Design Competition Showcases Up-And-Coming Local Designers And Their Upcycled Fashions
By Cheryl Alexander
Photos by John Smith of Black Smith Photo
The epitome of Art and Fashion Collaboration transpired in the Picasso Rooms of downtown Houston’s JW Marriott Hotel on Sept. 24, with design house Magpies & Peacocks’ (M&P) innovative design competition Catwalks & Classrooms. Characterized as Chopped meets Project Runway in concept, 17 selected fashion design students showcased their final collections styled in place alongside the hotel’s contemporary artworks by artists such as Gonzo 247, Blanko and Lyle Owerko.
M&P upped the ante of the event by skipping the traditional runway show, opting instead to coordinate the student pieces with the hotel’s prized contemporary art collection, combining the artwork with the eco-fashion forward pieces. Working with Tammy Dowe Green, founder of Esperson Gallery at GreenStreet (the gallery that curated the hotel’s art), and a team of noted stylists that included Lisa Powers of Lisa Powers for StylePoint, Houston Vintage founders Dawn Bell and Maria Martinez, Shelly Bishop of Shelly Bishop Styling and events coordinator Greg Davis of Event Elementz, the room was transformed into their dream vision – where luxury window display meets Art Basel Miami. The design competition allowed 17 students to create upcycled looks from donated materials. Students as young as 14 taking fashion design courses were eligible to participate. Scholarships were among the top prizes awarded to the winners.
M&P is a “nonprofit that supports other nonprofits” by taking donated, upscale fashion accessories and repurposing them into collections that are then sold to raise money for other local organizations. The organization works with local artists, designers and students to create unique lines and to help carry the “support local” torch forward.
The company, launched in 2012, is a partnership between friends Sarah-Jayne Smith, a Brit with a background in interior design who moved to Houston 15 years ago, and Ahshia Berry, a marketing and public relations consultant originally from New Orleans.
After her move to the States, Smith began to see a need for a donation system that allowed people’s belongings to take on a special new life. So far, M&P has helped over 50 charities and 30 young designers by collaborating with several great schools within their Catwalks & Classrooms arts education program, including The Art Institute of Houston, Houston Community College and Glassell School of Art– providing raw materials, mentorship and creative support for emerging designers.
Students create and present upcycling fashion items for the Catwalks & Classrooms competition event after they learn about about deconstruction, reconstruction and recycling from M&P. Design students transform donated items into completed collections. A percentage of the sales from that collection will then benefit a local charity.
Part of the program focuses on teaching designers about the fashion business and connecting them to the retailers where some of their products are eventually sold. Students are also given the opportunity to meet and tour the facilities of local, nationally recognized designers and receive valuable mentorship.
“There’s a place for young designers here in Houston, and we can showcase them,” Smith said. “We don’t want to lose our graduates to New York. We need to show them that they can be successful here.”
That’s also why M&P hosts Catwalks & Classrooms, their signature event.
“We’re talking about building relationships with people, getting designers to collaborate with schools, getting schools to collaborate with charities,” Smith said. “We’re trying to build bridges so that Houston’s a better place to incubate designers.”
Winning designers are as follows:
College Division Winners – all students from The Art Institute of Houston
First-place winner Ebony McCan.
Second Place: Shronda Hayes
Third Place: Kim Nyguen and Kenneth O’Veal
Junior Divison Winners – students
from Glassell School of Art and
Fashion Camp Houston
First Place: Christina Van Hal
Second Place: Megan Siemann
Third Place: Tia-Rose Pezzani
Guests in attendance at the Catwalks & Classrooms event included Houston’s own Project Runway winner Chloe Dao, NYC designer and Born Again Vintage author Bridgett Artise, artist Jumper Maybach, Page Parkes agency director Erik Bechtol, NYC celebrity fashion stylist and artist Rene Garza, Fashion Houston founder Jared Lang, Houston Arts Alliance’s Amy Gibbs and Kate Ostrow-Yadan, The Art Institute of Houston president Susanne Behrens, and campus relations director Amy Gordon. Sponsors for the event included Page Parkes Corporation, Houston Modern Luxury Magazine, Houston Arts Alliance and JW Marriott.
Category: Cy-Fair People & Places