September 23, 2015

Fashion’s Next Wave

Get to know the next generation of Dallas’ homegrown fashion talent.

El Centro College

The History of Costume. Ready-to-Wear Construction. Textiles. Fashion Sketching. Those are but four of more than a dozen fashion courses offered at El Centro College as part of its Fashion Design program. El Centro has graduated an impressive range of fashion alumni — from a Project Runway contestant to a designer who currently shows his collection at London Fashion Week.“We try to push our students to achieve their best in their designs and in the execution of their final garments,” said Michael

Anthony, Fashion Design Production Professor. To get ahead of the trends, we caught up with four El Centro grads, who take classes in the heart of downtown Dallas. Here’s what they’re up to:

Benji Aguirre

Fashion designer, Silversmith. Artist. Stylist. 

“I decided to pursue fashion because of my impulse to use the body as a way to show my work. As an artist, I want to make people feel empowered. I love the ability to take the body and ornament it, to use the body as a canvas to adorn.

My aesthetic vision is about the harmony between rough and soft — combining an intense texture with a softer complement. As a creative person, I like to experiment and see what comes out of me. I get personal with a garment. It is all about digging in to find out what unsettles me, and then creating what might make the audience that’s looking at my clothes feel something they have never felt. I like to push myself into the unknown — from nontraditional fabric combinations to an unusual use of technique.

Dallas is a big fashion city. I love looking at women’s attire as they do some shopping during the day, right before an afternoon margarita.”

Norma Cuevas.

Fashion designer. Former Fashion Group International Student of the Year. Head of Couture at Allie Coosh.

“As a little girl, my mom never bought clothes for my dolls — I always made them myself. Every time I wanted a dress for a special occasion, I made it myself. This includes my prom dress and my wedding dress. The moment I decided to make fashion my profession was when I realized it was the only job I could do that would not feel like a job.

One of the most important things I learned at El Centro was to be prepared to work hard. Fashion is a competitive industry and requires a lot of time and work to say on top. I remember coordinator Brenda Carlson always saying, ‘You’ve got to be prepared for the real world.’

My number one fashion icon is Audrey Hepburn. My vision can be characterized as classic minimalist — very modern and sophisticated. My fashion inspirations include legendary designers such as Giorgio Armani, Coco Chanel, and Christian Dior. But I’m also inspired by the Dallas designers I have had the pleasure to meet, such as Paulette Martsolf and Nha Khanh.”

Bladi Duran

Fashion desinger. Couture dressmaker for Patti Flowers Design Studio. Fine Artist. 

“Oscar de la Renta, Alexander McQueen, and Valentino are my fashion idols, and I feel very lucky to have started my own journey while they were still alive. Though la Renta and McQueen have died, and Valentino has retired, they are still the great conquerors of fashion.

My design aesthetic is elegant and chic. I love one-of-a-kind pieces, but strongly believe in separates. The idea of having 8 to 10 pieces that a woman can mix and match is something I am considering as the inspiration for my next collection.

I have spent time in Los Angeles and in New York. While they are both amazing and exciting cities, Dallas has much to bring to the table when it comes to fashion. We have some of the best dressed women here; all you have to do is open any of Dallas’ local magazines to find that out.”

Mario Alberto Gallegos, Jr.

Co-owner, Petit Atelier. New York Fashion Week veteran. Former D Magazine “Top 5 Up and Coming.”

“As an artist, I see a world of beauty in everything I encounter. I use fashion as an outlet for personal expression. I use tangible materials to engage a reaction from viewers or wearers of my designs.

I love the idea of playing with clothes; it allows you to become someone else and express how you feel at that very moment. ‘If you feel like a queen,’ I say, ‘then
dress like one!’ The only thing holding you back is your closet doors. I am a bit reserved personally, but occasionally express myself with color. My designs fall in balance with nature and volume. Simplicity, to me, occurs when there is a romance between fabric and body. Fashion is not only about sketching pretty dresses on paper; it is about finding your style, refining it, and interpreting that into fabric.”

University of North Texas

Style is brewing in Denton. The University of North Texas College of Visual Arts and Design may be in an unexpected locale, but it boasts one of the country’s most intensive fashion-design programs. Dallas–based couturier Michael Faircloth, who designed clothing for former First Lady Laura Bush and Project Runway star Shirin Askari are just two of the school’s noteworthy fashion alumni. UNT fashion students also have access to the Texas Fashion Collection. Housed on campus and directed by the nationally recognized fashion historian and UNT faculty member Myra Walker, the collection contains 18,000 garments and accessories from the 19th and 20th centuries. (Vintage Balenciaga, anyone?)

Sam Cogley

Pin Show featured designer. Fossil Graphic designer. Artist. 

“Dallas has not traditionally been known for being an art and fashion capital, such
as New York and Paris, but this is changing quickly. Dallas is a young and emerging scene, and so many opportunities are available. The designers and artists in Dallas right now, whether they know it or not, are defining what Dallas fashion is. It is historic.

The Pin Show this year was my major debut into the Dallas fashion scene. It was energetic and exciting to show an entire collection to such an enthusiastic crowd.
I was thrilled to be in the UNT Artwear show this year and last year, along with many of my peers whom I had studied fashion with for the last three years. It was a celebration, and marked the beginning of a new chapter for all of us.

My designs rely heavily on a specific concept, so I often do tons of research before I even start to sketch. I love drama and beauty, and working with opposites: hard and soft, structured and organic. I believe the most beautiful shapes and colors come from nature, and so I do a lot of asymmetrical designs and unexpected color combinations.”

Dika Obiaju

Nigerian native. Illustrator. Avant-garde designer.

“Fashion design is a way I express how I feel. My garments have their own presence in a room, whether it is worn by a model or hanging on a rack. That is why I love fashion: It gives me the opportunity to make a statement.

The late Alexander McQueen is the reason why I made up my mind that I wanted to be a fashion designer. Before I entered UNT, I was looking at his “Savage Beauty” collection. I didn’t even know that pieces like his were allowed in fashion. I wanted to do what McQueen did: To be able to translate a dream or emotions into wearable art, to be able to stand out from the crowd, to not follow trends but be an inspiration to be followed. I was already different from the rest of my family and friends, so McQueen stood out to me as an inspiration.

My design aesthetic is a mixture of avant-garde and prêt-à-porter. I am inspired by menswear designs, so some of my garments are androgynous — or so I’ve been told.”

Michael Mysong Crigger

Co-owner of Petit Atelier. Haute-couture trained designer. Expert tailor.

“Christian Dior is one of my fashion icons. In school, I was nicknamed ‘Mr. Classic.’ That nickname carries over into everything I design. When creating for women, I think of my mother, my aunts, and grandmothers; what they wore and how they carried themselves. People should feel comfortable, beautiful, and confident in whatever they are wearing.

At UNT, we had an intense, yearlong study in fashion history, which is something I
think is lacking in many programs today. What goes along with knowing fashion’s 4. history is the understanding that you have to know the tried-and-true rules of garment
design and construction before you can break them. Breaking those rules is what
every great designer on record has done.

I traveled to Paris, France, to train in haute couture sewing and design techniques under the direction of two sisters who worked for Yves Saint Laurent for more than 20 years. I also trained with Jean Paul Gaultier’s milliner. It was an out-of-this world experience.

What used to make Dallas different from New York or Los Angeles was its lack of direct access to independent, up-and-coming designers. I don’t see that as being the case anymore. There is a creative movement happening in the Dallas fashion scene today, with a plethora of talented young designers basing their studios here.”