Houston's 4th Annual Product Runway Competition Makes Models & Fashion Designers Out of Interior Designers

Interior designers doubled as models for the event.
Interior designers doubled as models for the event.
Photo by Samantha Cabrera

Houston's design industry turned out to Bayou Place for the 4th Annual Product Runway competition, in which interior designers turned their skills to fashion design.

The event raised more than $14,000, donated to the Houston Furniture Bank, which outfits homes for those in need. Hosts were Rod Ryan from the Buzz morning radio show and Jeannie Wu of Gensler, who is also a chair for the Houston City Center IIDA.

Notable design firms such as HOK, Gensler, Page Southerland Page and Bennett Design Group formed teams within each company to participate in in the event, which was presented by Houston City Center and the Texas Oklahoma chapter of the International Interior Design Association.

Area schools, including The Art Institute of Houston and Lone Star College Kingwood, also competed.

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The premise is a lot like an episode of Project Runway, and designers had to get creative with the materials and fabrics provided to them by sponsors. This may include glass, plastic and fabric, which made for interesting designs on the runway.

The theme this year was "Traveling Trends." London and Paris were on the list, as well as Havana and Lagos. Teams were instructed to draw inspiration from their city and any era that personified the destination. The results were everything from a modern flight attendant uniform to a dramatic spin on Elizabethan times (Kyoto and Manchester, respectively).

How did the interior designers turned fashion designers do? Overall, the garments were exceptional considering they were created by people with limited backgrounds in fashion design. While the creativity and inspiration may be similar, making a coat versus an office lobby is completely different territory.

Some cities provided more distinct references than others. For London, one of the Gensler teams opted for a Mod look complete with colorblocking that was on trend for spring and summer 2012. Gensler was also responsible for the Buenos Aires look, which drew inspiration from the city's romance with the tango.

FKP Interiors created a traditional kimono for Kyoto, only to have the model reveal a trendy flight attendant uniform underneath, complete with peplum hem and pencil skirt. Bennett Design Group created the Mumbai look in bright pink, finished off with extra arms to complete the look of a Hindu princess. The group responsible for the Moscow look drew inspiration from the ballet, with a print dress coat. The bottom line is if you didn't know these pieces weren't designed by legit fashion designers, you wouldn't have noticed. Construction, fit and even details were impeccable.

HOK created an Elizabethan-inspired coat with a frilly collar, but underneath the model wore a body-conscious dress embellished with mosaic glass. From a distance, this looked like scales with a 3-D effect.

If the fashion wasn't reeling you in, you would have been entertained by the models themselves, who despite their day jobs as interior designers looked as if they'd sauntered down the runway before. It was proof that modeling is all about the attitude.

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