Who said New York Fashion Week gets to have all the fun? Fashion X Houston returned to River Oaks District for its third year on October 4-6 with three nights of events honoring Houston’s biggest style setters and designers. More than 1,500 Houstonians dressed to impress and watch the luxury of ROD come to life on the runway. 

Overflowing Chandon, grandiose balloon displays, and live art by local fashion illustrator Rongrong Devoe were all part of the glamorous spectacle leading up to each night’s runway show. Guests clinked glasses for obligatory Instagram boomerangs and to cheer the night ahead filled with fashion from both ROD luxury retailers and homegrown Texas creators.

“Houston is such a diverse city, and it’s one of the few cities that can combine traditional luxury and urban in this really cool way,” said Matt Swinney, founder of Fashion X Houston. “Houston is about its own style.”

Thursday’s kick-off event featured a bevy of high-end designers from the district, including Canali, Kiton, Alice + Olivia, Roberto Cavalli, Eres, Etro, Akris, and Stella McCartney. Alice + Olivia, the colorful and contemporary vision of designer Stacey Bendet, offered one of the most eye-catching displays of the evening. Filled with a rainbow of hues, chevron print, and '70s-inspired fur, the collection sparked a feel-good attitude that lingered throughout the night. 

“It is not easy to get luxury brands to agree to do a show at all, much less do a group show with other brands when they know the next night is going to be [filled with] independent designers that they have no control over,” Swinney said. “I think that’s really special ... and frankly, I think it’s a testament to the city, because I’m not sure those brands would do that in other areas.”

Friday and Saturday’s runways brought the creativity of Texas to the catwalk. The shows highlighted collections from emerging and established designers from Houston and beyond, including local sartorial sweetheart and Project Runway season two winner Chloe Dao.

Dao and another top Houston designer, David Peck of Miles David, bookended Friday's show: Dao opened with her Glam Remix Collection in a flurry of cascading black tulle, asymmetrical silhouettes, and embroidered moto jackets; even KPRC's Dominique Sachse took her turn on the runway in Dao's designs. Peck closed the evening with head-turning dresses and faux fur vests.

“I love David Peck and I love Chloe—they’re kind of the heavy hitters here in Houston," Swinney said. "It’s about celebrating the local designers and giving them a beautiful experience and combining them with discovery for the audience. It’s finding that beautiful balance of discovery versus what you already know—even with the Davids and Chloes of the world, how they can give inspiration to the [independent] designers.”

Friday’s lineup also featured Varun Bahl, MODChic, Jaya Shukla for Bridal Motif, Silk Threads by Ruby Bhandari, B. Freedom, Maryam Khizer, and Shushi, plus capsule collections by Amberleaf, Deanna Gayle, Dappled, Alexandria Lee, Ronica Marie Couture, and Valerie Garmino.

The evening's designs were as diverse as the city: Silk Threads by Ruby Bhandari conjured the beauty of Indian culture through vibrant colors and exquisite embroidery and embellishment; globally acclaimed designer Varun Bahl brought his hometown of Delhi to the ROD stage with traditional saris that artfully merged worlds with Victorian-era floral patterns. Emerging Pakistani designer Maryam Khizer debuted her collection featuring hand-woven fabrics and ethically harvested ostrich feathers while Nigerian-born designer Toyosi Shusi brought African-inspired designs to the runway.

On Saturday, whimsical gowns from Bentley & Lace by Elizabeth Copeland opened the final show. Dallas-based Abi Ferrin showed "pieces that have integrity, artistic soul, and purpose: to empower women to rise up, wake up, and step up," and Travis Cal showed his spring/summer 2019 collection full of liquid latex leggings, sequin sweatshirts, brocade pants, and long-sleeved jumpsuits.

Rana Noman offered traditional Pakistani bridal couture, Erum Khan showcased romantic silhouettes and exquisite details, and Modish & Swank merged vintage and luxe. Pakistani designer Ayesha Qasim of NAVA debuted her first collection, Inspired Desires, at Fashion X. Saturday also saw capsule collections from Amyra, Amerbleaf, H&H Designs, and Valeria Garmino, and the three-night celebration concluded with stand-out designs from Mysterious by NPN.

The true stars of the weekend were those deemed this year's VIP Style Setters, prominent hand-picked Houstonians that merge fashion with philanthropy according to Swinney's criteria: "Is she stylish? Is she philanthropic? Is she loved?"

The lineup of "it" women included Lori Raijman, founder of The Arts of Healing; Vivian Wise, founder of Vivian Wise Productions; Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, better known as The Vintage Contessa; and entrepreneur Alicia Smith. The four styled items on the runway, and some even incorporated their own closets into their presentations. Proceeds from each night of ticket sales were donated to the style setters' charities of choice: Texas Legacy Foundation (Wise), The Arts of Healing (Raijman), Crime Stoppers Houston (Chramosta), and disaster recovery nonprofit SBP (Smith).

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