Houston’s Biggest Costume Reveal: Fresh Arts’ Wild Gala Themes Command the Spotlight, Create Major Buzz

BY // 01.31.18

The time has come once again for a long-anticipated glossy and fabulous costume reveal: Is it for the Academy Awards? Met Gala? Close, but no cigar.

The local match for an evening of glamour (as well as irreverent fun and cheeky inventiveness) is once again the Fresh Arts Gala, which every year dreams up a theme on which revelers can riff to delightful results. Past motifs have included the Paint Ball (2016), Gum Ball (2015), Cheese Ball (2007), and a Caddyshack homage dubbed Be the Ball (2010).

This year’s theme is Crystal Ball, which Fresh Arts Coalition founder and arts patron Marita Fairbanks says, “You can go in a lot of different directions: mirrors, future, and premonitions, bling, you name it.”

​Among the many programs and services Fresh Arts offers is their fiscal sponsorship program which has provided $450,000 in support of more then 50 independent arts projects since its launch in 2013.

Fresh Arts provides funds for development, education, and networking opportunities for fledgling artists and arts organizations from the ground up. As founder, the stylish Fairbanks takes it upon herself to come to each gala with the flashiest, and, of course, most striking costume in the room.

We were able to speak with Fairbanks, and her personal designer, Kasi Kubiak, for a revealing chat about their annual, free-spirited tradition of bringing each year’s ball to vivid life.

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How did you two meet?

Marita Fairbanks: I used to have the gala with another nonprofit, Glasstire [from 2004 through 2012]. Its founder, Rainey Knudson, and I designed our own costumes together for many years. They were always outrageous and top secret until we hit the gala, and then at the Mirror Ball (2008) we noticed another gala reveler in a very similar (and beautifully done) costume. When we asked about it, we found out its creator was Kasi Kubiak, an artist and costume designer!

At the Be the Ball gala (2010), we asked her to devise our costumes and the rest is (sartorial) history.

Kasi Kubiak: Of course, I said “Yes!” It’s been a blast ever since – Marita gives me the freedom to go BIG, which I love!

Cost of costume?

KK: I don’t disclose the cost of client costumes. They vary widely depending on the total cost of materials and the amount of labor it takes to create them.

The info I can provide is that for the majority of my large costumes, material costs usually begin at $800 and go up from there, depending on amount of items/quality level. Labor on larger outfits usually clocks in between 50 to 100 hours (includes drive time/meetings, sketches, sourcing of materials, then actually creating the costume itself).

How long does each one take?

MF: We usually go through two or three fittings, both for the headpiece and for the bodice and length. If there are special accessories like gloves, shoes etc. we will also look at those together.

KK: From initial discussion to completion, it’s usually around 2 1/2 to 3 months. I create these costumes around my painting commissions, interior design, and remodeling jobs, so the timeline can vary depending on what is in my queue.

When do you come up with the theme for the costume?

MF: Once I know the gala theme, Kasi and I meet and talk about ideas. She will do several different options as sketches and then we decide what we want to do and she tweaks it from there.

KK: From the time the gala theme is announced, most ideas come to me in the first day or so, if not immediately. Marita and I will choose the top ideas, and from there I’ll work up some sketches within the next few days.

What is the inspiration for this year? Just a hint is cool.

MF: The inspiration behind the costume this year is, as always, a riff on the idea of the theme. This year – Crystal Ball.

KK: The costume has a fantasy realm feel (my favorite style to create), with a nod towards one of my favorite childhood movies, Labyrinth. I’m definitely going heavy on the sparkle! The more jewels, the better!

What happens to the costumes after they are worn?

KK: Marita stores them in a designated costume closet in her home. Each year the pieces are organized and carefully packed away for future use.

About the creative process.

KK: The initial discussion of ideas and the sketch always comes first, then I go into magpie mode and begin collecting all of the materials necessary to create the costume. Once I have my pile of goodies, I start the assembly. I’ll usually get it to a halfway point before meeting with Marita for a fitting.

The design is usually tweaked a little at that time and sometimes a second fitting is needed on larger components. From there, I finish the base of the costume and begin adding final details which is my favorite part! The details take quite a bit of time, but I love seeing the vision come to life.

Kasi, can you share details on your own costume?

KK: Like Marita, I’m also going with a fantasy realm feel and heavy on the bling – a Silver Stag. My costume will be 8 1/2 feet tall. You definitely won’t miss me!

Fresh Arts’ Crystal Ball

When: Friday, February 2, 8 pm

Where: Sliver Street Studios

Who: Chairs Katie and A.J. Brass, Stephanie and Ernie Cockrell, Raquel and Andrew Segal; honoree Marita Fairbanks

Note: Benefitting Fresh Arts; cocktails; food and drink stations; art auction; media sponsor PaperCity; over-the-top costumes

Tariff: $100; sponsorships from $1,000

Buy tickets here.

Additional reporting by Catherine D. Anspon.

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