A bronze statue of George R. Brown stood watch beneath century-old live oaks last Saturday night as Discovery Green's allée transformed into a runway for the first time in the urban park's decade-plus history.
The show, headlined by local design darling and Project Runway season two winner Chloe Dao, featured works from more than 40 Houston-based apparel and accessories designers associated with LAUNCH, the downtown pop-up boutique operated by Houston First that first opened in 2017 to showcase local designers and brands in a high-traffic area when Houston hosted Super Bowl LI.
LAUNCH has remained a rotating incubator for homegrown makers ever since, and, says Houston First director of retail and LAUNCH curator Sydney Dao (sister to Chloe), has, well, launched more than 100 designers in the two years since its inception. There are plenty of post-LAUNCH residency success stories, too, like brands that went on to open their own brick-and-mortars or nabbed distribution deals in big box stores like Macy's.
It was Judy Nyquist, chair of Discovery Green Conservancy's Public Art Committee, who envisioned an inaugural fashion show along the park's Brown Foundation Promenade. Her inspiration? Pinwheels.
About 2,000 of them, actually, custom-made by Cocolab, the Mexico City design studio responsible for winter art installation GUST: Celebrating a Decade of Discovery, a kinetic field of color derived from the pinwheels lining the promenade. "I just couldn't help but notice that the work's vivid colors and the sense of movement along the Brown Promenade took on the feel of a fashion runway," Nyquist said. "As the park's neighbor and a champion of local designers, LAUNCH emerged as a natural fit for our programming partner."
The free show last weekend saw two rows of VIP guests—among them city councilors, socialites, and artists—in close proximity to the models who brought LAUNCH vendors' creations down the runway. Looks combined pieces from a diverse roster of apparel and accessories designers, pairing tribal-inspired, geometric prints with woven handbags; sculptural gowns with statement jewelry; and cocktail dresses with bejeweled kimonos. Of Myth & Muse, Marilyn Biles, Edwige Pierre, Magpies & Peacocks, Kimono Zulu, and more joined Chloe Dao in displaying pieces during the two-part show. Riot Salon HTX crafted models' hair and makeup looks, and DJ Little Martin spun live runway music.
Before and after the show, LAUNCH vendors like Brenda Grands, KisaKisa, Modern Artifacts, Diverscity, and more sold their wares in a pop-up market on the park's Hess Patio Deck.
The show and marketplace allowed "some of Houston's most unique and talented designers to make their dreams a reality on the runway while attracting new audiences to LAUNCH," Sydney Dao said.
LAUNCH, at 701 Avenida De Las Americas, is open from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.