Fashion Houston is officially past its infancy and, like all toddlers, may be searching for its footing as it moves into the next stage of its growth. The team's recent announcement of a new partnership with Houston fashion heavy hitter Vivian Wise, may be their first step toward improvement. Wise is known to have an eye for style and heart for community, so she may be just what Fashion Houston needs.
"I can't carry a tune in a bucket, but I can wear it," said the El Paso native who credits her West Texas roots for her noteworthy fashion. "They're just now getting their Whole Foods, so you could imagine although it is a large city in Texas, it's still kind of behind," she says with a proud smile. "We didn't have the interference or the influence of the big department stores. Which is why I think my sense of style was solidified when I was younger because I was allowed to follow the beat of my own drummer."
And Wise's style, including her cotton candy pink hair and flair for infusing humor into her every day, is definitely something to see.
Now, don't go dismissing Wise based solely on her address or her dress, she has more than earned her fashion stripes as a business owner and philanthropists, in both Colorado and Texas. As the founder of the shoe boutique Velvet Slipper, Wise has been a part of the industry from store front to the front row for over a decade. Since the closing of her boutique, Wise created Velvet Slipper Divine, a mobile platform for artists to showcase their work throughout the community. With the help of her beautifully appointed Airstream trailer Babette, she has translated her expertise into an organization through which others can find their path and reach their potential.
As for Fashion Houston, this is no pet project. Wise has a real vision for what the event can be in the community and how it can garner a position on the global stage.
On what makes Houston stand out from the rest, she says, "It is not New York, it's not Paris, it's not London, and it should never be. We are our own trend makers. We are irreverent, we are funny, and we are over the top. But that's what I love about Houston and that's what I love about Fashion Houston. We can make it up as we go along because we are not filling anybody's shoes. This hasn't existed in Houston, so we can do whatever we want."
She admitted that the freedom to do what you want comes with certain fears, but that is, as she called it, her sweet spot.
For the immediate future, the main goal is to change how Fashion Houston is seen by the city, viewed by the nation, and used by the designers.
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Back to Basics We have seen commerce overtake art at many Fashion Weeks across the globe, include New York, but Wise is on a mission to get back to the real reason we go to these events. "The intent is to make money. It is a business. But, the reason it exists can get lost in the shuffle. And the reason there is a fashion week is because of fashion. It's about fashion and I want to get it back to what the whole point of it is."
New Faces on the Runway Wise believes much has been done in the name of diversity, but much work remains and it can't be left up to the Fashion Houston team to do it alone. "Right now we have only known about the bigger designers, but there are more here in Houston and they need to be found, they need to be recognized. But, the community has to help us do that. It's like a needle in a haystack." Wise adds that the various pockets of talent across the city need to be represented on a larger scale, but also respected just as they are, "I think Fashion Houston does have the opportunity to cover everybody under the same umbrella, but we must do it in a way that respects the designers and their core values."
Charity Component If Houston is known for anything, we know it to be a charitable city. So, the absence of a charity partnership as part of Fashion Houston's programming was of concern to Wise. "It needs to support the community that supports it. Maybe bring in a charity partner each night working on issues that are under served. With beauty comes great responsibility, sometimes people get blinded by the beauty," says Wise.
When asked about her long term goals for Houston's premium fashion event, she replied simply - global recognition, community support, and keep the fun. It seems like a tall order, but Wise says, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And we are taking it one bite at a time."