Fashion / Style File

Houstonians Take Over New York Fashion Week With Designs on Cher and a Major Comeback

It’s Texas on the Hudson

BY // 09.26.18
photography Froylan Flowers

NEW YORK — For one night, it seemed like “Houston on the Hudson” at New York Fashion Week as designers Cesar Galindo and Toni Whitaker teamed up to present their latest collections with the help of a dozen models from the Page Parkes Agency and several Bayou City fashion experts, including handbag designer Beth Purpich, fashion show producer Bambi Lynn and backstage manager Shelby Herbeck.

Galindo, a Houston native who is based in New York, created a colorful mix of zebra-print dresses, sequined trousers, off-the-shoulder tunics, and floral halter gowns with a “Afro punk” vibe.

“I think it’s more of a millennial movement, but punk for me is my time, 1985. And the Afro culture is that whole mix of color and expression,” he explains during a backstage preview of the collection. “Everyone is looking toward Africa.

“It’s like the new China. I think style-wise and culturally-wise, it’s part of this big trend.”

Galindo, who has designed for Joan Jett, Gwen Stefani, Madonna, Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, and Kim Cattrall, combines wacky candy colors with classical silhouettes in this collection.

“These are happy clothes. My clients want to have fun. There’s enough misery in the world. I don’t think you have to dress up for that,” he says.

He’s also set his sights on Cher, designing a spangly pleated sequin jumpsuit in this collection with the iconic singer in mind. “She’s still relevant, and as old as she is in pop culture, that’s not an easy thing to do,” he says.

For his Southern customers, Galindo created light-as-a-feather coats that can be worn all year long as statement pieces.

“Coats are like an accessory now,” he says. “You can wear them with anything. (Clients) can walk into a restaurant or wherever they’re going to make an entrance and take it off (once inside).”

To showcase Galindo’s collection, models appeared in groups of three or four and posed in a vignette, allowing guests to see the clothes up-close. In keeping with the wacky vibe, the models’ hair was styled with neon bangs — sometime totally covering their eyes. They carried a variety of Elizabeth Purpich Collection handbags designed by Purpich, who celebrated her 40th birthday at the presentation, and her business partner, Veronica Purpich, with jewelry from New York designer Jane Hruska, a longtime collaborator with Galindo.

Every season for the past five years, Lynn, the founder of BLiNC by bambi lynn, has brought as many as a dozen Page Parkes models to New York to appear in Galindo’s presentation. This season’s crew included Brooke Wolcott, Carson Sherman, Colby Anderson, Dominique Lomeli, Gabrielle McTopy, Lilli Heintz, Madelyn Whitley, Margo Whitley, Marlee Menendez, Samantha Banks, Sarah Rubin, and Taylor Hilton.

Lynn believes that the opportunity provides a stepping stone to aspiring models. After New York, Menendez continued on to Milan for additional fashion work and Charlotte Stevens, who previously appeared in a Galindo presentation, was recently featured in a Gucci ad campaign.

“It’s so wonderful to see them move on to bigger and better things,” Lynn says.

Spotted in the crowd were Houstonians Donae Chramosta, Yvonne Stern, and Millette and Haag Sherman (their daughter Carson was one of the models in the presentation). Also, Galindo’s proud husband, Kenneth Fleishman, was beaming as he presented the designer a large bouquet of roses. The couple married in May.

Houston fashion lovers will get to see the Galindo collection firsthand Thursday night (Sept. 27) at Runway Houston, taking place at The Kirby Collection. The event, hosted by Project Runway All Stars Season 6 winner Anthony Williams, will also feature designers Celeste Bonin, Chastity Sereal, David Julian, and an emerging designer from the Art Institute of Houston 2018 senior class.

Galindo will also make a personal appearance at Sloan/Hall from 10 a.m. to 6 pm Friday and Saturday.

Whitaker’s Comeback

At the suggestion of SMG Management Group CEO Kevin Jeffries, Galindo invited Whitaker to present her collection in New York for the first time with the collaborative combination. A fixture on the Houston fashion scene for 30 years, Whitaker had taken a break to care for her ill mother, who passed away in 2015, but had tentatively returned to designing.

The New York experience provided an opportunity to get some national exposure and also reunite with former college roommates, her goddaughter and other friends in the New York area who came out to support her.

“Everybody was excited to see me stepping back out for a moment,” she says.

She whittled her collection down to 15 all-white looks, which originally were planned for a show she planned with Galindo in the British Virgin Islands this summer. An eye infection and severe reaction to antibiotics forced her to cancel the outing.

“I’m really into (designing with) linen gauze. I always have been. A lot of these pieces I did a while ago and updated them. They’ve always been really strong sellers for me because they’re just light and easy. And then when (Cesar) asked me, I started popping some of the gauzes with applique just to bring in a little bit of color,” Whitaker says.

She also refurbished some white shirts with grommets and embroidery to add a sustainable accent to her presentation and emblazoned her logo on some items. “Logos are so big now,” she says.

The response to her collection was so affirming, with some fans placing orders on her Facebook page after seeing photos from New York Fashion Week, that Whitaker has decided to revive her business. She’s already planning her collection for the next fashion week in February 2019 and plans to team with Galindo again for a joint presentation.

“I haven’t done this for seven years, so I didn’t know how people would respond,” she says. “Taking it out of Houston and going to New York and getting such a positive response, I realized I can still do it and I still have it in me.”

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