For its 10th season, Runway Houston had a lot of firsts: the first Council of Fashion Designers of America collection, the first accessory collection, the first fitness collection, the first all-black model lineup, the first time an entire senior class showed, and the first time four-legged animals walked the runway.
Runway Houston X took over the future Pinstripes, a bistro and bowling venue, at the Residences at Kirby Collection in its biannual show for 2018. This production benefited Wig Out, a nonprofit that repurposes wigs, headscarves, and hats for those living with the side effects from chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.
Runway Houston founder Omar Marcos said he never envisioned his brainchild reaching its 10th season.
“I look back at how Houston has come out over the years to support,” Marcos told Houstonia. “Houston is responsible for the growth.”
The Art Institute of Houston’s graduating class opened the 10th season with their senior collections, beginning with Sanaz Ekhlassi's spring/summer 2019 Technibird Collection, inspired by hummingbirds and the complicated beauty of nature.
Former Runway Houston intern Arielle Birt also presented her line, Angel’e Productions, and her animal kingdom-inspired collection, GAPAK. Using recycled materials, Birt designed with a curvy woman in mind.
“The average size of the American woman is size 14, so every piece of the collection was produced in size 14,” she said.
Next came Nafisha Lakhani, a recent AIH grad inspired to explore fashion after watching her mother stitch and sew throughout her childhood. Lakhani's debut collection, “Gujarat Fusion,” is named for the town in India where her father grew up. She used the traditional colors of Gujarat—olive green, orange, and burgundy—and hand-embroidered and embellished her pieces with mirrors.
“I used some of the sari to recreate fusion ready-to-wear,” she said. “I have found fashion [to be] the best way to explore, learn, blend, and create fusion clothes for everyone to wear and enjoy multiculturalism.”
Blanca Vargas, a physician from Mexico, always considered fashion design a hobby. She decided to commit to it seriously, though, enrolling at AIH to learn the proper technique. Vargas used iridescent taffeta, black netting, and embroidered lace in her collection, "Three Flowers," which benefited from embellishment of handmade flowers from Chiapas, Mexico. Those were the chief inspiration for the collection, which resulted in "a fusion of Mexican culture with the modern woman," Vargas said.
Alina Molina spent nine months on her "Sweet Blossoms" collection, inspired by her love of flowers and how they flow in nature. As such, the designs incorporated soft spring hues and romantic texture.
Kelli McKinley closed the AIH senior class presentations with her "Private Jane" collection, filled with military-inspired neutrals like gray, green, and black, plus rich navy and mustard yellow hues. Repurposed materials became accents and accessories, including hats and First Aid kits. One model's romper featured adjustable side straps crafted from recycled military duffle bags.
McKinley inherited her love of sewing from her mother, who dressed the designer in handmade Calico-print dresses as a child, each carrying a "made with love by Mom" tag.
The next set of models took to the runway in far fewer clothes—they were there to show designs from KREWE, the New Orleans-based sunglass retailer with such high-profile fans as Beyoncé herself.
Next up was David Julian, a longtime Runway Houston volunteer who's been associated with the team since its third show. This year, Julian debuted his own line, Quinto Designs, Spanish for "fifth."
“Quinto made me think of the generations of women that I’ve been around—my mother, my grandmother, great-grandmother, my sisters, and niece,” Julian said. “It’s the five generations of women that have been in my life, and that’s what inspires me to create.”
Julian focuses on custom fit and tailoring and helping “women find their inner confidence through their outer representation of themselves.” The Houston Community College graduate said he "goes with the flow" when designing and lets pieces come together organically. His fall/winter 2018 Petalposh Capsule Collection was inspired by the protagonist of Fox's comedy/horror series Scream Queens—Chanel Oberlin, played by Emma Roberts—and how Julian imagined the character, a college student in the show, 10 years post-grad. He played with upholstered fabric, fur, sequins, and bows in his designs.
“It’s sophisticated but has a feminine quirk to make it a little young,” Julian said.
Meanwhile, designer Chasity Sereal found inspiration on the big screen: Marvel Studios' Black Panther informed her fall/winter 2018 collection called "Freedom."
“I was intrigued by the powerful roles of the Wakandan women and how they were the stilts and foundation of the Wakanda community,” Sereal said.
After watching the ninth highest-grossing film of all time, Sereal wanted to showcase African culture. She used Ankara, a colorful cotton fabric with tribal-like patterns, and mud cloth, a handwoven fabric dyed with fermented mud, pairing the two with various textures of faux leather.
“I wanted the silhouettes to be powerful and strong, but also have a bit of ease to them,” Sereal said.
And her message didn’t end on the actual models: Wanting to "bring attention to current events,” Sereal chose music with political references to police brutality, race, and more hot-button issues.
“I wanted to use my platform as a voice to shine a light on situations that are becoming more prevalent,” she said. “I want to see us, as a society, come together and find solutions for us to be at peace.”
The penultimate presentation came from Celeste Bonin—the former WWE Divas champion better known by her ring name, Kaitlyn—who showed Celestial Bodiez, her line of athleisure designed to “make wearers feel equally comfortable and confident.” Models took to the catwalk with dogs in tow, sporting leggings with Bonin's “signature booty scrunch, curve-hugging seam design.”
The evening ended with Cesar Galindo, a Houston native based in New York, who presented his spring/summer 2019 collection at New York Fashion Week last month. Models walked the runway in Galindo's vibrant zebra-patterned and sequined shift dresses, trousers, statement coats, and Elizabeth Purpich Collection handbags.
What’s next for Runway Houston? "Just wait until you see what we do next," Marcos told guests. He wouldn't reveal much about season 11 except that "it's going through a metamorphosis." And as for rumors that Runway Houston X would be the final season: 100 percent false, Marcos said. "I gave some people that inclination, but it's definitely not the last one," he added.