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Meet the Trendsetters of the Dallas Fashion Industry

Whether behind the scenes or on the front lines, these people are shaping the Dallas fashion industry.
By D Magazine |


Occupation: Fashion show producer and national model
Hometown: Kent, Ohio
Current residence: Irving

You have walked runways around the world and have produced some unforgettable events. How did you get started? I started modeling when I was 13 in Akron, Ohio. When I moved to Dallas in 1980, I ended up walking [the runway] for Bob Mackie’s first collection at Lou Lattimore. At the end of the second day, Bob said to me, “I don’t know what you’re doing in Dallas, but you’re coming to New York.” [My husband and I] thought, “Let’s make the world our playground for a while.” We’ve had great fun with it. Event production came a bit later when I helped wrap up production for a DIFFA fashion show. The rest is history. I’ve made it very theatrical, pulled in all of my contacts worldwide, and really raised the bar. Any excuse to make it a little more fabulous is right up my alley.

What motivates you? Beauty. I love creating beauty. As a model, I love delivering it. Dallas is fashionable because … it believes in itself and it’s a Southern girl. Southern girls are always fashionable.

Favorite local spots to see and be seen? I absolutely love the patio at Ciudad. Also, walking out the door of Neiman’s NorthPark and going straight. It’s becoming Dallas’ Rodeo Drive.

Who is the one fashion icon that inspires you the most? Diana Vreeland. Not for her personal style, but for her incredible taste and her lack of fear in her art direction.

What’s the one thing you’d be lost without? My Chantecaille lip pencil in Natural. It’s the perfect nude for a redhead.

You were the first front-of-the-house director for Dallas’ inaugural Fashion at the Park. What’s next for this event? It has publicly announced a three-year run. Working front of house for the first shows, I saw many vendors who were not participating come by to view the set. When their jaws dropped, I closed them. I expect the event will start having to turn vendors away.

What’s your favorite moment from last year’s Fashion at the Park? It’s a behind-the-scenes moment. I had 72 interns working under my auspices, and to be able to stand back at any time and see the efforts that the interns were putting forth, how this was landing on them as an experience in their young lives. … To watch these kids with this experience completely new to them, it refuels you.

We have to ask: exactly how tall are you? A smidge under 6 feet. 5 feet, 11 inches and three-quarters.



Nina Knell
Occupation: LFT Market/Octane women’s buyer
Hometown: Peoria, Illinois
Current residence: W Residences Victory Park

Patrick Ware
Occupation: Merchant trainer/buyer
Hometown: Victoria, Texas
Current residence: Uptown

How did you get involved with LFT? Nina: I used to shop at Octane during college and got a job working on the sales floor. I later became the women’s buyer, and here I am today. Patrick: I have been friends with Orton Varona since 1988. We went to college together and ventured off afterward to do different things. He called me one day and told me about this company he wanted to start. I laughed at him—that’s the truth!

What do you look for when you go to market? Nina: Finding something exciting that the Dallas consumer may not know about yet but that feels right and has a cutting edge to it.  Patrick: I look for things that are new and fresh, comfortable, and high-quality.

What are you coveting for fall ’07? Nina: A pair of high-waisted skinny Ksubi jeans and a Charlotte Ronson chocolate leather bomber jacket. Patrick: The oversized cardigan. I wear mine everywhere.

What is one piece every woman should have in her wardrobe? Every man? Nina: Every man should have a proper watch. Patrick: Every woman should have a great pair of shoes.

Which media outlets do you turn to for your daily fashion dose? Nina:, the, Patrick: and different designers’ web sites.

What’s it like working in Victory Park? What’s your favorite lunch spot? Nina: Working in Victory Park is exciting and innovative. We are at the forefront of Dallas! Patrick: Victory Tavern is the best place for lunch.

An item in your closet you could never part with? Nina: My quilted Chrome Hearts clutch. Patrick: My Nice Collective leather jacket. I get too many compliments on it!

The most important aspect of an outfit? Nina: Accessories. Patrick: A third piece. I feel uncomfortable if I don’t have a third piece, such as a cardigan, t-shirt, and denim.

Dallas is fashionable becauseNina: You’ll find chic streets, a bit of Southern comfort, and personal style in everyday life. Patrick: It’s an eclectic city. People come from all over the place and end up right in the middle of the U.S. They have been everywhere, and there are all kinds of personalities.

What celeb personifies your fashion aesthetic? Nina: Isabel Dupre, stylist and former fash-ion director of Elle. Patrick: Sting, David Bowie, Seal. I look up to all those guys.


: Style maker
Hometown: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Current residence: Lakewood

You started out as a journalist. What led you to pursue a career in design? I was on a press trip to Los Angeles with Jim Lehrer for the Democratic National Convention when I fell in love with the city. It was so youthful and creative that it really empowered me to go and search for my passion. After the election, I put in my two weeks notice, packed my car, and drove west. I discovered some great fabrics in the garment district and just started sewing my own clothes. Pretty shortly after, Dayna Devon (co-host of Extra) stopped me at a party and asked where I got my dress. I blurted out, “I’m a designer, and I made it myself.” She wore it to a red-carpet premiere the next night and was featured in Us Weekly and InStyle wearing my design.

If you were so in love with LA, what lured you to Dallas? I was here visiting my cousin for a week over the Fourth of July, and there was such an energy to the city. I could just feel that something was getting ready to happen here, and I wanted to be a part of it.

What has been the most exciting moment of your career? Winning Texas Next Top Designer. The prize was more than a title. I have a team of experts with a personal investment in me and my business.

We love the details you use in your collections. What’s the story with the buttons? My younger sister is a full-time humanitarian. Together we’re partnering with the Guardian Village Handicraft in Nepal. They rescue women from the sex-trade industry and teach them a skill while giving them food and a home. I send Guardian Village sketches of our designs, and the women hand-carve each button and toggle. It doesn’t take much to change quite a few lives.

Explain the Revolving Door. The concept launched after Hollywood actresses kept using my LA apartment to get ready before events. It’s basically a one-stop style center. It’s for the woman who wants a custom-made dress for a gala, as well as the woman in need of a daily wardrobe. We carry my pieces as well as the jewelry, shoes, and accessories of several talented local artists.

What are you working on for fall? Black and white is huge. We have a great Marilyn Monroe-inspired dress, some bubble dresses, and I’m doing knits for the first time. I have wrap dresses with hoods and cupcake sleeves and sweater dresses with thumbholes and cowl necks. We will also be using some fun, colorful prints.

What do you love about the way Dallas women dress? They love to wear big, bold, bright colors.

Dallas is fashionable because … women are willing to think outside the box. They’re much more adventurous in their sense of style than in other cities.


: Director of marketing for Fashion Industry Gallery (F.I.G.) and Brook Partners, developer of F.I.G.
Hometown: Garden City, New York
Current residence: Uptown

How did you get interested in fashion? After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in communications, I got a master’s degree in psychology from Columbia. I was working in public relations and marketing in New York, where it is impossible not to be interested in fashion.  My husband and I moved to Dallas for his job, and we have been here ever since.

You opened F.I.G. with your husband in 2004, and the wholesale boutique quickly became an overwhelming success. How does it work? F.I.G. showcases the best in women’s contemporary sportswear and accessories and better men’s lines in the Dallas Arts District. We host fashion trade shows five times a year, where buyers descend on Dallas to shop for the next season’s styles. Buyers can shop from our 48 permanent showrooms, as well as from our guest designers who lease space just for the markets.

We hear that F.I.G. is leased at full capacity. Are there any plans to expand? We opened in January ’04 and have expanded four times since then, while remaining 100 percent leased. We do have plans to continue our expansion.

Some of the hottest lines in Dallas are showcased at F.I.G. What are the buyers scooping up for fall? We’re expecting fall trends to include sequins and metallics, vibrant colors, gray dresses, high-waisted trousers, hats, and fur.

Which designer lines would we find in your closet? I’ve got pieces from the Gap and Balenciaga and everything in between. I guess I don’t play favorites!

How about a favorite fashion accessory? I have two: my mom’s wedding band and a spectacular Chanel Camelia watch my husband gave me for Christmas.

Dallas is fashionable because … it’s the home of fashion icon Neiman Marcus, and it’s a center of the wholesale fashion business.
Two things you can’t live without? My precious baby, Connor, and fabulous shoes.


: Costume designer
Hometown: Marshalltown, Iowa
Current residence: Oak Lawn

How did you get involved in the art of theater costume design and restoration? I started on this path doing plays in high school. Can you imagine creating costumes for King Lear when you’re 17?

You recently restored or repaired three Cristóbal Balenciaga gowns, previously on display at the SMU Meadows Museum. What did the project entail? Repair on the first dress, a watered silk, consisted of an afternoon to mend a slight tear. The second creation, a stunning black velvet, chasuble-like sheath, took one week to replace more than seven distinctive types of beads and stones. The final dress, a hot pink tunic, required two weeks to repair original embroidery by Lesage, including clear pink plastic circles, chenille cord, metallic threads, and rhinestones—materials impossible to duplicate today.

What did you learn through working on Balenciaga’s gowns? They represent the highest form of dressmaking I have ever seen. Balenciaga was a genius in the cut and construction of clothing.

Which Balenciaga piece would you love to see a Dallas woman wear? My favorite piece in the exhibit was an incredible black taffeta evening coat with a large stand-up collar. It would give any woman a show-stopping entrance to an event.

What projects could you possibly be taking on now? My workroom is currently making clothing trimmed in kitchen utensils for a fashion show, costumes for Chamberlain Ballet’s Nutcracker this fall, and, of course, gowns designed by Winn Morton for the 2007 Texas Rose Festival in Tyler.

Rumor has it that you’re also involved with the Crystal Charity Ball and DIFFA. I’ve worked with Tom Addis and Jan Strimple on the last few Crystal Charity Balls, helping create costumes and characters. I love some of the outrageous things we get to do—and help raise money at the same time. I’m on the DIFFA board of trustees and have been involved since 1988. I’ve helped produce the Collection fashion show, and I do costumes and jackets for the runway. I care deeply about DIFFA and the work we do raising money for local AIDS service organizations.

Dallas is fashionable because … Neiman Marcus and the company’s continuing commitment to and influence in bringing haute couture and style to Dallas.

Favorite local hangout? You might find me at the Original Market Diner on a Monday, sitting in one of Natalie’s booths, checking out her bling and enjoying an order of chicken livers.


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