Jio'Zei Reyes, Houston's Rising Fashion Star, Loses Fight with Cancer

The 29-year-old designer was a Renaissance man and a true talent.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen August 8, 2016

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Jio'Zei Reyes and a model in his design at Fashion Houston.

To his family he was Joizei, a silly yet driven brother and friend. To his clients and other fashion fans, he was Jio'Zei, a homegrown Houston talent with an eye for color and a gift for flattering yet dramatic fashion designs, who created some of his most ambitious and beautiful work in recent years after being diagnosed with cancer—first leukemia, then lung cancer. He passed away on Friday at the age of 29.

Reyes was born in Hawaii, of Japanese and Brazilian heritage, before arriving in Houston and graduating from Bellaire High School. He earned a degree in toxicology and environmental science from Rice University and worked in pharmacology before following his passion and attending Houston Community College to study fashion design. From there, Reyes was awarded a scholarship to study Haute Couture in Paris before returning to Houston to start his own line.

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A Jio-Zei Reyes design at Fashion Houston 5 in 2014.

His custom gowns were resplendent—readers can see one in Houstonia's July issue on Anika Jackson, who named Reyes as her favorite local designer. And while dramatic gowns were a signature, he also excelled at women's suiting, combining exquisite tailoring with unexpected cuts and bold color. On his collection at Fashion Houston 5 in late 2014, Houstonia's Josh Robertson said "each [design] move[s] with fluidity and grace...and exudes a feminine ethos emblematic of a woman of status and power." In addition to dressing Houston fashionistas, brides and socialites, Reyes was contributing costume design for Katy Perry's upcoming North American tour, sending hundreds of sketches to her team. According to Jackson, Reyes had also recently been invited to join the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America.

"He was so unique in that you just had to come to him with an idea and he would have something sketched for you within a couple hours," says Jackson. "His mind was just amazing. He was so kind and thoughtful and really loved what he did and was so genuine about it—you just wanted to be around him."

A true renaissance man, he was also an accomplished dancer and a student of Japanese tea ceremony. Reyes is survived by his sister, Maria, and his partner Daniel Rodriguez. The former has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for his funeral costs. Services will take place Aug. 10 at Winford Funerals, 4-8 p.m.

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