On the Catwalk

Runway Houston's Bigger Than Life Spring Show

The designers dish on their inspirations—butterflies, post-shower glow and feminism—plus every you-must-see-this look from the catwalk.

By Julia Davila April 4, 2017

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A model shows a dress from Alantude during the Runway Houston Spring 2017 fashion show.

Image: Quy Tran

“We do have a heightened sense of posh and elegance, but at the same time it’s edgy and cutting-edge,” said Omar Marcos, creative director of Runway Houston after his latest show. Walking into the raw space on the third floor of 1911 Bagby—a last-minute venue switch—I was surrounded by beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes in anticipation of Runway Houston's spring show, the sixth put on by Marcos. From a fashion-inspired birthday party to completely shutting down a street in River Oaks District, Runway Houston has grown immensely from its first show in 2011.

“We have grown in audience every single time and we have sold out since the third show,” Marcos said.

Project Runway finalist and all-star Candice Cuoco returned to open the show with her first collection designed in collaboration with hip-hop heiress Vanessa Simmons (you may know her from her family’s MTV reality show Run’s House), dubbing it "Bad Butterfly" and filling it with a mix of leather, silk and soft florals.

“It’s a mix between the feminine and the very edgy and bringing those worlds together,” said Simmons. “The inspiration behind the collection is women. All women. And their stories and our ability to overcome anything we put our minds to. We really wanted the collection to have an empowering message and one that women can feel powerful when they put on the designs.”

“Women, we’re all so different and we’re all tumultuous creatures. We’re romantic, we’re edgy, we’re soft and we’re hard and this collection embodies all of those aspects. I’m really tired of people telling women what they should be and what bad means for them or what good means for them,” said Cuoco. “And what’s acceptable,” Simmons added, noting, "we want to really encourage women to live unapologetically and to live in to who they are and walk confidently.”

Next to take the catwalk was Houston designer Isrel Fonseca. This season, Fonseca's butterfly-bedecked take on men's street style was influenced by the nature and, through a lens, the political environment.

“It’s a mix of political influences. A lot of the colors were based off construction worker apparel but it was also combined with my love for nature. The color palette definitely transformed into the monarch butterfly, the sumerian snake and the clownfish which are elements that grasp water, wind and fire,” said Fonseca. “The monarch butterfly has been one of my favorite insects throughout my studies in fashion and I really think it’s an insect that portrays vulnerability but also strength. It crosses so many borders; they travel over 500 miles until they reach their destination. That’s very inspiring to me because there is no limit, there is nothing our president, or a wall, can put in between us and our dreams.”

Alantude, a line by up-and-coming Houston designer Alan Gonzales, was a new addition to Runway Houston. The collection "Dripping" was based on the idea of jumping out of the shower, wrapping a towel around yourself and running out of the door, portrayed literally by models with towels wrapped around their hair and fresh, dewy makeup.

“It’s a collection that is inspired by our Southern states and cities. It’s cotton, it’s really light fabric and of course all of the tulle gives it the structure that the dresses have, but it’s not heavy, it’s so lightweight so you can move and run out the door for all the traveling ladies,” said Gonzalez.

A collection from The Official K, by emerging Houston-based designer Kim Nguyen, was inspired by the Louvre in Paris featuring looks with a contemporary woman in mind. Models walked the runway carrying mini-versions of the I.M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre, which Nguyen collected from antique stores.

"In this chic and sporty ready-to-wear collection, I applied utility mesh and interior fabrics to emphasize the metal and glass of the Louvre's architecture and brought it to life in the everyday wear of the modern woman," Nguyen said.

A second-year veteran of Runway Houston, Brazilian-born designer Fabio Costa’s final collection was created to evoke a complicated emotional landscape. The Project Runway all-star used polka dots to represent anxiety, raindrops to represent depression and stripes to show chaos.

“The image that came to my head was almost like this celestial creature that fell into earth and is learning to deal with human emotions but [who has] a godly connection to the universe [and emotions like] anxiety, depression and joy. It was a transition from day to night, from darkness to light,” said Costa. “I dress by emotion; it’s how I feel and how I want to portray myself. The people that gravitate toward my work kind of understand that and if they don’t understand, they relate to it.”

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