After a hiatus, a former adult fashion design prodigy returns – with looks for Lynn and more

FASHION DESIGNER JONATHAN Blake didn’t have to dig too deep for inspiration for Lynn Wyatt’s dress for Menil’s 35th anniversary gala in early December. The woman herself was inspiration enough.

“One look at the dress,” he said, fainting a little, “and you know exactly who it’s made for. It’s a red silk crepe number emphasizing good tailoring and timeless taste. And the sleeve and neckline cuffs are trimmed with ostrich feathers which themselves have a glitzy backstory. The Houston-based designer boasts that he’s from the same place — an undisclosed South African supplier — that famous designers have been using for 100 years. Why, that’s where Bob Mackie and Óscar de la Renta got the plumage of Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland! Talk about fine feathered friends.

“It may not seem that big,” Blake acknowledges, “but even to buy the feathers, I had to have five SKUs.” He says the quality is much better than what he could find elsewhere.

Such are the tricks of a young luxury womenswear designer who, after a long hiatus, is back – and firmly booked through the new year. He’s got a whole new business model, and he’s ready to make a splash with lavish looks, for Wyatt and other leading ladies, to debut at the most anticipated end-of-year gala.

Between Covid and his family’s challenges — you may have heard the gossip — Blake was almost entirely glossed over. “Originally the plan was for the hiatus to be for a year,” says the third-generation Houstonian, once a very famous child prodigy, “but I’ve traveled and pursued things that I couldn’t. to chase.”

Among other off-grid interests, the shy, soft-spoken, and ever-cute Blake turned to his pet snake for companionship. They are incredibly misunderstood, he says of poisonous reptiles, and he often feels misunderstood himself. “People don’t understand me, and that’s okay.” His break allowed him to obtain the necessary permits and to learn about the safe handling of snakes.

He was the opening designer for Runway Houston’s 10th anniversary fashion show and unveiled his first collection in two years, Regal, in April. “He was inspired by powerful, independent women,” says Blake, now 31. Going forward, the designer will focus on one collection per year, filled with what he describes as seasonless pieces. “What I call ‘seasonless’ are those you can wear in both fall and winter – all you have to do is ask for a fabric or color change, and the option to have it done. to your measurements.” Fans of the collection include the Saudi royal family and Paris Hilton, he says.

Crowds turned out in the spring to see Blake’s first collection in two years.

A new piece by Jonathan Blake, resurfacing after a two-year hiatus

Lynn Wyatt, in a jacket Blake made for her a few years ago, has long been a fan of the young designer.

Blake’s sketch of a dress from her latest collection

Famous “pink-haired, who cares” fashionista Vivian Wise has long been Blake’s friend and patron.

Blake’s friend and client Elia Gabanelli, in his premiere earlier this year

Blake had a moment of glory – in a stylized promotional portrait from the start of his career.

Blake’s pieces were showcased at Runway Houston’s 10th anniversary at Downtown’s Post in the spring.

The designer named his new line “Regal”.

The brand operates like a small fashion house focusing solely on made-to-measure. Blake has measurements on file and even mannequins made explicitly for his best clients – so if they see something in the collection that catches their eye, he can do it without them having to come each time.

“Even though I can’t say Jonathan Blake is haute couture, because it’s a very special brand that’s really only for Parisian designers, I operate in a very similar way,” says Blake.

Blake became a fixture in Houston social/fashionista circles in 2012 when he, then barely legal, released his first Junior League collection. Ten years later, he sticks to what he knows, with the heavy and expert use of jewel tones. “They look good on almost everyone, and they never come off.”

Blake dresses Wyatt and several notables for the Menil Gala on December 3, including Carolyn Farb, Elia Gabanelli and Vivian Wise. The pieces are a bit rock ‘n’ roll, with an infusion of celestial motifs, the combo giving a bit of dreamy old Hollywood.

Farb will stun in a dress that Blake originally imagined in a liquid silver ottoman fabric from France, with the skirt in soft voile tulle. Farb and Blake opted for Italian lace for the top and Spanish tulle which is a deep sapphire blue to gold ombré with platinum foiling for the skirt. The dress has over 75 yards of unique tulle and the petticoat inside is completely handmade, while the lace top has a full corset with built-in satin ribbons.

When Elia Gabanelli contacted Blake, his inspiration was the late actress and muse of Cartier, Maria Felix. Thus, she will wear an embroidered Chantilly lace corset with a genuine Alençon lace top and bottom, both handmade, all lined in silk and cashmere. The lace for the corset was hand-embroidered in Switzerland and took almost six months to make, with her corset taking over 100 hours to construct.

For her part, Wise, whose dress is 100% handmade and also took months to complete, will be covered in Swarovski crystals reflecting shades of pink, lavender, blue, green, orange, red and yellow.

The creator himself will also attend the Ménil ball, perhaps a sort of second coming out party. What did he imagine to wear? Her jacket will be a deep purple, almost aubergine, trimmed with handmade black French lace. “I chose a jacket inspired by a tuxedo jacket instead of the typical tuxedo,” he says, “because the theme is ‘surreal’ and what could be more surreal than a dream?”

Joseph E. Golightly