Former event planner designs shoes for tweens
Founder and designer Tina Hambly
Valentina Shoes, www.valentinashoes.com
Austin designer Tina Hambly spent almost 17 years in the software industry planning events, but her development of Valentina Shoes has brought her back to her fashion roots. Hambly launched her tween-focused line of footwear in 2011, drawing on her experience from studying fashion in college. After more than two years of researching and building her product, Hambly believed that girls ages 6–14 needed more choices, so she decided to serve this niche audience. Her shoes are now available in several boutiques, as well as online.
“Moms love the collection, but girls really love them, whether it’s the design-your-own or just the bold, expressive shoes,” she said.
This was Hambly’s first time to appear at Austin Fashion Week. She was featured in the accessory category after being chosen as one of 18 designers to be showcased for the event. She appeared at the marketplace venue during the Aug. 15 event at the Driskill Hotel, as well as at a trunk show at Glo Boutique in the Hill Country Galleria.
“Austin Fashion Week is a great opportunity to reach a different audience,” she said. “Austin has a lot of hip moms.”
Urban Betty owner’s Fashion Week participation provides inspiration
Salon owner Chelle Morrison
Urban Betty Salon, 1206 W. 38th St., 371-7663, www.urbanbetty.com
When Chelle Morrison first opened Urban Betty Salon in 2005, she wanted to blend vintage and modern to create her brand. So she partnered “urban” with the first part of her own full name, Betty Michelle, and then opened her doors and worked to make her customers feel welcome.
“A client once told me that when she walked into my salon she felt like she was at home,” Morrison said.
One aspect of growing and exposing her business for the last four years has been her participation in Austin Fashion Week. This year, in partnership with Rae Cosmetics, the salon hosted Austin Fashion Week’s 50 Shades of Fashion red carpet party. Attendees were invited to wear shades of black, white and gray at the event that also benefited nonprofit Lone Star Paralysis through a silent auction.
“[Austin Fashion Week] is definitely important and helps you to be able to be more well-known in the community. It also helps create partnerships,” Morrison said, as she noted that the many events and venues draw different artists together and spawn new creativity.
“Not only does it help you get exposed, but it helps you think outside the box. You see things you’ve never seen before, and it gives you new ideas,” she said.
Boutique capitalizes on fashion networking
Buyer and manager Rachel McKee
Blue Elephant Boutique, 4001 N. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 510, 371-3259, www.facebook.com/BlueElephantBoutique
Blue Elephant Boutique opened in 2005 under the ownership of Lisa and Robert Willenzik, who had also started the Beauty Store & Salon and Luxe Apothetique. Unlike some of the other Willenzik endeavors, Blue Elephant does not include a salon but focuses on fashion and apothecary, including high-end skin care, cosmetics and clothing, as well offering its own line of less-expensive apparel inspired by designer trends.
Rachel McKee, buyer and manager for the boutique, describes the store as a unique one-stop shop that serves a variety of customers, from college students to mothers. Its name is symbolic of peace and prosperity, which suggests the relaxed, friendly and comfortable atmosphere of the store, McKee said.
One element of Blue Elephant’s first-time participation in Austin Fashion Week included a trunk show for Bandita Couture, as well as special shopping events.
“We as a company love working with local Austin artists and vendors, and it’s a great opportunity to be around like-minded people,” McKee said. “We love to be homegrown. We’re not at all corporate. We don’t do a lot of advertising, so most people know us by word of mouth. It’s a great chance to get in the public eye.”
Spotlighting African design
Founder Nailah Akinyémi-Sankofa
RunWay Underground, www.runwayunderground.webs.com
True to her tradition of working in unconventional ways, Nailah Akinyémi-Sankofa, founder of RunWay Underground, organized the renegade fashion event Sumptuous Sanctuaries on Aug. 9 just before Austin Fashion Week.
RunWay Underground was formed in 2008 as an organization that supports black African fashion professionals. The group often develops events to promote artists outside the mainstream, sometimes because it is too expensive to participate in programs such as Austin Fashion Week, or other times because African artists, designers and models are not equally included, Akinyémi-Sankofa said.
“We do it because people won’t open the door for us, and if they do, it’s half or part way,” she said.
Cohosted by Twin Liquors, the event showcased the work of various artists with each designer featuring a shroud garment that represented sanctuaries for women. Akinyémi-Sankofa developed the concept after working with a Ugandan woman who wanted to model. The woman had been beaten so badly by warlords in her native country that she was heavily scarred. Angered by the abuse, Akinyémi-Sankofa felt called to create a safe place for injured women.
The shrouds used in the event are up for auction until October, helping to raise funds for NTUMA’PA, a design studio supported by RunWay Underground, which will provide a place for various skilled artisans, many of them African immigrants, to use their abilities to support designers, including skills such as sewing and beadwork, all while making a fair wage. NTUMA’PA is an African word that suggests something is so well-made, that it is a living work and beyond this world.