Four fashion designers are redefining Houston’s style scene


“Opportunity,” underline Joshua Allen Springer when asked to define what “new Houston” means to the up-and-coming designer. Springer’s creations have made their way through the town of Bayou to the Big Apple – and back home – exuding an upbeat, yet apropos response. the Richard and Grace The couturier details how his return home due to the pandemic has greatly disrupted his design aura. On the contrary, a revival was worth more than life in New York could ever provide. “I recently taught art history on my own and enjoy the fine art community that Houston has to offer much more. So when I think of the new Houston, I think of a rebirth.

The thought of a renaissance carries the essence of what the future holds for the city’s fashion community. A future where opportunity can become reality for ancillary star designers. The one where they can see Houston architects R’Bonney Nola and Clarence Leeside by side with Chloe Dao and Joshua Allen. These designers cultivate a diverse representation that both has and will impact Houston’s future place in the fashion industry. It’s the new Houston. The Garment District of New York and the Fashion District of Los Angeles are both designated to foster fashion communities, while Houston has not designated an area for its designers to thrive voraciously. The common problem designers face is the unknown contingency, which forces dreamers to relocate to New York (the historic Mecca of all style) for a shot at becoming the next “it” label.

Dao, an established Asian designer, and Allen made their New York debuts, making some notable pit stops along the way. Allen’s Beaumont collection and his abstract compositions have made him a social media phenomenon. Dao became the winner of season two of the popular fashion series, Project track, propelling her into the spotlight. She then created a dress in honor of the boobies rich asian premiered the film at the Austin Asian American Film Festival and also opened a Rice Village boutique in her name.

“I’m just lucky to do what I do and I’ve always recognized that it was difficult. It’s hard to own everything, but it’s also a great blessing,” Dao said humbly. “There aren’t many small designers like me who have been in business this long.”

Along with her sustainability label, R'bonney Nola also offers classes at Houston's non-profit design house  Magpies & Peacocks.  

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As Houston slowly opens up to opportunities, it breaks down doors for local designers like R’Bonney Nola and Clarence Lee to create resilient collections. The Nola sustainability label – R’Bonney Nola Designs, came to life in bustling downtown Houston. Work part-time as a sewing instructor at the Houston nonprofit design house Magpies and peacocks and chief producer of her own brand unleashes the burst of excitement Nola feels whenever a sketch idea is born, while ensuring that the ultimate base is recycled fabric. “Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world, and everyone plays a part in fashion. Whether you are a designer or a consumer, everyone buys pieces,” informs Nola. It’s my duty as a young designer today to educate people on the issue and help push the fashion industry in a more eco-friendly direction.”

The same standard of originality can be said for the emerging designer Clarence Lee. An Arts Institute of Houston alumnus, Lee currently designs women’s ready-to-wear for Inclan Studio. What constitutes the plan of his illustrations is the art of observing how the clothing of a stranger conveys a stronger message. “Seeing how people interpret fashion in their own way, I can definitely spot those who are all about trends and what’s happening now, and then see people who know what they like and don’t care. what’s going on,” Lee reveals. “When I create, I keep in mind that people have a real daily life and that fashion should coincide with what they do.”

For years, Houston’s fashion-forward neighborhoods like River Oaks and The Galleria have been teeming with distinguished luxury lines, but lately there’s been a “new” interest in the city. Louis Vuitton has opened a second store at The Galleria solely dedicated to menswear, while Gucci and FENDI are hosting pop-up events and exclusive previews of upcoming collections as the seasons change. Perhaps the root of the change comes from artists and content creators like Megan Thee Stallion, Travis Scott, Wisdom Kaye and Teezo Touchdown, who constantly add local flavor to every project released. Megan and Scott are linked to luxury labels like Dior, Jordan, Coach and Nike. With Scott opening a Rice Village flagship titled Space Village, it’s not a crazy idea for fashion to turn its attention south.

However, it raises a few questions. Could this new quest create dream job opportunities for designers in Houston? Or, are brands now noticing Texas’ abundant resources and earning residents as financial gain? Each answer will immensely shape how Houston views fashion and the future of her destiny. Lee imagines a takeover by an emerging designer and a closer coupling of consumer and brand. Dao believes a boom in support for local designers will take the city to new heights, while taking the carbon footprint into account. Nola imagines notable labels becoming more involved with start-ups, and for Allen, the future of fashion in Houston is already ahead of us. “It’s just that we have to believe that we can actually make something coming out of Houston a trending factor on the internet that gets us into business conversations,” Allen concludes.


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