Austin Fashion Week Wraps Up Runway Shows After Long Pandemic Pause

Contributors – Bri Thomas, Kelsie Davis and Photographer Gregg Cestaro.

Design by Shahira Lasheen

After a long, not so fashionable delay due to the pandemic, the Fall edition of Austin Fashion Week finally went off without a hitch on an early warm December weekend and gave all who attended a big dose of fashion and boy did we need it!

The annual fashion show celebrated its 13th year and honors local Austin fashion designers and emerging designers from beyond Austin by showcasing their collections on the runway.  The three-day event held at The Domain featured a full schedule of shows featuring gowns to athletic wear.  Several Project Runway names were also part of the line-up.

Austin Fashion Week founder Matt Swinney has waited patiently to get the runway show back on track for good reason. “We’ve talked a lot about all the industries that got hit, and no one talks about the fashion industry. I think online sales were fine during COVID, but that’s not how these designers sell, so it’s been this really, really, really long road.  Just being able to give them an opportunity is everything”, added Swinney.

Here’s a quick recap of the shows.

Day 1 – Brandy Design Studio, opened with gorgeous gowns fit for fairytale princesses. There were corsets, statement sleeves, trains and a
variety of silhouettes seen in these white dresses.

AL+LU Apparel’s looks featured a cool black-and-gold pinstripe suit, a velvet gown with chain detailing and chic all-black ensembles. There was a white sheer moment, complete with an emerald green turban, as well as retro goodness made up of pants, a vest and a bow blouse.

Design by Jhay Layson

Pops of color were incorporated with INGASILKS’ silk scarves line. These works of art were worn around necks, on heads, as shirts, with coats, as jewelry, on purses and as statement sleeves.

Exotic prints, textures and structures were used by Iris Gil Designs, along with floral hairpieces. Two-stand out looks included a rose gown and a butterfly gown.

Military clothing was given new life by Kneaded Fashion. There were jumpsuits, jeans and jackets with patches and untied ties utilized in a very neat way.

Jhay Layson showed, but they were all showstoppers. The tulle, the exaggerated shoulders, the headpieces, the accessories (such as red-tinted glasses, statement earrings and parasols)…This gave off Lydia Deetz wedding vibes, and that is a huge compliment.

Korto Momolu of Project Runway closed the show, and these were outfits with attitude: the funky styling, the bold prints, the exciting shapes…They were rich and fun and were built up with so many different pieces that mixed and matched perfectly.

This is not the first time Momolu has shown in Austin, and she says it’s “always fabulous” being here. She also spoke with Fashionably Austin on what the crowd specifically saw from her on Friday (her Freedom Collection) and the deeper meaning behind the collection. “[It’s] just being free to be who you are. think that’s what the pandemic showed us,” she said. “Live your life to the fullest max … To be able to be here, I don’t take it lightly. I’m going to give everything I have in me, every time I come on the runway.”

Day 2 –

Design by LaLa

Nothing says fashion more than a runway with an opulent gown.  The Shahira Lasheen collection gave the crowd an entire collection of gowns with oodles of fabric, bows and trains.  The Turtle Cay Island Wear collection by Margo Dilling put the December crowd in a tropical mood for a beach vacation.

The event also featured student designs from Sadie Swinney (AFW founder Matt Swinney’s daughter) collections from the Art Institute of Austin and ACC.  Student designer Sandra Nyamuhebe put together one of the most cohesive and original collections of the day.  This is certainly a designer to watch and we look forward to seeing more of her work on a runway soon.

It was great to reconnect with now-former Austin designer Laisa Macias of LaLa (we still consider her a hometown gal) as she showed her cute and whimsy collection.  Austin’s Project Runway star from Season 11 and Project Runway All-Stars Daniel Esquivel who is always a runway favorite, showed clean sleek lines for eveningwear and oriental-inspired floral fabrics for menswear and daywear.

Day 3 – 

Hello Kaiya, a brand by Kaiya Inoue, was featured in the early edition show set.  What a lot of people didn’t know was that the Texas fashion designer is only thirteen years old. Her Winter Collection showcased bright red hues, black, and big, big hair. She impressed fans as she designed it all herself, and she did also walk the runway as well. 

Caycee Black, who has been involved at Austin Fashion Week in the past, showcased her latest Spring Collection. The line featured vibrant colors such as bright pink and purple hues, high and large platforms, all with lots of diverse prints that she created herself. Black has been a contestant on Project Runway in the past and said that the show truly allowed her to learn more about what she wants to innovate and shared that she’s met amazing people through the journey. She also said that the show helped her be more hands-on as she knitted the entire tule collection by hand, incorporated her own prints, and “create her own world” in her collections. Before she headed out to this season’s finale, we got to speak with her after the show.

Design by Brittany Allen

“I think that the biggest advice that I would give is to stay true to yourself,” Caycee Black said. “Don’t try to be someone else. Just be you. The more I dig into who I am, the more the line explodes. That’s something I wish someone had told me earlier on, and when I finally learned it, I was rewarded for it.”

Caycee Black wasn’t the only former competitor at Austin Fashion Week this year.  a fellow Austinite, also made an appearance with her first-ever showing of athleisurewear. 

The trendy line mainly featured shiny, neon, patterned legging and top sets for all shapes and sizes for women. The collection also had patterns that included her signature butterfly prints, chunky white sneakers, colorful eyewear, and casual printed dresses.

“I never thought that I would be doing athleisure,” Brittany Allen said. “After Coronavirus hit, I realized that there was a huge market for really bright colors and prints in workout clothes because if you start really looking at athleisure clothes that are out there it’s all neutrals. People are starving for excitement. So, I wanted to bring happiness”

Brittany Allen excelled and said the show has helped her business take off. We remember it all, as we have rooted for so many times on Project Runway, especially when she received the iconic Siriano Save’ (see our article about that here).

“The show has definitely propelled me forward, I took advantage of it in the best way possible, and I let it guide me into my path.”

Nicholas Phat Nguyen, a Texan fashion designer from Vietnam, ended the weekend with several of his different collections, featuring pieces from ‘Mysterious’, ‘Another Love’, and ‘Cyclical’. All of his collections were created by hand and said that if it weren’t for Fashion By Events, he wouldn’t know where he would be. During the show, instead of having hype music, he recorded his own voice speaking about how each collection is a reflection of who he has become and was inspired by his own emotions and background.

Design by Mysterious by NPN

“Though it was not professionally made, I poured all of my heart into it,” Said Nicholas Nguyen. “Covid has been tough on every single one of us. And yet, here we are again together, for the love of fashion and the love for others.”

The show concluded Austin Fashion Week, invoking everyone’s perspective on fashion and life. The show inspired several, no matter the age, that anything is indeed possible in Austin, Texas despite the pandemic.

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