Houston’s favorite pink-haired fashionista, Vivian Wise recently held Heart of Fashion– a new philanthropic fashion movement that spanned three nights and culminated eleven designers while directly supporting the community. The event is meant to be one of the only consumer-based fashion shows in the world, where attendees can have immediate access to the curated designs straight from the runways of New York and Paris.
The Million Air hangar was transformed into a New York style affair, decked out in hues of pink, white and black. Guests walked the long pink carpet from valet and were greeted by cocktail waiters and waitresses dressed as flight attendants in 60s-inspired uniforms upon entering the large venue. The pre-fashion show party provided guests with a few bars that served complimentary champagne and cocktails, cozy yet sleek lounge areas, a plantain and chip station (complete with #DoNotFeedTheModels hashtag) and mood music provided by DJ Lewis Grell.
The highlight of the pink carpet arrivals was seeing the legendary supermodel Carmen Dell’Orefice make her entrance. At 84, Dell’Orefice is the oldest working model in the industry. She was thrilled to be in Houston for the event and was especially humbled to influence Meals on Wheels- a charity she’s been involved with over the years.
The designers of opening night’s festivities were:
Cushnie Et Ochs was established in 2008 by Carlie Cushnie and Michelle Ochs and is based in New York City. The duo presented their Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collection on Heart of Fashion’s philanthropic runway. While the majority of their inspiration came from the works of NYC visual artist- Kehinde Wiley, they also took 90s hip-hop references and blended soft, feminine details for a very “Uptown Lady Meets Gangster” juxtaposition. The designers mixed hard with soft fabrics and color palettes; while showcasing minimal design, ladylike dresses, feminine ruffle trim, form-fitting silhouettes, pencil skirts, plunging necklines and tasteful peeks of skin.
The Norisol Ferrari runway show opened with 80s Dallas runway icon Jan Strimple. New York based Ferrari kept the collection in a neutral black and white palette that she is known for (along with couture construction, fine tailoring, fully-functional detailing and use of exotic fabrics and skins), ideal for Fall and Winter. The collection highlighted exquisite python coats, structured suiting, fur-lined vest (in a light olive color), glamorous felt hats, minimal yet timeless dresses and hooded LBDs.
The last and my personal favorite collection of the evening was Angel Sanchez‘s S/S 2016 collection, titled- Cayena. Sanchez infused references of traditional couture of the 1950s (especially in the silhouettes) with Caribbean-esque tropical bright colors. The collection was named after the Cayena (Hibiscus) flower that is prominent on the tropical islands. The shape of the flower petals also had a popular presence in the collection, as either a trim, or drape of the bodice or skirt. He stuck with a bright color palette, but also managed to sneak in white- as a reference to the shining light of the Tropics. He relied heavily on silk gauze to help create the voluptuous and dramatic shapes, while also using acrylic, plastic, leather and other rare fibers. I thought the clear acrylic bold and 60s/Mod-esque belts were just too good (and ahem, on point with my vintage style)!
The finale of the show as when New York designer Ralph Rucci (Chado Ralph Rucci) later presented Carmen Dell’Orefice with the Texas Legacy Award.
One of Houston’s most notable entrepreneurs- Theresa Roemer– opened the doors of her 3,000 square foot closet to me on a recent Saturday afternoon so I could get a glimpse of the ultimate ‘she cave.’
The thick glass doors opened and I was ushered in, all while being in total awe at the enormity of the famed closet. Crisp white and lighted shelving that spanned from floor to ceiling held a rainbow of Hermes Birkins, Dior, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel… a collection that has been amassed for over 30 years. “It’s not like I just went out last year and bought everything and stocked it. I have my very first Louis Vuitton purse that I was finally able to purchase when I was 19. I go on trips to Italy or Germany and I find cute little purses and things that are by well known designers in that country, but not necessarily in the United States. I fall in love with it and have to have it. So it becomes a part of my collection. It’s no different than a man who collects cars.”
We walk up the spiral staircase to the 2nd floor or “family room of the house.” Theresa points out her large shoe collection, many of which are Louboutins and have been signed by the designer (she mentions that the signed shoes do tend to generate more money after giving away to charity). She then pulls out a narrow drawer, where several scarves hang neatly. There is also a small champagne bar, where bottles of champagne are readily available for when her friends come over. The other side of the room boasted a personal make-up station, a mannequin where an Oscar de la Renta dress rests sweetly on it. A row of glass doors reveal her clothing, while shelves above display more handbags and Louis Vuitton luggage. A trip up another spiral staircase takes us to a small alcove, which houses her seasonal items, such as furs, hats and leathers.
We move over to the champagne bar, taking a seat at the cozy bar stools, and she continues her story on the dream closet.
Theresa’s concept of having a physically appealing closet started years ago. Every time she moved, her closet would get bigger and bigger. “It didn’t necessarily mean that I always had a big closet, it meant that what closet space I did have was beautiful. Every time I would have a function (whether it be a fundraiser or an event with people gathering), as soon as the girls would walk in the door (even with their husbands), the first thing the girls would say after we’d get a glass of champagne was ‘can we go see the closet?’ So we’d go off and go in the closet and we’d all just sit in there, giggle and admire all the pretty things.”
When the Roemers’ got ready to renovate their current home, a gorgeous home located in The Woodlands, she thought, “You know what, all you do is spend time in your closet. When it comes to events, all the girls want to do is hang out in the closet. I need to build a closet so big that I can hold the fundraisers and charity events actually IN the closet, because that’s where the girls want to be anyway.”
Once her closet was blogged via Neiman Marcus, news spread quickly throughout Houston and eventually all over the world. Almost 30% of her fan are from Germany, so in February, she will be going on a media tour throughout Germany.
When asked about the size of the closet… all 3,000 square feet in the three-story space… “I’ve got the space, I’ve got the height, why not go up with it? Wy not make it my dream closet? The closet that every girl dreams that she had. and make it so big and fun that events are held in the closet and girls can hang out in the closet. It’s the same as a man cave. It’s like a ‘she cave’. If men can have a place where they can play pool, drink beer and watch sports, why can’t a woman have her space where she collects her items ..why can’t girls sit in a ‘cave’ like that where they just enjoy girl things…and talk about girl things and drink their champagne…and have fun?”
The three story closet took about a year and a half to complete. Theresa has it strategically organized so that the 2nd floor is like the family room of a house, “It’s where everything happens. It’s where a lot of the entertaining happens, it’s where I can sit and get my hair and make-up done. We positioned the mirror perfectly where I can look in the mirror and see my clothes (while I’m sitting there getting my hair an make-up done). So a lot of times I’m looking in the mirror seeing the clothes and trying to visualize what I want and visually put an outfit together. By the time I get out of the chair, I know exactly what I want to wear. Then from there I walk over and pick out the right shoe to go with the outfit. If it’s winter time, I go up to the 3rd floor to get a fur or whatever. Then I finally walk downstairs and now it’s time to pick out the purse and jewelry. I take one last look in the mirror and then it’s time to go. It’s laid out so that it’s organized and I’m not wasting time,” she further explains.
On being judged for ‘being a show-off’…. “I get criticized for it all the time. People are always like ‘What’s she doing? Showing off all this.’ I’m no different than a man that shows off his man cave to his buddies. The thing that most people don’t know about me and this closet is that everything in the closet is mine (it is a working closet after all), but everything eventually gets rotated out to a charity. Recently, for The Women’s Home and their Renew and Redeux Fashion Show, I donated 40,000 worth of stuff. I gave them a 10,000 Oscar de la Renta gown, a couple Prada and Louis Vuitton purses, a Versace dress, some Michael Kors dresses … So what people don’t understand about it is that everything is mine now but eventually it gets rotated out and gets given to charity and it helps charity raise money. Then if I want to replace it I can. Most men, with their man caves, don’t give up their memorabilia. They hang onto their signed jersey by JJ Watt or whatnot because it becomes more valuable as time goes on. The same thing with purses, the longer you hang onto it, (especially a collector’s item) the more money it’s worth. But I don’t want to keep that money. What good’s it going to do me? Maybe when I die, they sell off my estate, well ok…but why not enjoy giving it away while I’m alive. So I don’t want to wait until I’m dead to have to see people enjoy the monies that my items raise. I hold charity events in the closet, because people want to come see it. People will pay good money to come see the closet…which goes directly to the foundations featured that night. We just got done with Fashion Woodlands and 200 people showed up that night from Houston and The Woodlands to partake in the event because it was a fundraising event that gave the monies to the Joe Niekro Foundation. Niekro used to be an Astro who died of a brain aneurysm. As well as Child Legacy International, where I sit on the board of Directors. CLI drills water wells and provides a sustainable life for people in Malawi, Africa. So, they paid a lot of money to come to the event. They were blown away by nine designers showcasing their lines, they got to see the closet, they had a fun time and once again, the monies go to the charities.”
The closet is also like her safe. The doors have thick glass and lock and alarms. When they were robbed last year, the house had been under re-construction for eighteen months. When it happened, the closet was in the middle of being painted. “You can’t put the alarms and glass up yet until the walls are painted. Plus, it’s my house and we live in a gated community, so why should I have to feel like I have to have the doors locked?” Essentially, the robbery has not deterred Theresa from going about her daily routine and hosting functions.
We walk downstairs and she takes out the Louis Vuitton handbag that she bought years ago. It looks like she had bought it this year, as the leather and hardware looked flawless. The power of a dust bag is quite something! She says she will never give up the bag, “To me it represents a little poor girl growing up on a ranch that always wore hand-me-downs. It also represents ‘Wow, I finally made enough money on my own that I can afford to buy what I want. When I was finally able to get a real job. (She had always worked on the ranch throughout her childhood.) I was bussing tables, I was waitressing and the money became bigger. Then I started lifeguarding in the summer and working at a department store. Now that’s when I start making some ‘money money.’ It’s a bag I don’t use. Though I’ve probably used it maybe five times since I was 19.”
Parting words and why I became motivated to re-organize my small closet… “A closet is also a representation of a woman. I don’t care if you’ve got a 4 ft by 6ft closet or a closet with bi-fold doors. The minute you open those bi-fold doors, you should just see pretty. It should just represent you. They say a car sometimes represent a man.. I kinda feel that way with closets. I think that regardless of what space you have it should just be pretty, organized and it should be a reflection of you.”
STAY TUNED! She’s got a new book coming out in January called “Naked in 30 Days.” It’s all about a woman being the best that she can be and reveal herself in 30 days naked. That can be naked in a physical sense (because she’s never felt good enough to finally present herself naked to her partner) or mentally and emotionally naked (she’s ready to reveal her deepest, darkest secrets).
Diana Vreeland was an extraordinary legend in her time. She was a Fashion Editor for Harper’s Bazaar for 26 years and Editor-in-Chief for Vogue for nine years, revolutionizing fashion and had a reputation for transforming everything she touched. She also spent sixteen years at the Costume Institute at the MET, creating a juncture between fashion and art. She literally changed the rules in fashion, thus changing the world forever.
Her Grandson, Alexander Vreeland has an extensive background in marketing, communications and had worked for such names as Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein. After taking over Diana’s estate, he got books about her contributions and achievements published yearly. His wife also made a documentary- ‘The Eye Has to Travel,’ which helped create a buzz on her life and legacy. This helped inspire Alexander to want to create something under her name. He thought that with her story, fragrances would be the most appropriate.
They started working with IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) and brought aboard their best perfumers to create exclusive scents that would pay homage to Diana. The brand worked with Fabien Baron to create an iconic bottle from the 1920s and recreate it in numerous colors. The tall cap design is in reference to Mrs. Vreeland’s exaggerated proportions. The dainty tassle has a romantic twist. The color palette that was chosen reflects on her passion for combining colors. Lastly, the name of the fragrances are actual quotes from her, because as Alexander adds, “she loved words, she made up words, she used words interestingly.”
Alexander launched Diana Vreeland Parfums in August 2014 in New York City, with hopes of it turning into an American luxury brand. They launched with five fragrances and related products and sold them in the finest U.S. and European retail stores. This year, they plan to launch three additional fragrances, as well as home products.
The fragrances are:
Perfectly Marvelous– Inspired by Mrs. Vreeland’s love of red. She had a living room, that was nicknamed the “Garden in Hell” because of all the crazy reds and prints. It features scents of jasmine, cashmere and musk. Very sexy and more of a nighttime fragrance. Nice on men and women.
Extravagance Russe– Inspired by her love of Orientalism. She was obsessed with Russia and in fact, did two costume exhibits at the MET on Russia. The story goes that during her first trip, she brought along Jackie Kennedy, because Russia wouldn’t allow her to borrow any clothes or artifacts. So they went, negotiated and got whatever they wanted. She also loved the Ballet Russe and the extravagance of the costumes and Nijinsky. The scents feature amber and vanilla bourbon.
Absolutely Vital– Inspired by her love of India. It features the scent of Indian Sandalwood, Turkish Rose and Egyptian jasmine. She used to dab Indian Sandalwood behind her ears every day before she would leave the house. This is also a fragrance that is great for men and women. It is great alone or to mix with other fragrances.
Outrageously Vibrant– Created by Carlos Benaim and is the fruitiest of the fragrances and features the scents of cassis, rose and patchouli.
Simply Divine– Inspired by her love of romance. It has the scent of tuberose and nutmeg and is very calming and fresh. This is also my favorite fragrance of the bunch so far.
Smashingly Brilliant– Inspired by her love for Capri. It’s fresh and zesty scents include citrus of Calabrian bergamot and lemon oil. Long-lasting fragrance. Great for men and women.
As Alexander concludes,”what is wonderful about fragrances is that you could keep changing them…I think that each fragrance has a story and you have relationships and you remember somebody by their smell and you remember yourself, by the smell you had with that person. It’s a very personal, intimate relationship that’s involved with fragrances.”
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit with Alexander for the launch of the parfumes at Neiman Marcus at the Galleria. The quotes are taken directly from Alexander. I’d love to personally thank the Diana Vreeland PR team, Sarah and the Neiman Marcus PR team for allowing me this opportunity.