Photo by Thomas Concordia/WireImage for STYLE360

NEW YORK — Serena Williams had the shock of her life at the U.S. Open last week when she lost in the semifinals, thwarting her attempt to make sports history. But you can't keep her down.

With an admiring crowd that included her rumored boyfriend Drake, Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour and Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, Williams showed her second collection for HSN during New York Fashion Week. Unlike some celebrities who lend their name to a line but aren't really involved, the tennis star has studied fashion design and is serious about the craft.

The casual Serena Williams Signature Statement collection features python-patterned leggings, drop shoulder knit tops, side button cardigans, nifty leather jackets, sleek jumpsuits and fringe everywhere — from a leather jacket dripping with fringe in the first look to a halter dress with a train of fringe at the end.

"Fringe is sexy, fringe is classy and fringe is fun and it's modern and current," Williams told Extra correspondent Tracey Edmonds backstage before the show.

A fit for everyone

Williams also said that her clothes are made to fit all sizes. “My collection fits me and you know, I'm not a stick. It doesn't matter what size you are, we want to send that message that you are beautiful, you are powerful, you are strong and you can look amazing and love who you are," she said.

The collection is largely in neutral colors of beige, gray and black, although a magenta fringe jacket and forest green leather moto jacket add a dash of color. It also includes hats, glasses and other accessories, all available on the popular shopping channel. Most items are under $100.

Williams was so charming when taking her runway bow — doing a quick twirl that sent the fringe on her skirt flying — that it brought a smile to the normally taciturn Wintour, who shared a laugh with Drake.

Drake not laughing

But after the show ended, the superstar singer had some heated words with the DJ over a version of his song, "Back to Back," played during the runway show that featured constant use of the N-word. Drake seemed upset that a cleaner version of the song wasn't used and embarrassed that Wintour (and the crowd) heard it. The DJ said that was the version that he was given.

Earlier, Roberts praised Williams for following her fashion dreams after her shocking loss.

“Well, she doesn’t like to lose, and she doesn’t lose that often. So I think she’ll be living with this for a while — to get that close to history. But she's a pro. And she was really looking forward to the launch of this collection," Roberts told CultureMap.

"You know she's not one of these people who just puts her name on a brand — she really studied fashion. So this is important to her. She was talking about this collection before the Open. She was really looking forward to it.”

Serena Williams waves to the audience after her runway show.

Photo by Thomas Concordia/WireImage for STYLE360
Serena Williams waves to the audience after her runway show.
Courtesy of Yigal Azrouël

Dashing designer lets his romantic side come through with a little edge

Romance at Fashion Week

NEW YORK — Yigal Azrouël's designs are often minimal and very contemporary, with an urban edge. But for spring, the designer, who is known for his dashing good looks (The Daily Beast has called him "Fashion's Hottest Playboy" and the Wall Street Journal labeled him a "fashion stud"), has let his romantic side shine through.

His spring collection, which will be available in Houston at Elizabeth Anthony, has more of a feminine edge than some of his previous work, with delicate florals in pink and silver, see-through lace, colorful hand-crafted embroidery and collars and hemlines with scalloped edges.

But his minimalist sensibility remains with fluid architectural shapes, tiered overlays and cutouts at the shoulder that frame a part of the body that is usually covered.

And just when you think Azrouël may be edging toward a "too girly" look, he throws a dove gray leather motorcycle jacket over a lace panel dress for maximum effect. Jumpsuits in guipure lace or abstract black-and-white florals and a lace jabot gown also get the mix between edgy and feminine just right.

Most front row guests were enthusiastic as the models came out, but one toddler, sitting on his photographer father's lap, squirmed as his dad attempted to hold him and take photos at the same time — with varying degrees of success.

Yigal Azrouel floral silk chiffon gown with framed front detail.

Courtesy of Yigal Azrouël
Yigal Azrouel floral silk chiffon gown with framed front detail.
Photo by Getty Images for Michael Kors

Michael Kors fragrance launch is supermodel heaven, led by Kate Upton, with a Duran Duran moment

Kors Makes Scents

NEW YORK — Michael Kors is a model magnet.

To launch his new Michael Kors Gold fragrance collection, the designer hosted a party at the Top of the Standard hotel Sunday night that attracted wall-to-wall models-of-the-moment, including Kate Upton, Constance Jablonski, Jacquelyn Jablonski, Nina Agdal, Lindsay Ellingson, Devon Windsor, Tao Okamoto, Karmen Pedaru, Alessandra Ambrosio and Amber LeBon. Her father, singer Simon LeBon and his band, Duran Duran, entertained the crowd with a mix of their greatest hits and their newly released album, Paper Gods.

Amid all the young models, Naomi Campbell slipped in practically unnoticed on the arm of famed fashion photographer Mario Testino.

Also on hand were starlets Camilla Belle, Hailey Steinfeld, Halston Sage and Jaime King.

But Upton attracted the most attention in a Michael Kors black and suntan embroidered racerback dress with black sandals and clutch.

Kate Upton and Michael Kors.

Photo by Getty Images for Michael Kors
Kate Upton and Michael Kors.
Photo courtesy of Pamella Roland

Pamella Roland's fashion show at the fabulous new Whitney Museum is a real work of art

Fashion And Art Mix

NEW YORK — It pays to have connections.

As vice president of the board of trustees at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Pamella Roland was able to secure the coveted venue for the first-ever fashion show held at the new Renzo Piano-designed building that is the talk of the town.

It merged Roland's love for fashion and art with a spring collection inspired by the legendary Frank Stella (a retrospective of the artist's work opens at the Whitney next month) with high-tech panache.

Noting that Stella used unorthodox materials in his paintings, Roland incorporates such unusual fabrics as PVC Nebula lace, reflective taffeta, LED fibers and plexiglass beading into her dressed-up designs. The opening look, a strapless silk ivory gown, gets a futuristic sheen with an organza LED shrug. Satin coats and shift dresses look almost 3-dimensional with intricate pearl beading and plexi designs.

Roland also utilized the origami pattern she is known for in gowns and dresses, creating striking color combinations of red and pink, citron and mint, or orange and pink. And a silver strapless sequined jumpsuit is a real sparkler.

At the end of the show, which attracted celebrity guests Mary J. Blige and Fashion Police panelist Brad Goreski, a wall lifted to showcase the models in a tableau lit with colors from the collection. It, indeed, looked like a piece of fine art.

In Houston, Roland is carried exclusively at Elizabeth Anthony.

The finale of the Pamella Roland runway show at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Photo courtesy of Pamella Roland
The finale of the Pamella Roland runway show at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Photo by Eric Sandler

Korean concept from Dosi's owner to join Midtown's mix of Asian restaurants

Welcome new Korean taste

Midtown is already home to a vibrant mix of Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine. Whether it's fusion sushi at The Fish, Japanese-style barbecue at Gyu-Kaku, Texas-influenced Japanese bar food at recently opened Izakaya or more traditional Vietnamese fare at places like Thien An, Les Givrals and Cali Sandwich, diners can find something to suit almost any taste (and price point).

While that diversity does not currently include any Korean restaurants, that will soon change. Dosi owner An Vo tells CultureMap that he will soon bring a restaurant called Anju to the former West Gray Public House space. Just as Izakaya is named for a Japanese style of restaurant where the drinks and food have equal importance, the name "Anju" refers to a style of Korean food that's designed to be served with alcohol.

"We always wanted to be in Midtown," Vo says. "That was my first choice for Dosi. It was really crowded at the time . . . but more of a drinking crowd is where we want to be."

Renovations to the space have already begun, and Vo hopes to be open in November. If he hasn't received a liquor license by then, Anju will initially be BYOB. "We’ll be open late hours until 2 am." Vo says. "Definitely catering towards the Midtown crowd where people walk around."

Compared to Dosi, Anju "will be more of a casual, Korean eatery," Vo says. "As always, we’re going to have a little Southern flair to it. We will be focused on medium to full size entrees and sides." Anju will serve dishes like large format bibimbap, Korean chicken and waffles and whole fish sourced from local purveyor Frixos Chrisinis, according to Vo. Like Dosi, prices will run between $8 and $16 with some larger items like Korean pork shoulder (bo ssam) sold by the pound. Anju will feature a selection of soju, but it won't offer as many infused varieties as Dosi does.

The success of both Dosi and Dak & Bop suggests Houstonians will embrace modern Korean restaurants that appeal to the local palate and offer affordable prices. If Anju delivers on Vo's intentions for it, the restaurant will bring some additional diversity to Midtown's exploding dining scene and give residents another fun, drinks-oriented option.

Photo by Wilson Parish

Houston Symphony scores record everything on best opening night ever, applause, applause

Opening Night Windfall

"Black-tie energy" can often seem an oxymoron. But Saturday night's Houston Symphony season opener and black-tie dinner obliterated any notion of sleepy formal evenings. The party popped from the moment that Andrés Orozco-Estrada took the podium in Jones Hall and continued with an out-of-the-gate fervor throughout the late-night dinner at The Corinthian.

Surely, the stirring musical program contributed as did the soaring talents of guest artist violinist Joshua Bell. The swell mix of guests, well beyond the coterie of the symphony's most ardent supporters, ignited a further spark. And then there was the honoree — the much-beloved philanthropist Margaret Alkek Williams, her 80th birthday celebration continuing and inspiring a record evening.

The Corinthian overflowed with the largest attendance ever for the opening night dinner — more than 660 guests. They helped raise another record — more than $800,000, that super figure due in part to generous gifts from Kristina and Paul Somerville and Joella and Steve Mach, Houston Symphony Society president.

The symphony had its own gift for the birthday girl — the full orchestra performing "Happy Birthday" while the Jones Hall entourage joined the chorus. It was her hour again at The Corinthian, where she was honored with a champagne toast, the entire room raising their glasses in salute.

Applause, applause for chair Janet F. Clark, recently retired CFO of Marathon Oil and chair of the symphony board's strategic planning, for honorary chair Vicki West and for David Wuthrich, gala underwriting chair.

Icing on the cake of the glorious evening was provided by Bergner and Johnson which decorated the striking hall in shades of purple, green and fuschia; the multi-course dinner which concluded with a divine Sacher torte (in Margaret's honor and worth every calorie) from Jackson and Co.; and dance tunes from the Richard Brown Orchestra.

There were so many notables in the crowd that it's difficult to name a few but here we go: Linda and Gene Dewhurst, Betty and Jesse Tutor, Jana and Scotty Arnoldy, Cora Sue and Harry Mach, Sydney and Don Faust, Linda Chin and Dr. Ron DePinho, Ralph Burch, Nancy and Bob Peiser, Ellie and Michael Francisco, Amy and Jim Lee, Beth Madison and Catherine and Andrew Kaldis.

Special guests on this evening were Magarita and Hans Graf, the symphony's longest tenured music director, back in Houston for a week of what he described as "fun and friends."

David Wuthrich, Margaret Alkek Williams, Vicki West, Janet F. Clark.

Photo by Wilson Parish
David Wuthrich, Margaret Alkek Williams, Vicki West, Janet F. Clark.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

River Oaks fast casual restaurant staple upgrades with new look and fresh eats

refreshed express

One of Houston's most enduring fast casual restaurants will soon sport a fresh new look. Café Express' location in River Oaks Plaza will reopen October 4 after a comprehensive series of upgrades.

Created by Cafe Annie partners chef Robert Del Grande and restaurateur Lonnie Schiller (Schiller is also a CultureMap co-founder) after a trip to Europe, this Café Express location has received a series of upgrades to bring it in line with contemporary dining trends. For example, dedicated curbside parking spots and to-go shelves expedite picking up to-go orders.

First opened in 1991, the River Oaks restaurant also has a new look inspired by European cafes. The interior features wood floors, leather banquettes, and a light fixture that spells out "River Oaks." Similar changes will roll out to Cafe Express' location in Meyerland and Town & Country.

New dishes complement the updated interior. They include a tuna nicoise salad, Romesco chicken, and bavette steak with lemon-herb sauce. They join Cafe Express favorites like chicken deli salad, basil pesto Chicken, and Mediterranean grilled salmon. Even better, the restaurant has brought back its signature condiment bar that includes olives and imported breadsticks.


Cafe Express bavette steak Get a steak at the new Cafe Express.Photo by Michael Anthony

Dine-in service has been upgraded, too. Customers still order at a counter, but the restaurant will now deliver trays to people's tables.

“The remodel of our River Oaks restaurant marks an exciting time in the evolutionary journey of the beloved Café Express brand,” Café Express president Sarah McAloon said in a statement “Not only have we totally renovated our River Oaks location, but we have also elevated the menu and overall dining experience while maintaining prices that are in keeping with a family-friendly, craft-casual neighborhood restaurant.”

Debuting a new look represents a comeback for the restaurant, which exited the Dallas market in 2020 after operating there for more than 25 years. Plans call for opening 30 locations, 15 each in the Houston and Dallas areas, by 2030. First up will be a store in The Woodlands, according to a release.

"The beautifully remodeled River Oaks location is the first example of our expansion plan and designs,” McAloon added. “We are thrilled to breathe new energy into this pioneering restaurant concept and introduce it to a whole new generation of future Café Express lovers."

'Ridiculously' big Houston freeways drive comedian crazy in viral TikTok video

"It's got spurs!'

Try as we might to explain to Newstonians how ridiculously large the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land region is (our fave: it’s literally larger than the state of New Jersey in square miles), few truly understand until they navigate our highways and freeways.

Comedian/actor/filmmaker Kevin Fredericks, known professionally as KevOnStage, has taken to social media to announce what we already know: Houston is ridiculously big.

In a TikTok video boasting more than 55,000 likes and more than 3,000 comments, Kev (who lives in equally sprawling Los Angeles) hilariously sums up our freeway system with declarations like, “Houston has interstates. Four of them!”

He goes: “It’s got toll roads, it’s got loops, it’s got spuuuuurs!”



Perhaps our favorite:

"Houston is so big….that its freeways have a Wikipedia page. Look. At. This!"

Kev then marvels at our farm to market roads: “That means you live on a farm, this road take you to the market!”

He just can’t stop on the Wikipedia page, as he bellows: “It’s got: Planned. Future. Freeways! More. Freeways!”

Sheesh, Kev, no need to shout.

Scratch that: Kev should absolutely shout (as many of us do daily) when his rant turns to our traffic and construction. “It’s too much. If you wanna drive across Houston, you might as fly to Dallas — it’s the same amount of time.”

We’re having trouble spotting any lies told here. Bravo, Kev. We can’t wait for your next rant when you navigate the ongoing and always fun 610/69 construction closures.

Homey new art installation moves into Discovery Green this fall

Welcome Home

Remember the playful, larger-than-life spinning tops that took over Discovery Green in 2015? The team behind that public art installation is back with another unique, interactive exhibit.

Called Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0, it features 16 glowing, house-like play structures on the Sarofim Lawn that create a space for Houstonians to sit, swing, relax, and come together as a community.

The installation from Mexican designers Esrawe + Cadena is inspired by the mercados of Latin America — lively street markets where human connections are made every day.

The goal is for visitors to make new friends, try new activities, dance to music, and enjoy the city’s diverse cultural and art experiences for the duration of the exhibit, which runs October 8-November 14, 2022.

But that's not all. To help bring Houstonians together, there will be public art programming inspired by the installation and sponsored by Houston Association of Realtors, starting with a big opening night celebration.

On October 8 from 6-10 pm, get ready for:

  • Two evening performances of Lifted by Mimbre, an all-woman acrobatic dance group from the United Kingdom on their first U.S. tour.
  • Houston artist Ange Hillz live-painting the newest President's Mural: Discovery Green from A to Z. Hillz will paint accompanied by DJ Monstaa and pianist DJ Pee Wee from The Too Laid Back Band. The painting will be on view through January 29, 2023.

"During the past two years, many Houstonians have felt isolated in their homes and have missed the opportunity to be part of a community," says Jennifer Wauhob, chair of the Houston Association of Realtors, which is sponsoring the public art programming. "Our 49,000 Realtors know how important community connection is and Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0 creates a space where strangers can become friends in the comfort of an exhibit that feels like home."

Here's what else you can enjoy throughout the installation's six-week run:

  • Listen to a “Houston Strong” playlist courtesy of ROCO while enjoying the Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0 art installation.
  • Catch two more performances of Lifted on October 9 at noon and 2:30 pm.
  • Watch the Houston Pride Band’s SaxWorx and Brass Tax quartet perform on October 14 from 7-9 pm.
  • Enjoy traditional Indonesian music from Gamelan of the New Moon performed live on October 21 from 7-9 pm.

And especially for children:

  • On Saturday, October 8, from 1:30-3 pm, kids can create a mini casa using toothpicks and gumdrops with the help of Girlstart STEM.
  • On Saturday, October 15, from 1:30-3 pm, kids can sing and dance along with Encanto characters Isabela, Mirabel, and Dolores.
  • On Saturday, October 29 from 1:30-3 pm, they can enjoy cultural crafts created by exhibitors visiting from different parts of Mexico.

Discovery Green is a 12-acre park that features sprawling lawns, a one-acre lake, an interactive fountain, a playground, public art installations, gardens, and an allée of century-old live oaks. Since opening in April 2008, the park has welcomed more than 20 million visitors.

As Discovery Green prepares to celebrate its 15th birthday party, Houstonians are invited to “discover themselves” at the park with free concerts, entertainment, relaxation, and more. More info at www.discoverygreen.com.

Photo courtesy of Creos

Esrawe + Cadena's Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0 is on display October 8-November 14, 2022.