As a couturier, what are your favourite fabrics to work with?
Over the past 36 years of creating custom garments, I've chosen, almost exclusively, to work with natural fibers. Even my interlinings and linings are of natural fibers. Their individual characteristics allow us to mold and shape the garment through the construction process, a benefit not allowed with most synthetics.
Do you ever feel the pressure when you are creating looks for such important occasions?
About 90% of the garments we create, have a specific wear date, which we call "deadline driven". However, the most challenging and stressful project was designing and creating the inaugural wardrobe for First Lady Laura Bush, when her husband, George W. Bush, was elected President of the United States in 2000. Since Mrs. Bush and I had a long standing professional relationship prior to the inauguration, I would normally be undaunted by the opportunity. But, remember, that this particular Presidential election was very contentious, and the Supreme Court decision was not announced until December 12, 2000, which left me and my staff, with just 4 weeks to design and create her 10 garments for the inaugural ceremonies and surrounding events....not to mention the special garments for numerous clients attending the same festivities.
What has been your most intricate work to date?
A wonderful, yet intricately involved project, was that of a dear client's daughter's wedding. The entire wedding had a richly embroidered theme. Very detailed and independently characteristic hand embroidery was created for the rehearsal dinner dresses, bridal gown, bridesmaids' dresses, mother-of-the-bride's dress and coat, the bride's departure dress and coat...and we continued the theme by creating the hand embroidered velvet upholstery for the bridal bed, a wedding gift from the bride's mother and father.
You travel frequently, what is your ultimate travel destination and why?
Traveling for leisure is a true luxury, and although I love the thrill of a new city or adventure, I find a great deal of comfort in familiarity. A city close to my heart, and one which I have been fortunate enough to visit on numerous occasions, is Venice, Italy. This city has left an indelible mark on my soul, with her ability to preserve history, art and architecture, while evoking reclusivity, mystery and sensuality.
Do you have a hero designer? Past or Present? And what do you admire about them?
While studying fashion design at the University of North Texas, I had great access to the University's vast collection of couture garments designed by Cristobal Balenciaga. His distinct talent, along with that of James Galanos, held a great influence in my choice to pursue a career in fashion design, particularly with regard to custom creations. Admittedly, my design philosophy of always creating garments to celebrate the beauty of the feminine form, was relayed to me by the extraordinary genius of Valentino Garavani and Oscar de la Renta.
What has been your most interesting commission to date, and why?
Texans are known for eccentricities, and one particular commission always raises a chuckle upon recall: A beautiful client was walking about on her family ranch with her aging father: while out surveying the wild life, an aggressive ostrich attacked her father. Though the injuries to the pride were greater than the flesh, the protective daughter went back out and shot the said ostrich, had the hide tanned, and promptly brought it to me, where I fashioned it into a dashing hunting skirt.
In your personal style, do you prefer to dress up or dress down?
I approach every aspect of my life with a little more formality than most. This extends to my mode of dress, which in both formal and casual situations, is generally more studied than I would like to admit. I dream, however, of exhibiting a relaxed, yet confident, elegance.
What is your tip for elegant dressing?
For me, elegance in dress is evoked not solely with exquisite choice of cloth and a closely monitored fit. A simplicity and refinement in cut and colour, can go a long way in suggesting maturity and education. Being gracious, respectful, and honest in every mode of dress, will carve a lasting vision of appreciation and elegance. That...and being clean and well groomed. Myself, being born with dark hair, dark eyes and an olive complexion...my mother always reminded me that I would look dirty, quicker than most. Sage advice.
What do you not leave home without?
I never leave home without kissing my partner...and my dog.
Is there someone you would like to create a dress for?
I think it is a secret desire of mine, to be able to create a dress for my mother. She left her earthly bounds when I was 19. She taught me to parallel park, to set a proper table, and to revere tailored clothing. She taught me to cherish women, and to be of good service. I find over the years, that a little portion of her surfaces in each client.