Texas Fashion Week Positions San Antonio As An Emerging North American Fashion Hub

When you look up “Texas style” online, you get plenty of BBQ content first. Then, somewhere in the next pages of the search results fashion stories start to crop up. Cowboy boots, sunglasses, the works. Despite the Texan roots of Tom Ford and Brandon Maxwell, the state is not typically associated with high fashion. Texas Fashion Week in San Antonio is trying to change “all that” with grit and determination synonymous with the Lonestar State values. Often overshadowed in the news cycle by the economic colossuses of Dallas and Houston, San Antonio proudly charts its own steady course. It is the seventh largest city in the United States with the approximately $121-billion gross domestic product (roughly equal to that of entire South Africa). Its vital stats are outperforming similar metropolitan areas throughout the United States making it the fastest developing urban area of the pandemic years. Where there is economic growth, you will find a booming fashion scene. American regional fashion weeks are becoming successful business platforms for discovery of new diverse voices and building creative circular economies. What goes into the making of an emerging fashion powerhouse? People power!

“Build it and they will come.” Is there a more American vision of inspired entrepreneurship? Jeanelly Concepcion, a native New Yorker, grew up surrounded by fashion and wanted to connect with likeminded local fashion lovers when she moved to San Antonio in 2012. Lots of research, networking, and good old “dusting off and trying again” later, Texas Fashion Industry Initiative (TFII), a 501c3 organization, was founded in 2018 as a collective dream of a fashion-forward Texas. “I knew that success would require a strong and dedicated team, willing to break away from the traditional fashion capitals, showcasing the unique, vibrant style that Texas brings to the table domestically and on the global scale,” says Concepcion. “Today we are rewriting the narrative in the fashion industry. Texas used to be an unexpected contender, but now Texas Fashion Week commands a spotlight on the fashion map!”

This October, the third annual edition of #TXFW took place at KLRN TV Studios, highlighting the freedom of speech connection between fashion and independent media. The highlights include Austin Alegria breaking all the heteronormative stereotypes about Texan lifestyle with his vibrant looks infused with the drag and pageant sensibilities. Who knew Lonestar State could be a role model for gender and sexuality inclusivity, even if for a week?! It’s important for the LGBTQ+ community to cultivate its local art and business stars without keeping one eye on Manhattan or Manhattan Beach. Be here, be queer. Established in 2022, Molly x Niko has already made its elegant mark on the scene with its minimalism which runs counterintuitive to the “everything is bigger in Texas” adage. Designer Brydric Wright won the 2023 TXII Designer of the Year Award with his label Five Eleven Collection which specializes in “custom apparel for Free Spirits.” Has has come a long way from growing up bullied for his unorthodox creativity to being celebrated for it. Meanwhile, Romero Brown’s story highlights his own hero’s journey of turning a disability into a superpower. Weird & Different is a multigenerational streetwear brand affirming unique qualities of its customers from toddlers to elders. Securing such a cool brand name is already a great feat! If you’re not familiar with Agosto Cuellar, refresh your Instagram feed. To paraphrase an iconic SNL character’s famous review… It has everything! Couture, theater, whimsy, surrealism, fun, fun, and extra fun. A staple on the Midwest fashion event circuit, Iron Togs is a brand that, perhaps, best honors the Country Western heritage rooted in rodeo culture and can-do attitude. Do not be mistaken, this is still Texas, through and through.

Seamlessly pulling off a seemingly chaotic operation like fashion week requires military-grade precision. Luckily, Saige Thomas, the executive producer of Texas Fashion Week, is an Air Force veteran. This was a LinkedIn match made in logistics heaven. She quotes Pharrell at Virgil Abloh’s 2022 Spaceship Earth show: “Share the codes!” “The talent in America’s own backyard is ever-growing and we have a responsibility to share the codes. The only way to do that is to consistently identify new designers and give them the support and tools to help their businesses grow. This is exactly what we’re doing here which is why I believe Texas is the next to arrive,” concludes Thomas and one cannot help but feel swayed towards optimism by her authoritative enthusiasm. Texas Fashion Industry Initiative (TIFF) is one of ten founding partners in CFDA Connects, an industry initiative aimed at strengthening nationwide networks of designers, manufacturers, retailers, and media in support of domestic talent.

Fashion has always been a tool of cultural diplomacy, both internationally and domestically. Historically, the fashion industry aligns itself with progressive politics as both are invested in pursuit of new ideas that motivate and empower future generations to succeed. #TXFW has stellar political goodwill on its side with support from Councilwoman Dr. Sukh Kaur who is the second Sikh elected to public office in Texas, Commissioner Tommy Calvert who is the first and youngest African-American county commissioner and Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez who is the state’s first black, gay lawmaker ever. The latter also has the distinction of having been endorsed, already “for President”, by the pop culture heavyweight Nicki Minaj. Proud identity signifiers are vital for representation which plays a critical role in social progress.

Runways and campaign trails have that in common. In the election year where voters are longing for real alternatives to the status quo, Texas Fashion Week serves as a reminder that if, with vision and perseverance, a different and more inclusive Texas is possible.

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