After a yearlong hiatus due to the pandemic, Modern Luxury Houston magazine’s signature event, presented in collaboration with Tootsies, is making its highly anticipated return to celebrate the fall season in style.
The 13th annual Fresh Faces of Fashion will bring the latest trends and a charitable purpose to the forefront in early October. As in years past, the invitation-only evening will recognize powerhouse female philanthropists, as they take the runway dressed to the nines in two different looks that have been meticulously refined by Tootsies creative fashion director Fady Armanious.
The new class of “it girls” includes Bethany Buchanan, Katie McGee Field, Elia Gabbanelli, Mari Trevino Glass, Rasheba Lewis, Jenna Lindley, Abigail Owen Pontez, Gillian Sarofim, Ashley Sloan, Melissa Sugulas, Krystal Crane Thompson and Candice Young.
These young altruists join a family of those who already hold the distinction. In fact, given the program’s strong track record, Jennifer Cope and her team at Houston magazine have garnered an impressive Rolodex of former Fresh Faces of Fashion recipients, whom they heavily rely on to recommend future candidates by completing a nomination form every spring. Around the same time, the magazine also hosts a reunion luncheon, inviting the former honorees to bring a plus one of their choosing as a fun way to meet potential ladies in the running.
“This partnership is a great vehicle to spotlight women in our city, who are earnestly working to improve our community and make a positive impact through their nonprofit activities,” said Tootsies owners Donna and Norman Lewis, reflecting on the long-standing relationship between the city’s preeminent luxury lifestyle publication and their fashion haven located in the heart of River Oaks.
The 10 women selected to participate in the program are typically revealed during an elaborate summertime soirée. With the rising number of coronavirus cases however, this year’s announcement was released on social media in mid-September, and excitingly, the list includes two additional names – a nod to the event’s successful 12-year history.
In the months leading up to their catwalk debut, the women participate in a video interview and a photo shoot. The resulting imagery, featuring the Residences at La Colombe d’Or, is set to grace a multi-page spread in Houston magazine’s October issue. All the while, they receive guidance from Armanious, collaborating closely with him on their styling. As he learns more about their passions, professions and personalities, he aspires to dress them in something that not only adds to their lifestyle but is equally shaped by it.
“These women are real people,” Armanious said. “They have a way that they want to be perceived, and I would never take that away from them. I’m here to enhance. We want their looks to work together as a cohesive whole, but we also want them to shine on their own. We want them to feel beautiful and powerful and comfortable in what they’re wearing because this is a memory that they will keep forever.”
The Fresh Faces of Fashion honorees kick off the fashion show once guests have had the opportunity to mix and mingle throughout the sparkling high-end clothing store with a cocktail in hand. Professional models will then present the new fall styles, showcasing the latest Bronx and Banco collection by the Australian label’s founder and creative director Natalie De’Banco, before the 12 women return to the runway for a final walk in their second ensemble.
“We created Fresh Faces of Fashion in 2008 with a mission to discover that new wave of trendsetting philanthropists, the who’s who of leading ladies in the city,” said Cope, who has worked alongside Shelley Ludwick, the Houston store director at Tootsies, and Ellie Francisco, the owner of francisco+co, since the program’s inception.
With a heart for giving back to the community, the team always designates one local nonprofit organization as the event’s beneficiary. This year, the ticket proceeds will support the Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation, which advocates for stray and homeless animals across the country by supporting shelters, promoting pet adoptions and advancing the journey to a no-kill world. Previous charities include Bo’s Place, Freedom Place, Prelude Music Foundation, Buffalo Bayou Partnership and TEACH.
“The occasion quickly grew into the must-attend party of the season, and socialites rush to get their hands on a ticket,” Cope said. “It’s really the biggest and best event that we produce from head to toe every year. It’s our shining star and will hopefully continue to be long into the future.”
The 2021 Fresh Faces of Fashion is sponsored by Tootsies, Porsche, the Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation, Pura Vida Tequila, Chateau Ste Michelle, Perrier, A Fare Extraordinaire (owner Rachael Volz is a former Fresh Face herself), Highway Vodka, Lexis Florist, Page Parkes Texas and Alto.
Photography by: Traci Ling