through 18.

Main Street Theater's The Wickhams: Christmas At Pemberley is a must for Jane Austen fans. It closes December 18. The company's Theater for Youth delivers a delightful Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at the MATCH through December 23.

Houston Grand Opera's mariachi opera El Milagro del Recuerdol Milagro del Recuerdo, a story of family, faith and two cultures runs through December 18 at the Wortham Theater Center. The Wortham is also the home stage for the Houston Ballet, which offers its holiday beloved bonbon The Nutcracker through December 27.

At the Hobby Center, TUTS offers the family-friendly Mary Poppins, the Disney-Cameron Mackintosh musical about that practically perfect nanny and how she transforms the Banks household. Performances run through December 24.

Those looking to put a little rock and roll and soul into their holiday can check out the Ensemble Theatre's A Motown Christmas, running through December 24.

The Alley Theatre announced Wednesday it added six shows of What-A-Christmas to the schedule, with the show now closing on December 30. The comedy finds a drive-through worker on Christmas Eve learning a bit more about the spirit of the holiday. The new production of the Alley's holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, also bows out December 30.

For more must-see shows, check out these recommendations from our writer Tarra Gaines.

Light it up
There's nothing quite like the wonder of "silver lanes aglow." Lighting displays all over the Bayou City are sure to bring holiday delight.

Downtown transforms into Holiday Central with City Lights Downtown Holiday Magic, where visitors can find eight winter wonderlands ranging from light shows, the largest mistletoe mass in Texas, and more. Most activities are free. Check out our full roundup here.

Wander the winding paths of the Houston Botanic Garden through Lightscape, a dazzling display of illuminations set to holiday tunes. Timed entry begins daily at 5:30 pm, through January 1, 2023.

The family favorite Zoo Lights lets guests take in the Houston Zoo in a whole new way. The display runs through January 8, 2023. The saying that everything's bigger in Texas certainly applies to Magical Winter Lights at the Sam Houston Raceway, which offers a castle-themed entrance, lights, lantern display, and a circus for an extra fee. The magic sticks around through January 7, 2023.

Need more lights for the holidays? See our full list.

Shop 'til you drop

Mistletoe Market returns to Midtown's Bagby Park on December 9 at 5 pm and December 10 at 10 am. The first 50 guests receive a free Christmas ornament. Guests can enjoy shopping from a curated selection of more than 20 vendors, food, craft activities, music, and more at this pet and family-friendly market.

Heights Mercantile Holiday Market
On December 10 from 10 am to 5 pm, an array of popup shops will be open along the Mercantile promenade. It's the perfect spot to find something for everyone, while supporting local businesses and artists.

Holiday VIBE Market at Post Houston
Look for more than 150 local artists and artisans each day to turn up at this two-day event, December 10 and 11. Also on tap are a DJ and complimentary cocktails. When hunger strikes, hit up one of Post's restaurants to regain strength for further shopping.

Julep Market
The popular craft cocktail bar hosts this event on December 11, offering an array of cocktail-themed gifts and stocking stuffers, including Julep's own ready-to-drink cocktails. Show up ready to sip and shop. 4 pm to 7 pm.

Immersed for the holidays

Color Factory (3303 Kirby Dr.) presents Winter Colorland, a snowy, seasonal treat full of and Insta-worthy photo opportunities, including the favorite ski lift in a confetti snowstorm. From the entrance to each room and display, visitors can take in a pom pom wreath craft, adorable gifts, and fun around every corner. The dazzling, indoor Instagram paradise runs now through January 31, 2023. Tickets range $28-36.49.

Houston is the only city in North America to host Harry Potter: A Yule Ball Celebration, an immersive tribute to the memorable ball in the books and movie. Costumed hosts coach guess though dances, fashion shows, romps, and more. Sip on butterbeer, nosh on Potter-themed bites, and rest in a courtyard with a Potter-themed ice sculpture. The ball is located at Galleria-area venue Paraiso Maravilla (5714 Fairdale Ln.), which is now open through January 20, 2023. Tickets are available here, with parking outside around $5. Check out our sneak peek here.

Adorable new UH cougar mascot cubs leap into new era with time-honored ring-guarding tradition

coogs house

Two impossibly cute brothers are stepping into a longstanding University of Houston tradition.

Shasta VII and Louie, the rescued cougar cubs who now live at the Houston Zoo, are currently "guarding" two UH school rings. On December 1, the 11-week-old brothers officially became UH mascots by protecting the rings int their enclosure.

To keep the young little ones engaged, keepers hid meatballs amongst the hay and climbing logs near the ring boxes as the duo sniffed and examined.

UH students can view all the 2022 school rings on Friday, December 9, where the jewelry will be placed in UH-themed boxes and on display in the empty cougar habitat. Students and guests are encouraged to snap photos in front of the habitat and view the rings; current students enjoy free daytime general Zoo admission (with a valid ID) but must reserve a ticket ahead of time online before visits.

As CultureMap previously reported, Shasta and Louie were found alone in Washington state and moved to the Houston Zoo in early November. The Zoo was contacted by the Washington State Fish & Wildlife Services when a rancher found two orphaned male cubs on his property. At an estimated four weeks old when found in late October, it was unlikely the cubs would have survived on their own. Within days, the duo flew to the Lone Star State and are settling into life at the Houston Zoo.

\u200bShasta VII Louie cougar cub Houston Zoo University of Houston Shasta VII (left) and his brother Louie are adapting to their new home. Photo by Eric Berg

By all accounts, the brothers are growing and thriving in their new home; Shasta VII has emerged as the big brother/alpha leader of the two and often sleeps or rests with a paw over Louie, zoo staffers note.

For UH and zoo fans and supporters, the furry guys come as the zoo mourns the loss of both of its cougars, Shasta VI and Haley, this year. Now, the arrival of the brothers means a chance to ring in a new era for UH and the zoo.

Shasta VI UH rings Dearly departed mascot Shasta VI guarded UH rings at the zoo. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo


Shaquille O'Neal's chicken restaurant announces big new Houston-area location

Shaq Attack

Shaquille O'Neal's chicken chain has revealed its second Houston-area location. Big Chicken will open next year in Richmond at at 3415 FM 762.

O’Neal, an NBA Hall-of-Famer and media personality, is the primary investor in Big Chicken, a rapidly growing restaurant that started in Las Vegas. It serves fried chicken sandwiches with a range of toppings such as the Big & Sloppy (mac and cheese, fried onions), the Big Aristotle (fried onions, Muenster, Memphis-style barbecue sauce), and the Shaq Attack (pepper jack, jalapeño slaw, spicy chipotle barbecue sauce). Sides include Cheez-It-crusted mac and cheese, jalapeño slaw, and fries (both potato and sweet potato). Fried chicken tenders, sliders, and milkshakes are also available.

In August, the company announced that Houston’s first location would open this fall in the Westchase District at 9660 Westheimer Rd. The Richmond location is expected to follow in mid-2023, according to a release.

As CultureMap has reported previously, O’Neal — along with local franchisees Fazil Malik, Frank Malik, and Noordin Jhaver — plan to open 50 Big Chicken locations across Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas. The Maliks operate gas stations and convenience stores via their company Northwest Petroleum, while Jhaver brings experience as a Sonic franchisee via his company Drew Real Estate Holdings.

“We’re thrilled that Fazil, Frank and Noordin will debut their second location in Texas,” Big Chicken CEO Josh Halpern said in a statement. “From the beginning, we’ve known that the trio was a fantastic match for the brand and we’ll continue to celebrate each new location alongside them as if it were the first.”