Some credit the “can do” pioneer spirit for the plethora of creatives that reside in Texas. A wild place back in the day, where folks could try on a bevy of career hats and seek their fortunes unconventionally, Texas continues to embrace those who dream. These designers, most of them born and bred in Texas, channel innovation and invention the Lone Star way.
With an atelier in the historic Haynes Mattress Factory, once the domain of her grandfather, Cheryl Schulke is a bag maker, photographer, and writer. She began working with leather when she received a cowhide in exchange for some photographs—and it spoke to her artistically. Today, her leather working shop, mindfully produces bags and satchels using hand tools and vintage boot making equipment. Schulke also incorporates rare and collected materials into her pieces, and turns bits of materials like antler into useful and fun fashion accessories. Her pieces can be purchased online or at the Houston Urban Market.
As distinctive as the pieces of jewelry she designs, Kendra Scott began assembling her fairy tale-like bijou in her home in Austin a decade ago, as an escape from stress. When friends cooed over her swank necklaces and earrings, she realized her hobby might have legs. So with just $500 to start, Scott decided to pursue her passion for fashion. With a sample tray, she visited Austin boutiques, which not only bought up her prototypes, but placed orders for more. Today, this elegant entrepreneur’s flagship store is in Austin’s SOCO neighborhood. Hollywood A-listers, such as Sofia Vergara, clamor for her colorful collections, which remain affordable and versatile.
Linda Asaf designs sexy, silhouette-hugging, graceful clothing that harkens back to Hollywood heyday glamour. Mindfully, she adds a contemporary edge to her pieces and, fearlessly, she utilizes some of the most sumptuous fabrics on earth. It’s no exaggeration to say that brides and bridesmaids who buy her dresses won’t put them away after the wedding; instead, they’ll find opportunities to wear them again—and again. The new best place to get yourself an Asaf outfit, is at Design Lab, Asaf’s visionary retail space/studio in the Oasis Texas Complex. Here, Asaf shows her work, as well that of other Texas designers, in a lively, 3,000-square-foot space.
Citrine is her favorite color—and as a Texas girl, she isn’t afraid to flaunt it. From Dallas, Lela Rose knows just how to flirt and fashion things, creating fitted dresses in tomato red that flare in just the right spot, and showing women how to shimmer in fil coupe ball skirts. She adorns with lace, lightens up the heaviness of life with faux fur, and puts things in perspective with embellished work outfits. Find her creations at her flagship store in Dallas, at prestigious department stores across the United States, and in farther-flung countries, such as Russia and Japan.
This Texan sharpened her scope in New York, working as a stylist and fashion editor. But Alexandra Knight returned to Texas, and re-embraced the stimuli that helped form her. An outing to a bayou awash in alligators gave her an idea for her first handbags. A few sketches and skins later, Knight had Hilary Swank carrying an AK clutch on stage—and the rest, as they say, is history. Royalties, socialites, fashionistas, and celebrities swoon over her purses, enamored with the low-key labeling (you’ll only find it inside the bag, and even then it simply bears your name.)
Winner of the second season of "Project Runway," Chloe Dao believes fashion is both art and commerce. With her clients in mind, she designs for every occasion, preferring dresses for their no-fuss, zip-it-up-and-go ease. Versatile, ready-to-wear and affordable, her clothing often bears strong prints and statement sleeves. Now a mandatory stop for fashion minded tourists, Dao’s shop in Rice Village also attracts locals who relied on her designs long before TV fame. Expect to find new and classic ready-to-wear, cocktail and evening collections, and accessories to complete the look.
The lost art of shoemaking gets found in a far west Texas. You might call cobblers Logan Caldbeck and Colt Miller elves for their magic workmanship: they meticulously craft boots in their workshop and store in Marfa, a one-time desert pueblo that's now one of the art world’s favorite enclaves. Logan, who was raised in a one-room cabin by mountaineer parents in British Columbia, joins her husband, Colt, (brought up as a cowboy amid this vast, once-lonely expanse) to sew, cut, and finish every pair of boots they sell.
Johnny Cash called black the color of rebellion, and Coco Channel harped on its absolute beauty and “perfect harmony.” So it is no surprise that Paris-trained Austin designer Gail Chovan based her entire atelier on the color's virtues. Without bright color to befuddle, Chovan believes that form, line and texture make a bigger impact, so her nearly two-decade-old store in SoCo sells only black clothing and accessories. Needless to say, Blackmail rates high as the place you’re most likely to find that perfect little black dress.
"Nha" is a Vietnamese word that translates as “light and elegant”—which perfectly describes the otherworldly clothing line Nha Khanh, founded and created by Khanh Nguyen of Dallas. With painstaking attention to detail, the slightly dressy line takes its cues from both the colors and organic forms of nature, and the man-made expressionism found in Dallas architecture and Texan-created contemporary art. Seasonal pieces are offered in ready-to-wear, custom “Atelier” and a tony bridal collection.
Lisa Carpenter likes to say that boots are as much a part of a native Texan as a soft Texas drawl. That said, this jetsetter from Kerrville brings Lisa LeCroy, her line of au courant-style boots, to the fashion stage. They brim with the influences of Italy, with Milano-style heels and leather and fabric sourced from across the “boot.” As such, they are a far cry from classic western work boots, yet these chic, global shoes still have Texas-style versatility and friendliness.