Fashion / Style

Rare Women-Owned Fashion House With Texas Roots Keeps It Real at Fashion Week

Diverse Models and Film Heroine Inspiration Make This Collection Stand Out

BY // 03.06.19
photography Burnett New York

NEW YORK — It’s a season of firsts for Emily Burnett. After a decade as creative director at Dennis Basso, the 33-year-old designer has struck out on her own, with a new luxe line of sharply-tailored daywear, embellished evening gowns and glamorous coats under the Burnett New York label.

Burnett made her first showing at New York Fashion Week with the new brand, which she co-founded with Fort Worth native Sterling McDavid, the founder of the Starling Project, a luxury home fragrance line that supports solar power projects in developing countries. (McDavid’s father is David McDavid, whose name is emblazoned on car dealerships in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth.)

The two women met when Sterling McDavid was searching top fashion houses for the right person to design the gown for her Aspen wedding. They forged a deep connection and decided to go into business together to create a fashion line “with unapologetic strength and effortless femininity.” They attracted funds from nine women investors and formed one of the few women-owned-and-run design houses in the fashion business.

“From the classroom to the boardroom, the sidewalk to the red carpet — clothing can be a tool to further a woman’s ambition. We believe in the confidence that an expertly-crafted garment can inspire and evangelize personal style as a symbol of independence,” the duo explains on the Burnett New York website.

To tout the brand’s independent spirit and support women of all types, the runway show featured one of fashion week’s most diverse group of models, with 42 percent models of color, two non-straight-size models, one transgender model, and one model over the age of 50, according to The Fashion Spot, which issues a report on fashion diversity each season.

Inspired by 1980s film heroines like Sigourney Weaver in Half Moon Street and Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface, the fall collection, which is available in Houston at Elizabeth Anthony, features such daytime fall looks as a tailored black-and-white print dress in foiled wool, crisp pleated skirts, embellished blazers and chiffon blouses.

For evening, Burnett ratchets up the glam factor considerably with show-stopping red carpet looks, ranging from a sequined strapless gown with a big skirt to a black lace bodysuit and pleated pants. An evening caftan in shiny navy lame and an iridescent black and teal gown with a floor-length see-through cape also stand out from the pack.

The Dennis Basso influence is also evident in the lush coats, with such selections as a smart cropped jacket in a blue, ivory and black design, a comfy-looking cashmere wrap coat in an indigo shade, and dazzling full-length fur coats in geometric patterns.

It was an impressive first effort from Burnett, who directed the models to walk out at the end of the runway in groups of two, holding hands, to emphasize the power of sisterhood. Burnett and McDavid list sustainable practices, inclusion on the runway, and a women’s education project in partnership with UNICEF among their company goals.

It will be interesting to see what they can achieve.

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