four FAB FASHIONISTAS On Fall Trends, Austin-Style

It’s that time of year when we are desperate to pull out our favorite sweaters, boots and jackets, but to get in the spirit of fall clothing, Mother Nature needs to be a little more cooperative and drop the temperature a bit. That’s OK. We will just have to wait a bit before we’ll be ready for our limited fall season come October—or whenever the first cold front blows through. In February, I braved the winter elements at New York Fashion Week and got a peek at the fall looks from all the top designers.

In my Runway Report in the April issue of Austin Woman, I mentioned shades of pink, decorative opera-style coat dresses and black with tons of texture were the trends to watch. While it’s easy to interpret this fall season’s looks from your favorite magazine (or from your roving fashion reporter), I asked four Austin designers who have very different fashion tastes to let us know their takes on what to have in your closet and what they find challenging with our rather relaxed Austin fashion vibe. Enjoy their candid answers, and get an update on these busy fashion designers.

Ross Bennett

Designer Ross Bennett is on the fast track—literally— partnering again with Circuit of the Americas and F1, and will keep the beautiful ambassadors fashionable while working the events at the track. He also has launched an eco-friendly luggage and food-on-the-go line with Austin-based BlueAvocado and those items are available on Amazon. As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, Bennett has landed the head designer gig for Maven Fly. Bennett’s colorful fishing and outdoor clothing line will have you wading in the water up to your elbows and reeling in your catch in style. And if that is not enough, there are plans for a downtown Austin tailor shop for a real RB experience.

Favorite Trend: My favorite fall trend this year is all the leather and furs (real and faux) that are showing up in everyone’s collections. They have always been an important part of fall, but this year, I feel like all the big houses really took it to the next level with incorporating more leather and fur in to their collections. I feel everyone is letting their animal side out and I’m loving all of it.

Favorite Fall Color: Cobalt blue and all the shades of fuchsia. I am a man who loves to design with color, and seeing the bold jewel tones makes me smile.

Trend You Need This Fall: Chunky knits and big collared sweaters. Every woman has jeans and cute shoes all year round, but ladies, glam up your wrist game and throw on that oversized sweater and a sexy felt bucket hat or fedora to top off some skinnies for that perfect downtown chic look.

What to Buy for Austin’s Fall Season: A new 3/4-length khaki trench coat. You just can’t go wrong with this piece and can wear it all year round, season after season.

Fashion Look You Would Like to See Go Away in Austin: Boring, plain Jane corporate looks.

What About ATX Fashion in General? I think the culture is getting smarter, the economy is rising and there seems to be a more affluent crowd coming to Austin and they know fashion. It trickles down from the top. I feel that in Austin, what makes us great is that even with bad fashion, it’s all fashion and all about individuality.

Daniel Esquivel

In February, at New York Fashion Week, season 11 of Project Runway was only in its sixth week and an under-my-radar Austin designer popped up in the lineup of cast members competing for designer bragging rights on the popular reality show. With much anticipation, Esquivel’s collection was certainly one I enjoyed, even though I was not 100 percent sure they were his designs because this finale had a little twist. Heidi Klum announced that we would not know which collection belonged to which designer!

In the end, Esquivel was asked to pack up his work area after making it to the final four. He made himself and Austin proud by being true to what he loves, and we enjoyed watching his “no drama Daniel” personality come out on camera. Esquivel continues to pursue his custom-made business for the chic girl who wants to dress fab from morning to night. He currently has a manufacturing deal in the works. The big news is that Esquivel was selected to compete again as a member of the third season of Project Runway All Stars, which will begin airing Oct. 24 on the Lifetime network. The competition is fierce but we will be cheering for our hometown designer.

Favorite Fall Trend: I love the punk trend. I like it because everyone can put together this look without it looking dated. You could wear a distressed jacket or it can be updated with a pair of earrings or a neon shoe. It doesn’t have to be a head-to-toe look, or you can go punk with hair and makeup. A cool purse with spikes on it would be a fun way to capture this trend.

Favorite Fall Color: Red! I am inspired by the red and I really consider it a neutral. When I was working as a personal shopper, whenever I put anyone in red, they instantly felt fabulous. It’s just an empowering color.

What Do You Recommend Gals Keep in Their Closets for Fall: Tall boots because a pair of black, flat riding-style boots will never go out of style. Use them as an investment piece and keep them forever. A pair of stiletto pumps is also something every woman needs. Now, I can’t stand platform pumps because I think they are clunky and unattractive. These have been played out and I just want to see something different.

What to Buy for Fall: I love the idea of a red pencil skirt. It continues with the red trend for me as a neutral and, again, it’s sexy, classic and sleek.

Gail Chovan

Consider Gail Chovan the matriarch of the Austin fashion scene. Her boutique, Blackmail, has been an Austin fashion landmark for more years than I can count and stocks simple and eclectic fashions for the woman who wears her clothes and doesn’t let them wear her. Her customer is independent, smart and opinionated. If that sounds like Chovan, you’re right. Every summer for the past three years, Chovan has changed her address from Austin to Paris—and that’s not Paris, Texas. She teaches a fashion design class to international high school students through the Sorbonne. Chovan sketches, buys fabric, commutes and gets fashionably inspired by the culture while living the Parisian lifestyle.

Chovan now has three stores carrying her collection and will unveil her spring 2014 line soon in fine style here in Austin. Chovan’s designs are carried at the Church boutique in Los Angeles, Cicada Collection in Dallas and Santa Fe, N.M., and, of course, Blackmail in Austin. Her spring 2014 collection will be presented in Austin Oct. 16 at a secret location. Check her website for details.

Favorite Fall Trend: I am not one for trends. I do, however, believe in the emphasis shown this season on the button-up men’s-style shirt for women. Palmer/Harding of London does it best. Worn with jeans, leggings, a skirt, layered or not, the look is all over Paris and in every shop window.

Favorite Fall Color: I don’t even need to apologize that there is black, black and more black everywhere.

What Do You Recommend Gals Keep in Their Closets for Fall: A beautiful silk scarf, preferably Hermes.

What Do You Recommend to Buy for Austin’s Fall Season: Buy something you love that is special to you. Adhere to “slow fashion” and reject disposable trends. A piece that is artisanal, with thought given to it by both the creator and the wearer of the garment, is timeless.

Fashion Look You Would Like to See Go Away in Austin: Gold studs on shoes, antlers and flip-flops.

Christi Craven

Christi Craven’s designs have an understated elegance to them, and when you see the craftsmanship used with each piece, you immediately know this is something special. She patented a fiber made out of bamboo for her Lilly Lorraine collection, which makes her quite a trendsetter. Recently, Craven has branched out with her newest venture, called SALT Athletica. The collection, inspired by a friend, is made of high-tech, four-way stretch fabrics, perfect for the active Austinite. She will also continue working one-on-one with individual clients for custom designs.

Favorite Fall Trend: When it comes to Austin’s fall trends, I do like that folks are mixing the more sportswear looks with high fashion: sweaters, jackets, leggings. These can all look fashionably sporty, especially when they are layered together. I love the beanies too, and the wonderful thing is the new ones are more modern and can be styled. A beanie can become a real conversational piece.

Favorite Fall Color: My favorite fall color for Austin is always burnt orange (need I say more). It is iconic, nostalgic and always in style in Austin.

What Do You Recommend Gals Keep in Their Closets for Fall: Classic pieces you can always pull out of your closet make it easy to look great no matter the season. I just bought an amazing python belt and I’ll have it forever. I dress pretty simple, so I recommend a simple white shirt, jeans, pair it with some clunky jewelry and go.

Fashion Look You Would Like to See Go Away in Austin: The Austin woman is very independent and dresses in her own way for her own reasons. It’s what I love about her and what makes us diverse and fascinating, so I would say wear what you like.