I relocated to the Capital of Texas- Austin, just in time for their annual Austin Fashion Week. It was held at the historic (and haunted) Driskill Hotel. Determined to include Austin as a legitimate fashion city, founder Matt Swinney launched AFW in July of 2009, but didn’t add the Driskill events until 2011. This year’s fashion extravaganza promised to bring out fresh local talent, as well as designers from around the world. The first evening of AFW, we were introduced to five designers: Isabella Rose, Bobby K., Ashley Zaba, Tess Designs and Lisa Kaminski. There were two intermissions and during those intermissions, guests were able to browse the ‘marketplace,’ which included: Valentina Shoes, Over the Moon, Jahanna Martinez and booths which featured an interactive survey and little goodies from Google +/Zagat and Fiat USA.
I’d like to introduce you to Austin-based designer Isabella Rose, who was the first designer of the evening. The cute resort collection was chic and simple…though with two cool attributes: one, it’s for tweens (girls) and the designer is only ELEVEN! Young Isabella as always been an artist at heart, which began with painting at age three. That love of art, as well as color and texture, eventually progressed into fashion when she started experimenting with sewing. She launched her label Isabella Rose (named after her of course) just two years ago and from then on, has been designing, manufacturing and fabric sourcing so she could learn as much as she can. Her collection in the show was inspired by her art. She had just completed “Color Stories” that was a series of paintings where she tried to capture the spirit and personality of each portrait through color. That color palette was the inspiration behind her resort collection and she wanted girls her age to be able to mix ‘n match the colors to express themselves. The Fall collection was inspired by Isabella’s experimentation with figurative drawing using charcoal. Trying to emphasize how form can be contained within harder boundaries, she had a mix of flowy blouson tops with edgy faux leather pieces. We saw what we thought was a plain white shrug paired with a black dress with lacy neckline, but when the model turned, we saw a self-portrait of the designer on the back of the shrug. The original painting was done when Isabella was ten and stands around five feet tall. ” I wanted to incorporate my art into my fashion in a more direct way other than just inspiration,” Isabella explained. She also had one of her paintings printed on the silk chiffon scarves that the models were wearing on the runway. Isabella herself even proudly walked the runway, clad in a faux leather shift dress and statement necklace. She looked amazing and for an eleven year old, she has incredible talent. You can expect to see more a ready-to-wear and dress collection in the future. As Isabella adds, “I feel like my friends and I always have trouble finding dresses we like – they are either too grown up or too childish.” She will be participating in Dallas Fashions Night Out and having an installation of her current line and some artwork at Kristy Stubbs Gallery. She will also be having trunk shows in select cities throughout the rest of this year. For more information, check out isabellarosefashion.com.
Next up is eclectic designer-BOBBY K. From skull cut-out back detailing on a tee to a spicy color blocked body-con dress, BOBBY K. made a statement on the runway. The Gainesville, FL based brand was launched in 2005 by Bobby Kelley and just focused on accessories. In 2006, the brand then transitioned into mens and womens apparel. The collection we viewed during AFW was from his Fall 2012 collection. It is inspired by a newly found independence he had personally experienced and was guided by the latest Sleigh Bells album, “Reign of Terror.” Lots of spandex, mesh, color blocking, chiffon and knit indeed ‘reigned’ in this collection. I love the muted navy and plaids paired with bright accessories. According to Bobby, “I design for someone who is ‘downtown,’ they live a lot of life, they work, party and do it all over again. Very much so the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality. I make a garment and the expectation is that whoever wears it will walk into a room, and everyone is like ‘bitch’….” Such is that with this edgy collection. I could imagine myself bursting into a room in the multi-colored body-con dress, the hand crocheted dress or the chiffon jumpsuit. To add more SHAZAM to your wardrobe, check out BOBBYK.com!
After the first intermission, we viewed a chic swimwear line by Ontario, Canada-based Ashley Zaba. I absolutely adore this swimwear collection, which had sort of a retro vibe to it. I loved the mixing of prints and colors and the fitted construction of the tops. The brand launched in 2008 with emphasis on contemporary womens wear, but also a strong awareness on swimwear. Ashley’s love of adventure, travel and photography has helped inspire the unique print mixing, colors and cuts that has ultimately become the label’s signature. This year at AFW was Zaba’s debut collection of swimwear and was influenced by the ocean in general, along with white sands and sun tans, as well as old world charm that flows into the streets of Cuba (where she plans to travel this winter). While she mixed the prints of the suites for the runway, each style comes with its coordinating color top and bottom. She just styled them separately on the runway to show the line’s versatility, but personally, I love (and would prefer to wear) the mix of color and prints. So along with a stand out customizable approach, Zaba’s label focuses on quality and fit, making sure the inner construction of padding delivers flattering silhouettes for all body types. Each swim item is sold separately, with tops ranging from $90-140 and bottoms ranging from $60-80. One pieces run around $180. She also has a small selection of cover-ups available for an average of $115. Ashley Zaba Swim will soon be available for purchase online beginning March 2013, with pre-orders on her website starting November/December 2012. Find out more information on Zaba at ashleyzaba.com!
Next, I would like to introduce another Austin-based brand, Tess Designs. I had the chance to briefly meet designer Theresa Kopecky after the event and her sweet and bubbly personality coincides with her collection of vintage-inspired girly printed dresses and tops and feminine separates. Kopecky’s Spring/Summer 2013 line was inspired by a road trip she had recently made through the Southern states-from New Orleans to Jacksonville. She re-imagined old world Southern charm and infused a little bit of modern silhouettes and voila, we saw her vision come alive during AFW! The silk cotton and linen separates, playful seersucker suits and handpainted silk dresses were simple, yet… had us envision the days of classic Americana, optimism and a longing for days of a monthly book club party with mint julep, sweet tea, scones and finger sandwiches. For example, actress Jaime King’s character in Hart of Dixie– Lemon Breeland would eat this collection up and fabulously pair a dainty floral print dress with one of her signature fascinators. Theresa also shared cocktail dresses from her Holiday 2012 collection, inspired by the lavish jewel-tones of the Arabian Nights. The collection was styled by Leonardo D’Almagro, with jewelry by Personal Adornments and sweet little fascinators by Austin-based Milli Starr. What’s also great about Tess Designs, is that it is manufactured here in Texas. The Spring/Summer 2013 collection will be available for purchase beginning February 2013. Prices for separates range from $65-90, $130-250 for the day dresses and $220-260 for the cocktail line. Check out tessdress.com for more information!
After the second and last intermission, we viewed the final collection- an eco-conscious swimwear line by Jacksonville, FL based Lisa Kaminski. This self-taught designer was born and raised on the sandy beaches on North Florida and made her first bikini at age fifteen. As I had mentioned before, her line is eco-friendly, having only using reclaimed hardware and found materials, while utilizing superb craftsmanship; as each suit is constructed with double fabric durability. Her 2012 collection that she showcased during AFW was inspired by a trip to Italy. According to Kaminski, ” I wanted to express that with my dramatic opera music intro of Pavarotti’s “Nessum Dorma” with looks: The colors Tangerine and Coral is very on trend! As well as Blue (Cobalt or Royal), Aquamarine, Pinks, Purple and White, colored animal prints, color blocking, and retro florals.” We also previewed eight designs from the 2013 collection, which included two mono-kinis in “Happiness” and “Shining Star” and a one-of-a-kind swimsuit inspired by a reclaimed Radiohead concert tee. The finale bikini, called “The Beagle” was designed for canine lovers and a portion of the proceeds go to the ASPCA. The model wearing the bikini walked the runway with ‘Nipper’ the beagle, who is a local hound that needs a loving home. Please email email@example.com for more information. The Lisa Kaminski brand is quite unique in that they are made in small quantities, artisan-inspired and made in Florida using only the best reclaimed fabrics, hardware and vintage pins. Her prices vary depending on how limited the design is or it’s an original one-of-a-kind: $79-359. Her suits are available online and at Red Boutique in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. For more information, check out lisakaminski.com!
And that’s a wrap for day one of Austin Fashion Week. Stay tuned for day two….