Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Jun 18, 2024
90° F Dallas, TX

5 Up-and-Coming Dallas Designers

At this year's Pin Show we met these talented men and women.
photography: large photo by Tina Wong; makeup and styling by Traci Moore; Gallegos by Julie Hogg; others by Elizabeth lavin
photography: large photo by Opulens Photography by angel young; portrait by Trish Varela; all others by Elizabeth Lavin



Specialty: Jackets/blazers,
dresses, pants

Purchase at: izavel.net

For the first three months of the year, 27-year-old Isabel Varela lived the high life. She was granted the Fairmont Hotel’s Artist in Residency spot in January. Each day, she would climb out of her bed on the 25th floor and ride the elevator down to her studio. “I love it,” says Varela, who has held a variety of internships from designers such as BCBGMAXAZRIA to Abi Ferrin. “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” The residency is an educational arts outreach program for the community. Former tenants include a woodworker, painter, photographer, metal sculptor, and, currently, a multimedia artist. Besides the words they leave scrawled on the white walls of the studios, all the residents are also asked to donate a piece of their work. Varela’s will be visible as soon as guests walk in the door of the hotel. She’s creating a suit for the hotel’s concierge. “It’ll be a little edgier, but still classic,” she says. “It’s exciting, because eventually I would love to do menswear. I take a lot of inspiration from menswear.” This is evident in the pieces hanging on racks and fitted to mannequins. There’s the blazer with wide cuffs and a jacket accessory that can be attached with magnets. There’s the tailored black coat with a pleated back in the gray, black, and white print Varela created. The print, prominent in her line, was inspired by an image of corroded metal. “My main inspiration is a lot from architecture, art, minimalism, and the art deco era,” she says. We’re looking forward to seeing the concierge’s new style.

Where do you get inspiration?

Websites such as buamai.com and

Name people in Dallas you’d
like to design for.

Lisa Petty, Heidi Dillon, and Jan Strimple

Who are your favorite designers?

Martin Margiela and Rick Owens

Define your style in five words.

Tailored, controlled drape, minimalism, attention to detail and fit

photography: large photo & portrait by Candace Moore; small photo by Thomas Garza Photography; all others by Elizabeth Lavin


Line: Emmanuel Tobias

Specialty: Gowns, avant-garde,

Purchase at: By appointment only,
214-315-9276 or
contact [email protected]

Emmanuel Tobias was in his first year at El Centro College studying business when he was asked to be a model in a fashion show. He agreed, and as he stood backstage, he suddenly felt energized. “This is where I belong,” he says. “It’s my world.” So he signed up for one class in fashion. One semester and five classes later, he was hooked.

Since then, the 27-year-old has worked at Richard Brooks Fabrics and created custom dresses. Now he works for Nicole Musselman and her line, Koch. The experiences at Richard Brooks and Koch have made Tobias savvy in business and design. “To be a true designer and someone that can be noteworthy, you have to know how to run a business and know how to design at the same time,” he says as he thumbs through his pieces at his Deep Ellum loft, which he shares with his partner, Ruben, and their 70-pound husky, Lucian. The loft wasn’t large enough for the three of them and Tobias’ workspace, collection, and their bed. So Tobias had a bed constructed above the closet, leaving him with a corner to do his work, which can sometimes be a bit taxing. For example, there’s the time he spent four weeks crafting a dress made of hundreds of strips of red fabric. There’s also the time he put together a piece that contained leather, silk chiffon, and silk gazar, three notoriously difficult fabrics to work with when on their own, but nearly impossible when put into one piece. But for Tobias, the end result, the accolades, the drama, and the energy he gets from a show are worth it.

Where do you get inspiration?

Fantasy art books and my loft’s rooftop deck

Name people in Dallas you’d like to design for.

Cindy Rachofsky or Ana Pettus

Who are your favorite designers?

Rick Owens, Laura and Kate Mulleavy,
Alexander McQueen

Define your style in five words.

Dark, romantic, illusional, linear, sculptural

photography: Large photo by Shona C. Gilbert; all others by Elizabeth Lavin


Line: Shona

Specialty: Jewelry

Purchase at:byshona.com

Just a few months ago, Shona C. Gilbert sat at a table at Nosh, opening cigar box after cigar box. She was showing a friend’s friend her jewelry, which was tucked safely in the boxes (an eco-friendly and surprisingly cheap way to package her goods). The friend’s friend was a retail consultant who worked with museums. As Gilbert opened the boxes, people stopped by their table to ask what she was doing.

What Gilbert was doing was trying to determine if her jewelry designs were any good. She met with the consultant, figuring it would result in one of two things: one, the consultant would tell her not to give up the volunteer work she was doing with her daughters’ school. Or, two, the consultant would tell Gilbert that her stuff was good. The latter happened. And just a few months later, Gilbert’s jewelry, which she started designing less than a year prior, was the only line offered at the gift shop at the Dallas Museum of Art during the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit.

The 40-year-old mother of two moved to Dallas two years ago. “Dallas has just such a cool feel,” she says. “I felt myself being inspired by just everything here.” Her studio, located downtown, is big enough to house the more than 170 cigar boxes Gilbert has on hand, and the countless stones, trinkets, and vintage materials she works with to create her line. One corner even has an area set up with bottle after bottle of scents, because, one day, Gilbert would like to design not only clothes, but also scents. Even with such a fast-growing, successful company, Gilbert maintains her humility. “So far, the universe has really put the right people at the right time,” she says. “I could not have done this alone.”

Where do you get inspiration?

Music, especially ambient or chill music

Name one person in Dallas
you’d like to design for.

Yvonne Crum

Who’s your favorite designer?

Alexander McQueen

Define your style in five words.

Provocative, glamorous, contemporary, sinful, sophisticated