The Future Of Dallas’ Fashion Industry: The 2017 Rising Stars

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On March 7, Fashion Group International (FGI) of Dallas hosted hundreds of Dallas’ most fashionable for their annual Rising Stars Awards at Galleria Dallas. An unconventional setting, the ceremony took place in an unfinished retail space with an industrial chic vibe – the creative brainchild of runway extraordinaire Jan Strimple and FGI of Dallas’ Regional Director Ken Weber. Adorned with splashes of graffiti art and neon painters tape, the space was transformed into the perfect setting, a large-scale art installation, for an evening of celebrating Dallas’ creative talent and fashion industry professionals.


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“It was such a collaboration of creativity,” said FGI board member and Galleria Dallas fashion expert/spokeswoman Holly Quartaro. “I love that we were able to celebrate and show off the work of these talented nominees in a new and exciting way.”

Complete with a DJ, cocktails and runway shows by fashion design nominees, the event went off without a hitch and certainly wowed guests with its unique appeal. Emcee Courtney Kerr hammed it up onstage as last year’s Rising Stars awarded each winner with a coveted glass trophy. This year’s event ensured plenty of surprises, including a brand new category celebrating local fashion bloggers. We had a chance to get up close and personal with this year’s Rising Star Award winners. Read on for the scoop!

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Winner Gary Walden: Makeup/Hair Artistry

DFW Style Daily: How did you come up with the installation concept above?

“I chose a client to model for me for the installation. It was important to me that I show my real work, which I feel is also my best work. She wears a ‘soft edge,’ which is my specialty. I like to create looks specific to the individual, focusing on their personal style and unique qualities.”

What plans do you have in store for your salon?

“My focus moving forward is to broaden the reach of accessible beauty.”

How did it feel to be recognized by FGI in the form of a Rising Star Award?

“The win is the most incredible surprise! I have such respect for FGI, the board members and the events they provide, and the nominees in my category. I’ve been in the industry for 27 years; I never anticipated this.”

How did you feel about the new installation element at this year’s event?

“The live installations were such a perfect concept!  We were able to communicate who we are and what our mission is all about while also being inspired by our fellow nominees.”

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Winner Leah Frazier: Blogging

DFW Style Daily: How does it feel to win an FGI Rising Star Award? 

“It really feels surreal. I’ve been a supporter of FGI for seven years and this is the first year that they have honored bloggers at the awards event! I hope that the award serves as inspiration to all to work hard and to keep pursuing your dreams, no matter the obstacles.”

What do you think about this year’s creative event set-up? 

I loved the venue! I am so proud of both Ken Weber and Jan Strimple for bringing this creative artistic vision to life. I’m a Deep Ellum kind of girl. So to see graffiti, neons, graphic prints, etc. — I was a kid in a candy store.”

What is the best part of being a FashionPreneur? 

“The best part getting to witness the lives that are affected by whatever it is that I’m doing; whether it’s personal shopping, bringing a creative vision to life, or giving someone exposure or a voice through my blog. Making people happy and giving people hope through fashion and art is one of the greatest joys of my career.”

What other endeavors are you looking to dip a toe into this year? 

“Overall I want to seek to contribute to more major magazines, travel and blog more internationally, and lastly still use my platform to bring attention to incredible local designers and brands maybe through some fun, interactive pop-up events.”

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Winner Jeremy Michael Calhoun: Accessories

DFW Style Daily: What aspects of menswear do you find to be the most interesting?

“I feel accessories can make a statement without being overly bold. Bowties became a passion for me because they become an instant conversation piece that can tell an instant, interesting story about the person wearing it.”

How does the concept of the bowtie come to play in your creative process?

“I find inspiration in many random, mundane things and turn them into something interesting. I love working with unconventional materials to create unusual art pieces.”

How does it feel to win an FGI Rising Star Award?

“Being recognized by professionals and peers is an honor and it validates my passion. Building a brand is an arduous process and sometimes obstacles can be discouraging. However, knowing that other people value your work, gives me the motivation to continue to work on my craft and improve with every piece I create.”

Tell us about what you’re working on next. 

“Eventually I want to create a commercial line that is unique, true to my brand but appealing to most consumers. However, I will always keep working with new materials and finding inspiration in diverse items and places in order to grow as an artist and men’s designer.”

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Winner Shelly Rosenberg: Interior Design

DFW Style Daily: What do you love most about interior design? 

Shelly Rosenberg: “Interior design used to be considered an exclusive privilege for an elite few, but today home design is much more mainstream and accessible. I love the recent attention our industry is getting. Traditional interior design is alive and well, but now we have additional options like retail store staff designers and remote e-design through professionals online.”

How does it feel to win an FGI Rising Star Award? 

“I am! I am a new member of FGI Dallas and am really impressed with how diverse the membership is. To have such enthusiastic talent recognize my career is very satisfying.”

What does the future hold for the Shelly Rosenberg Studio?

“I am currently building my own dream house with the architectural firm Bernbaum Magadini and builder, Coats Homes. In 2018, I will be featured in a Rizzoli Book ‘Entertaining at Home: Personal Reflections from Seasoned Hosts’ by Ronda Carman.”

What is it like working in DFW as an interior designer?

“Our residents are sophisticated, have great taste and are more willing than ever to take risks in their homes, like using more color or unique materials.”

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Winner Thomas Garza: Photography

DFW Style Daily: What is your favorite aspect of photography?

Thomas Garza: “Discovering and capturing the beauty in people and the world. I love being able to move people and tell a story with a single moment in time.”

What did you think of the vibe of this year’s FGI Rising Star Awards ceremony?

“I loved the underground Brooklyn feel to the event. It was like you were in a different place in the world.”

How does it feel to win an FGI Rising Star Award?

“I was shocked! There were some really great photographers in there and I feel honored to have won. A Rising Star Award has been a goal of mine for several years!”

You’ve already mastered New York Fashion Week and now Rising Stars. What’s next? 

“That was another big goal of mine in life. It’s incredible to attend and be among some of the top designers, stylists, models and photographers. My next goal is to shoot Paris Fashion Week. I’ve already received a few invites so I think that’s the next step!”

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Winner Women’s Fashion and People’s Choice: Esé Azénabor

DFW Style Daily: What is your favorite part about the creative process?

Esé Azénabor: “My favorite part is seeing something that does not yet exist come to life. It’s my biggest high!”

What do you attribute to your success?

“My mother has guided me in many ways, especially on how to mix business and talent. Also, to my fiancé Eric who has been a great support and always points me in the right direction. I owe a lot of my success to both of them.”

What’s the next step for the Esé Azénabor brand? 

“We definitely want to grow worldwide. We just launched our bridal collection and have already seen major growth in international custom orders for bridal.”

How does it feel to win not one, but two FGI Rising Stars Awards? 

“Being awarded for the hard work I do is always a wonderful feeling. Winning two was completely unexpected! I am so humbled and incredibly thankful.”

Images 1 and 2 courtesy of Paul Go. Image 7 courtesy of Manhattan with a Twist. All other images courtesy of individual winners.

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