Cocktail waiters and waitresses dressed as flight attendants greeted Heart of Fashion attendees with champagne on a pink carpet on Wednesday's opening night event. Million Air, a private jet terminal at Hobby Airport, was transformed for the inaugural fashion celebration. Presented by Neiman Marcus, Cushnie et Ochs opened the show with looks from their Spring 2016 and Resort 2016 collections.
“The best thing about this is that with our collections it’s really an evolution, so, combining both collections we’re very excited to see,” said designer Michelle Ochs. “It’s very fluid and I think it [made] a great runway show tonight.”
Taking inspiration from artist Kehinde Wiley, the Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collection reinterpreted the '90s hip-hop aesthetic, while in other looks designers were inspired by the bright colored and graphically patterned bodies of an Amazonian dart frog.
“It was this juxtaposition between an uptown, ladylike girl that was influenced by 90s hip-hop,” said Carly Cushnie, whose knee-length dress featured a square neck with a bow detail connecting the bodice to a neck cuff, while Ochs stunned in a black open-back halter knit dress that played up the brand's sophisticated sex appeal.
“It’s really about being confident. We really want to highlight the female body in the way that we design; our line details, our construction and the fabrics that we use, we really just want a woman to feel comfortable and sexy so no matter what size you are or how big or small your boobs are, you always feel sexy and comfortable,” Cushnie said.
“We chose to find another avenue for women like us who were trying to look for clothes that were very modern and sexy, but not androgynous. There was a void we felt that was missing and we wanted to fill it and we feel like we represented the new, modern woman,” added Ochs.
The second designer to show on the runway was Norisol Ferrari, presented by Tootsies, who says her designs are meant to be cherished in a woman’s closet for years.
“I think what is very much expressed in the collection is the way that I’m not afraid to show a woman’s curves, to show how fabric can wrap around a woman’s waist,” Ferrari said. “I love to celebrate the difference between a man and a woman. We are different and it should be celebrated.”
Ferrari says female sensuality and nudity has always felt very natural to her, and that she doesn't agree with how pop culture represents the female form.
“I am really inspired and just constantly trying to find a way to not only make people, women, feel more empowered, but to love their bodies; celebrate a woman’s body. We have curves and they’re beautiful,” she said. “That’s who I design for, a woman who’s interested in really owning what it is to have feminine power.”
The New Yorker declared her love of Texas for its ranches, horses, barbecue, and genuine, down-to-earth people.
“There is something that for me feels a little bit more at home, on a soul level than other places in the world. I like the lack of formality, everyone is extremely respectful and well-educated.”
Ferrari doesn’t normally participate in runway shows unless it’s for charity—“it’s the only way that it feels right,” she says. Proceeds from this year's Heart of Fashion will support Legacy Community Health Services, Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston and Butterflys and Bandages, a non-profit organization founded to help raise funds for Epidermolysis Bullosa family support.
The highlight of the evening came when American fashion designer Ralph Rucci—the only American designer in 60 years to earn the distinction of couturier—presented the first-ever Heart of Fashion Texas Legacy Award to fashion icon and model Carmen Dell’Orefice.
“Tonight, we’re here for Carmen,” Rucci said. “The most important thing to remember about this woman is what’s inside [...] it’s even more astounding that what’s outside.”
Dell’Orefice told attendees how the relationship between herself and Wise went back 30-plus years, started by having the same passion for Citymeals-on-Wheels, a nonprofit organization that delivers meals to elderly New Yorkers.
“I am all too happy to come down here to just tell you how much I admire this young generation and what you are doing with the help of the wonderful Vivian Wise,” she said. “I applaud each and every one of you for paying for this ticket to support your city where you live.”
The legendary fashion icon and model pointed up and said, “Momma, do you see that? I finally made it.”
Among the stylish fans in the front row was KHOU’s Lily Jang wearing Becky Hollands Atelier.
“I wanted to create a piece of art and lately I’ve been really inspired by texture, so I played with a lot of texture,” said Hollands of Jang's dress.
The one-of-a-kind backless gold top and two-slit floor length velvet skirt were proportional on Jang’s petite frame.
“When I wear Becky Hollands Atelier, I feel like I want to create something. I put this on and it was very avant garde and it’s very out of my comfort zone, but I love it,” said Jang.
Spotted in custom Jonathan Blake, stylesetter Christian Miranda isn’t sure why Houston hasn’t been named a fashion capital yet.
“It’s really great to see public and private partnerships come together at an event where we celebrate both fashion and philanthropy in the city.” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have people like Vivian Wise who are able to bring us these type of shows that bring both what we love doing with donating and community involvement with fashion. So, it’s a wonderful time to be celebrating Heart of Fashion and a great time to be in the city of Houston.”