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The Big Sizzle: Poolside Grilling Competition and Sizzling Fashion Show
HCC Students Create ‘Splendid’ Fashions Based on Hapsburg Dynasty
Lipstick & Brunch Beauty Soiree @ Look Boutique
“Over the Top” Art Institute Senior Fashion Show
Gap x Birchbox Arrives in Houston
Villa Wanderlust
Nigel Barker Celebrates Macy’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

The Big Sizzle: Poolside Grilling Competition and Sizzling Fashion Show

The Monogram Apartment Collection‘s MUSE at Museum District recently hosted “The Big Sizzle: Poolside Grill Competition and Fashion Show.” The day was hot and sunny, which were the perfect elements for a poolside bash at one of Houston’s hottest new apartment complexes. The event took place out at the lush community pool, where several local vendors were set up and DJs from Hot 95.7 FM were spinning the latest tunes. Five teams from other Monogram Apartment communities put their cooking and grilling skills to the test, while local celebrity judges tasted and scored their favorites. The celebrity panel of judges included: Ricky Cruz- Executive Chef at Grotto, Ebony Nicole- Miss Central Texas USA, Natasha Barrett & Katherine Whaley- KTRK ABC 13, William Gilchriest- Executive Chef at Brooklyn Athletic Club, Mike Chabala- Veteran Houston Dynamo Soccer Player and Keola Lui-Kwan from Hot 95.7 FM.

Guests were welcome to enter raffles, nosh on bites by El Tiempo and more! The event concluded with a sizzling fashion show, featuring a myriad of summer ready-to-wear looks by Danny Nguyen.

The Muse team ended up winning the grilling competition. Proceeds from this event benefitted The Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance.

HCC Students Create ‘Splendid’ Fashions Based on Hapsburg Dynasty

In conjunction with the opening of the Hapsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections, a selection of fashion design students from Houston Community College were chosen to design an outfit or two based on this era. The Hapsburg Dynasty began in Austria in the late Middle Ages and concluded in the early 20th Century. Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts is currently housing more than 90 works of art, including arms and armor, sculpture, Greek and Roman antiquities, court costumes, carriages, decorative-art objects, and paintings by Caravaggio, Correggio, Giorgione, Rubens, Tintoretto, Titian, and Velázquez.

The evening’s fashion presentation- “Fashion Fusion”- was where 20 garments went down the runway, blending edgy, yet contemporary views taken from the costumes and fabrics from the exhibition. The show was styled by Tamara Klosz Bonar, while the mile-high Marie Antoinette-inspired updos were fashioned by the talented Edward Sanchez and make-up was provided by Tre Spa.

Christian Le, Teresa Rangel, Samira Craig, Alfredo Saucedo, Judi Hallenback, Violet Navarro, Bridget Fizer were among the chosen designers to showcase their ‘splendid’ designs, ranging from ‘Gothic-esque Royalty’ to ‘a day at the races à la Ralph Lauren’ and ending with a magnificent finale of ball gowns.

The panel of judges, which included Fady Armanious, creative fashion director of Tootsies; Helga Aurisch, curator of European art; and Clifford Pugh, editor-in-chief of CultureMap unanimously crowned Christian Le 1st and 3rd place, while Teresa Rangel took home 2nd place.

Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections exhibition will continue to be around until September 13th. For tickets and more information, go HERE.

Lipstick & Brunch Beauty Soiree @ Look Boutique

My friend and blogger pal- Nicole Kestenbaum of Lipstick & Brunch recently held an event at Look Boutique. Now, Look Boutique is not like an average “boutique,” it’s an upscale beauty bar located in the Walgreens off Sage and Westheimer in the Galleria neighborhood in Houston. This particular location is in fact, the ONLY one in Texas. Think of Look Boutique as a hybrid between a higher-end beauty department (like Sephora or Macy’s) and the Walgreens beauty aisle. The boutique features French, UK and cult-favorite skincare and beauty products that you wouldn’t normally find anywhere else.

Their current skincare brands are: Avene, La Roche, Vichy, Lierac, Nuxe, Dr.Hauschka,Bioxidea, Rilastil, Le Couvent des Minimes, Talika and Klorane. Their current cosmetic brands are: Vera Moore, Pür Minerals, Studio Makeup, POP, Vincent Longo, The Balm, Cargo and 100% Pure. They carry OPI, China Glaze and Essie nail polishes. They carry Macbeth cosmetic bags and LUG travel bags. They also carry the quirky Demeter Fragrance Library (with scents such as: ‘Dirt,’ ‘Funeral Home,’ ‘Marshmellow,’ ‘Soap,’ ‘Earthworm,’ ‘Dust’ and ‘Clean Windows’) and Edia cosmetics for Hair.

Upon first glance, this place is pretty amazing and a beauty lover’s dream come true. The fixtures are bright and modern, taking careful consideration to making the space look young and fresh. Nicole was totally in her element! Her face just lit the room as she was discussing her favorite products, such as the ‘Hot Mama’ blushes from The Balm and Klorane’s dry shampoos. I have to admit, I was even overwhelmed…but am anxious to go back with a bigger budget.

There were complimentary skin analysis/consultations and make-up touchups by the Look Boutique cosmetologists. Guests were also able to leave with gifts with a $30 purchase and participate in raffles.

Be sure to “LIKE” Look Boutique on Facebook and Instagram for additional information and their latest happenings.

“Over the Top” Art Institute Senior Fashion Show

The Art Institute of Houston’s senior class showcased their capsule collections during a high energy “Over the Top” fashion event at Proof Rooftop Lounge. The show featured designers: Yoselin Hernandez, Phuong Thao Le, Nhi Nguyen and Cheryl Vick.

Yoselin Hernandez was the only designer who did menswear. She was inspired by contemporary and urban concepts that were mixed with a business-casual vibe. Simple tees with skull prints paired with clean, contemporary blazers and pants created a unique twist to everyday, run-of-the-mill menswear. Check out Yoselin’s INSTAGRAM.

Phuong Thao Le presented her collection- “The Debut of Belle.” Belle is the nickname that her Grandmother gave her when she was born. ‘Belle’ is also French for ‘beautiful’ and her Grandmother wanted her to own the beauty inside and out. Phuong further explains, “I wanted it to present the beauty of the women. The inspiration for this collection was the combination of the tradition and the modern. Because I was born and grew up in Vietnam, the tradition and the culture are always a part of my life. Specially, the traditional dress gave me so much inspired. I think a woman look her best when she’s in that dress. So i took that look and made it in modern way, so everyone can wear it. I wanted to bring out the elegance and the feminineness of the woman.One of the special things about my collection is the fabric. Most of the fabrics that I used are natural fibers such as: silk charmeuse, silk organza, and linen. When I went to LA to search for the fabric, I found them in several stores in fashion district. After that, i sent my fabric to The company in Vietnam to get them pleated. It was a long process and took few weeks to get it done. But at the end, I feel so happy that the fabric came out perfectly the way I wanted to be. The second thing about this collection that I wanted people to know that all the beading work was done by hand because I wanted the embroidery and the beads in just some placements. Some little things bring the uniqueness to my collection.” Bright orange contrasted with neutral gray and white. I thought the pleating was a delightful touch to the Asian-inspired silhouettes. I loved the flared jumpsuit and show-stopping headpiece during the finale.

Nhi Nguyen, also of Vietnamese descent, left home at seventeen and traveled to America to pursue her career in fashion. She recently won 3rd place during the “Fashion My Future 2015″ conference. Nhi Nguyen’s collection was inspired by geometric forms and futuristic elements, which she feels represent the strong and independent image of a woman. She also featured the three garments that were featured in “Fashion My Future 2015.” I loved her use of shapes, lines, cut-outs and structure.

The last designer of the evening was Cheryl Vick, who took a nod to her Nordic roots that leaned toward the Valkyrie. She originally wanted to use red fabric, but since that didn’t work out too well, she opted for the raspberry silk dupioni. Thus her ‘hot pink and black collection’ was born. Nordic turned ‘Glam Rock’ with black leather and vinyl. “I wanted to use a vibrant color as the finale piece and came up with a head to toe hot pink two piece ball gown. The top is fuchsia cow hide and the bottom raspberry silk dupioni. I chose Emileigh Meloy- who is 6’2 to wear the dress. She made the dress come to life on the runway, along with the wind and I felt like it was a perfect end to our show,” Cheryl explained. Her dresses seems to have also taken on a “hidden silhouette” so to speak, as it showed in either the trim or contrasting fabric. Of course, my favorite was definitely the finale dress because apparently I love anything with drama! Stay tuned for the launch for her website.

The students put on a wonderful show and I’m excited to see what they do next! Congratulations (now) graduates!

Gap x Birchbox Arrives in Houston

Leading beauty and grooming retailer- Birchbox, has recently teamed up with the classic apparel brand- Gap and launched summer beauty shops within select Gap stores around the country. The eight week experience kicked off June 5th and will run through the end of July at flagship locations in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston.

I attended the Gap x Birchbox launch event at Gap in the Houston Galleria. Guests were invited to experience Try Bars- where shoppers could get hands-on experience with hair, makeup, nail, body, fragrance and skincare. There were makeup artists also on hand for guests to get touch-ups. I got my makeup refreshed by local artist- Heather Nixon, who gave me a natural look. Dallas blogger-Courtney Kerr made a special appearance, meeting-and-greeting fans, while sharing her favorites from the collaboration. She looked “All-American Chic,” wearing a chambray denim cami and black high-waisted distressed skinny jeans, all from Gap. Her makeup of the evening included: Cynthia Rowley Lip Stain in “Poppy,” Parlor Sea Salt Spray and Cargo Bronzer.

Courtney shared her other favorites from Birchbox: Laqa & Co. Lipstick, Klorane Dry Shampoo, Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream and Benefit “They’re Real” Mascara.

Customers can go HERE to find out more information on the Gap x Birchbox collaboration.

Villa Wanderlust

Yesterday marked the launched of Villa Wanderlust- a pop up shop that featured a selection of Houston-based designers and boutiques. The event, which took place at Wicowork/Wired International‘s cool Midtown digs, was hosted by Sarrah Zadeh of La Mochi and Joy Kennedy of Priya. The featured brands were: Baanou, BellaJules, Brooke Feather, Elle Milady, Kandu Collections, La Mochi, Priya, Sweet Suri Jewels, Vali Belo Swim and {temple street}. They also featured local artists: Travel Photographer- Atessa Barazandeh, Painter-Tony Paraná and music by Cirque Noir. There was an EXQUISITE food presentation by Maple and Love, Roost and Lillo & Ella. I mean, it was literally one of the best healthy food varieties that I’ve seen at an event. There was also a tea bar by Mar-Tea-Na, where all the ingredients are natural and flavorful. William Grant and Sons provided a bar that offered Hendricks Gin, Milagros Tequila, Oncho Reyz and Solerno Blood Orange Liquor.

Wired International’s sister company- Wicowork “bases its goal achievement by creating dynamic environments, expanding networks and creating a working atmosphere that involves collaboration and sharing ideas. In Wicowork we strive to achieve our costumers goals and expand their businesses; this new movement is reshaping the work industry and transforming society, as we are.” The space, a beautifully renovated baby blue color home located in the heart of Houston’s Midtown district embodies creativity. The inside is inviting and bright, decorated with unique reclaimed and recycled materials (not to mention funky lighting structures). I hope this space gets utilized more in the future.

Takeaways from the event:

* Not only am I OBSESSED with caftans, but the ones at Elle Milady just upped my obsession ten-fold. I learned another fun way to stay the hem and to be daring when choosing a slip or whatnot to pair with the sheer ones. The owners- Nancy and Suzanne were extremely friendly and welcoming. Their dear Mother, who is an avid textile collector, even modeled a couple of the styles while I was there. The caftans and their billowy jumpsuit counterparts are made in the USA.

* La Mochi handbags are just lovely wisps of colorful, handcrafted goodness that come in forms of beaded necklaces and woven handbags. The fair-trade company was founded in 2013 by Sarrah Zadeh with a mission of collaborating with artisans and communities from all over the world. Some of the handbags I’ve seen were handmade in Colombia by women of the Wayuu Tribe.

* Priya jewelry was founded by Joy Kennedy in August 2011. She wanted to fill the need for high quality products while also supporting artisans from all over the world. In 2014, the company launched it’s namesake contemporary jewelry collection. In all, the brand awakens the spirit of the East, while dedicating itself to the structure and quality of the West. I loved Priya’s jewelry presentation, from the elegant necklaces to the druzy to the vintage Indian rings.

* The Brooke Feather gals were on hand, showing off a smidgen of what they offer at their River Oaks location. I loved some of their pieces (such as their sandals and a caftan by LemLem), which conveyed a relaxed, West Coast vibe.

* Layla Asgari of Sweet Suri Jewels was selling her best-selling rings, necklaces and bracelets to discerning clientele.

* BellaJules was founded by Marwah and John Fawcett, who love to travel and entertain. They formed this brand because they wanted to share their favorite entertaining items from near and far with their clients. We’re talking Brazilian agate coasters, recycled copper platters and mugs, rustic wood cutting boards and best of all- handmade wine soaps.

* Kandu Collections offers a variety of handbags and accessories in stylish leather and exotic skins. My favorite bags were the bucket bags by Alexandra De Curtis.

* {temple street} was founded in Fall 2011 by Ana Mae Holmes, who expresses her love of culture, travel and fashion into each handmade piece. She offered a stash of trendy druzy jewelry, along with other sweet contemporary pieces.

* Vali Belo Swim displayed several of their Latin-inspired posh beach and pool cover-ups and swimwear. I rather loved the “Blue Haven” bikini set and the “Silk Wind Palm Kimono.”

* The Baanou folks were in the house, selling their exclusive collection of designer apparel and accessories.

10% of the sales went to support The Priya Foundation and Renacer Colombia.

Nigel Barker Celebrates Macy’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

In conjunction with Macy’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the department store hosted Nigel Barker– notable author, filmmaker and photographer. Barker is of English and Sri Lankan descent and credits his Grandmother and Mother for being pivotal influences in his life.

I attended his appearance at the First Colony Mall in Sugarland and had the opportunity to interview him one-on-one regarding his heritage and his successful career in the fashion industry.

His Heritage:

“My Mother and Father were both born in India. My Mother moved back to Sri Lanka when she was a little girl. In her late teens, she moved from Sri Lanka to England and that’s really where the basis of my Sri Lankan heritage comes from and why it’s important to me and why it has been an important part of my personal life story. Growing up in England as a young boy in the 70s, there were very few bi-racial children. I was probably one of the first bi-racial children of a generation where you were beginning to see them. So growing up in England, you were constantly asked, ‘where are you from? Who are you?’ and it makes you question your identity. Then I had to identify with a place called Sri Lanka, which geographically meant nothing to me. Luckily I had my Grandmother, Mother and Aunt who lived with us, who told us about it. Even the Sri Lankan community alienated us because we weren’t 100% Sri Lankan. As a child, I remember going to Sri Lanka for the first time, seeing other children who looked like me.”

On Modeling:

“My Mother, who had been a model (also former Miss Sri Lanka) entered me into a show called The Clothes Show in the late 80s and I was still in high school. I didn’t win. It was a televised TV show and was one of the first of its type. I got in the top three and was offered a contract and in between going to school and college, I took a year off and had a go at modeling. One year led to two years led to several years, etc.”

On Photography:

“I’ve been shooting now for almost twenty years and in many respects, I’ve always been interested in photography. Got my first camera- a Brownie- when I was 9 years old. Learned how to print when I was 14. It was never a career, just something I enjoyed doing. It was an expensive hobby more than anything. When I became a model was the time I saw fashion photographers at work. This was a very exciting and high-fluting type of job, or so it seemed from the outside. I was a model in a sort of special time, in the late 80s, early 90s when there was a lot of money in fashion and modeling business. When big supermodels Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Tyra Banks were all emerging and becoming major stars. That all changed in the mid-90s with heroine-chic and grunge and androgyny. I was none of those things, so it was the transition that I made just because I didn’t want to give up the six/seven years of experience within that business that I had. It took a couple years, but I transitioned from one side of the lens to the other.”

On Writing the Book:

“I just wanted to write the book. It was my second book and I enjoyed the experience and process of it. I’ve worked 20 years in the business with so many remarkable women. I’m a big advocate for woman’s rights and equality and gender-equality as a whole. I’m a spokesperson for the United Nations Foundation and am an ambassador for them as well for the HeForShe campaign with Emma Watson and Girl Up as well. Writing books about how these extraordinary women that I’ve worked with (models in general have always gotten a bad rap), but I wanted to talk about how so many have actually shaped the way we see beauty. As much as we have a long way to go still today, seeing people of ethnicity, shape and size and there being an equality within beauty and fashion. We’re only as far as we are today because of some of these extraordinary women and what they did, what they went through and what they pushed and stood for and made happen; not just from purely a beauty stand point, but often times from a women’s liberation stand point and economic stand point. For example, someone like Lauren Hutton who changed the hourly wage that models were getting paid in the 70s and made them get contracts for the first time. That was a huge step, as no woman had ever received a million dollar contract. Lauren was the first to demand it and made it happen. She eliminated hourly wages in modeling. To Elle MacPherson who got the very first licensed deal as a model or celebrity of any sort in 1989. She created Elle MacPherson Intimates – a multimillion dollar business that makes 65 million dollar a year today. To people like Naomi Sims who was the first black woman on the cover of a magazine in 1967. She was also the first black woman on a TV commercial that same year… having first been turned down from every single agency out there. So to talk about how they did that and those pivotal moments and why they did that and how they epitomized a moment that helped shape it, so it’s a tribute to these remarkable women. I start off with my Mother at the beginning of the book because she’s the woman who is of Sri Lankan heritage, who started modeling in the 60s and I know now how difficult that must’ve been and she certainly had a profound affect on me.”

On Why Macy’s Chose Him for the Campaign:

“Because I’ve talked about my Mother so much in previous books and on television. She’s been on my shows and I’ve brought her in to teach the girls on ANTM to properly tie a sari,etc. So that part is known about me, but not terribly well-known. Also it was because I have a new book to launch too. It was a great synergy too, to celebrate my heritage, talk about the book and these wonderful women and give a tribute to my Mother, why not…”

On Career advice:

“I think there’s no really special recipe, golden ticket or anything like that to success. I think that you have to be yourself. I think that being authentic and real and honest, hard-working. These are all the things that seem obvious but they are. It’s the reality of it. Everybody I know who is a serious success are all those things. Certainly within fashion and being in any of the creative industries, the number one thing that is important is to know when you’re done. Know when you’re finished. Know when you’ve got what you need to get. What I mean by that is that people are constantly asking me ‘would you have a look at my work? Do you like it? Is it ok? What do I need to do to improve?’ and I totally understand and I appreciate that there’s nothing wrong with asking for mentorship and having some guidance. But the turning point for when you finish being a student and when you start being a professional is when you know that you’ve done the last stroke on that painting. But you don’t need to turn around and say ‘am I done? Does it look ok?’ I don’t ask anyone what I do. If they don’t like it, it’s their problem.”

After the interview, there was a Q&A with Nigel and the audience. We also viewed traditional Sri Lankan dancing as well. The Q&A was hosted by Manesha Liyanage, who was dressed in a traditional Sri Lankan sari. One of the highlights of the session was when Manesha asked about taking a good ‘selfie.’ Nigel showed a rather saucy side (which was just for show of course) while teaching Manesha with her phone.

~ If you’ve got an iPhone, you can take it with the (+) sign.
~ Most people go really high up and shot down on themselves…DON’T… It helps get rid of the double chin, but you end up with a huge head and tiny body.

The last bit of conversation/demonstration between Nigel and Manesha had the ladies in the audience in a comical uproar and went something like this:

Nigel: “Do you like chocolate?”
Manesha: “I love chocolate…”
Nigel: “As you’re looking at me, think of a piece of chocolate in your mouth and with just your eyes, tell me how delicious it is…If you can’t think of chocolate, you can think of something else…and THAT ladies and gentlemen is how you do it!”

I mean… Let’s just say I won’t be looking at chocolate the same way again! Anyway, following another Sri Lankan dance, there was a reception and book signing for the public.

Thank you to the folks at Pom PR/Macy’s for gifting me a copy of “Models of Influence.” HUGE thanks to Nigel for the wonderful interview and for taking your time to sign my book.

Find out more information and local events at a store near you during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month HERE.

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