Local designers, artists and Project Runway alums: That’s the formula for Runway Houston, which produced its latest spring show last Thursday, April 5 outside at The Residences at Kirby Collection.
Runway Houston founder Omar Marcos aims to “give Houston a broader spectrum of the talent here” by switching up venues and featured designers each year, though the spring show saw a repeat headliner from 2016 in Kate Kills Pretty.
“The experience itself is what is different every time,” Marcos said.
What sets Runway Houston apart from other productions even more, Marcos said, is its inclusivity.
“You go to fashion shows in New York, Paris, and even in Los Angeles and Miami where they target the buyers ... [but] that’s just one percent of who enjoys fashion, who purchases fashion,” he added.“Me and you are both wearing clothing that we bought in a store somewhere. If we see something we like, we’re going to go buy it, especially in this town, where there’s a lot of retail.”
To that end, Marcos created his show with more than just industry folk in mind—hardworking Houstonians and college students can get as much out of his production as the millionaire buyer.
This year, organizers also placed a special emphasis on the fact that its shows are "for Houston, by Houston." After Harvey, it was particularly important to Marcos to "produce a show that is catered to our city."
The show opened with the aforementioned Kate Kills Pretty, a line by longtime Houston resident-turned L.A. designer Aries Milan. Models wore Saint Bohemian’s rosary-inspired necklaces as they walked the runway in fitted dresses, two-piece sets, and pantsuits. Milan, the former Coquette Boutique owner, was inspired as a young girl by Kate Moss, for whom she named her line. The supermodel's aesthetic is imbued in Milan's designs—think edgy, cool, rocker-chic.
Later came Engomichu, the line by Peruvian-American designer Luis Estrengo who cites his home country as continuous inspiration, especially childhood experiences in capital city Lima. The result: colorful, wearable pieces.
“I always visit [Peru] every single year and just get refreshed and renewed with the vibrancy that is in the country,” Estrengo said. One of the vibrant hues in the designs he showed—part of Colección Terreno (Terrain Collection)—included a bright marigold inspired by lúcuma, a Peruvian fruit.
“The Engomichu guy or girl is a fashion nomad. They take their experiences with them and wear them,” Estrengo said.
Upstairs, Alantude by Alan Gonzalez, Danny Nguyen Couture and Meru Merus showcased their latest collections, and featured artists included Chuck Redick, Tatiana Escallon, Patti Lennon, and Monica Melgar. Nguyen's upstairs installation featured models in colorful floral prints from the Houston designer's Spring/Summer 2018 Collection; on the runway, Nguyen showed an array of womenswear and menswear suits.
Another local designer, Shehla Rana, debuted her Cape Collection and Lace Collection at the show. For the former, Rana was inspired by the abaya, a robe-like dress worn in Middle Eastern cultures. She showed a range of blouses, palazzo pants, and dresses on Thursday's runway.
“This collection has a modern look; some unusual and uneven cuts, with a touch of bright colors and bold floral prints,” she said.
True to its name, the Lace Collection featured delicate lace, pearls, and hand-embroidered pieces with Swarovski stones and gold thread. Rana was inspired by 17th century British royalty, she said: timeless and regal, but also modern.
Next came Houston designer Shalon Morris, who always had a love for fashion but didn't pursue her passion until her deployment with the U.S. Air Force: Then, she began to sketch the line that would become Shalon B.
Morris' latest collection was inspired by the '90s, specifically oversized earrings and big hair and used faux leather lambskin for added structure. Morris' brand is dedicated to "size reality," she said.
“I like to emphasize a woman’s curvature and her features—that’s my aesthetic,” she added. “The average woman is a size 14, so why not put that out there?”
Project Runway season 16 winner Kentaro Kameyana closed the Runway Houston show with a collection that was emotional and genuine. The classically trained pianist composed the music that played while his designs were sent down the runway.
At Runway Houston's afterparty, Japanese-born, L.A.-based Kameyana expanded on his journey to becoming a fashion designer. Though he's been designing for less than five years, he's confident in his concepts.
“I always have one or two pieces I want to make,” he said.
At Runway Houston, he wanted the models in his designs to walk solemnly to make an impact.
“Something sad is more dramatic, speaks to your mind, your heart, [a lot] stronger,” Kameyana said. “So if I have the chance to show only 10 pieces, I have to speak loud.”