Little Black Dress Designer

Dallas House of Blues goes black for iconic designer dress competition

Dallas House of Blues goes black for iconic designer dress competition

Winner Mai Pham, LBD Competition
Winner Mai Pham with her design. Photo by Ana Lavalle
Todd Fiscus, Ceron, LBD Competition
Todd Fiscus, Ceron Photo by Ana Lavalle
Lance Teel, Jeff Shell, Jan Strimple, LBD Competition
Lance Teel, Jeff Shell, Jan Strimple Photo by Ana Lavalle
Matt Gilley, Nerissa Helpenstill, Dustin Holcomb, LBD Competition
Matt Gilley, Nerissa Helpenstill, Dustin Holcomb Photo by Ana Lavalle
Neil Marek, Robbie Richard, LBD competition
Neil Marek, Robbie Richard Photo by Ana Lavalle
mentors with students, lbd competition
Mentors with design students. Photo by Ana Lavalle
Bay Berger, Erin Marquez, Anothony Chiang, lbd competition
Bay Berger, Erin Marquez, Anthony Chiang Photo by Ana Lavalle
Tre Anderson and Paige Westhoff, LBD Competition
Tre Anderson, Paige Westhoff Photo by Ana Lavalle
Christopher Wright Cordell, D'Andra Simmons, lbd competition
Christopher Wright Cordell, D'Andra Simmons Lock Photo by Ana Lavalle
Mai Pham, LeeAnne Locken, LBD Competition
Mai Pham, LeeAnne Locken Photo by Ana Lavalle
Winner Mai Pham, LBD Competition
Todd Fiscus, Ceron, LBD Competition
Lance Teel, Jeff Shell, Jan Strimple, LBD Competition
Matt Gilley, Nerissa Helpenstill, Dustin Holcomb, LBD Competition
Neil Marek, Robbie Richard, LBD competition
mentors with students, lbd competition
Bay Berger, Erin Marquez, Anothony Chiang, lbd competition
Tre Anderson and Paige Westhoff, LBD Competition
Christopher Wright Cordell, D'Andra Simmons, lbd competition
Mai Pham, LeeAnne Locken, LBD Competition

Local style setters descended on the House of Blues Dallas for the Little Black Dress Designer fashion show and competition. The question on everyone’s minds: Who would take home the first-place prize?

LBBD founder Jeff Shell transformed the popular concert venue into a chic runway straight out of a scene from New York Fashion Week. The Lucite chair-lined catwalk provided the perfect backdrop for cocktail hour, where guests —including Todd Fiscus, Ceron, Courtney Hoffman, Steve Kemble and Lea Fisher — were buzzing about the fantastic fashion to come.

In addition to bragging rights, winners were awarded a portion of $34,000 in scholarships, so this was more than fun and games for these students. Their charge: reinvent the iconic LBD, a staple in women’s wardrobes for decades. As models wearing the top 10 looks strutted down the runway, front-row VIPs clapped and nodded in approval.

Top designers were also granted summer-long apprenticeships with industry mentors, including Lucy Dang, Abi Ferrin, Khanh Nguyen, Jenny Siede, Jerry Matthews and Francesca Viamonte. During their apprenticeship, the students will remake their designs at retail quality for local social icons referred to as the “Muses of LBDD.” The final designs will be unveiled this fall.

The 2014 Muses of LBDD — Annika Cail, Maggie Kipp, LeeAnne Locken, Dawn Mellon, Debra Nelson, Jonika Nix, Nina Sachse, D’Andra Simmons Lock, Amy Vanderoef and Paige Westhoff — sat in the front row, waiting to be introduced to their designers for the first time.

Just when the designers thought they may die from the anticipation, Shell got onstage to announce the winners, which were determined prior to the event by a panel of judges that included yours truly, Dang, Ferrin, Nerissa Helpenstill, Jackson, Jan Strimple, Ese Azenabor, Marika Baca, Tiffany Hendra, Neil Marek, Jerry Matthews, Nguyen, Robbie Richard, Jane Rozelle, Prashe Shah and Viamonte.

Meet the winners:

  • First place: Mai Pham (University of North Texas)
  • Second place: Bridgette Burke (Wade College)
  • Third place: Ekaterina Levchenko (Houseton Community College)
  • Fourth place: Christopher Wright Cordell (El Centro College)
  • Fifth place: Tre Anderson (Wade College)

I hate to say I told you so, but this judge liked Pham’s design from the start. Think textured leather that is fitted in all the right places. Pham’s mentor is Ferrin and Locken is her muse, so I have no doubt this dress will be a hit on the social scene come fall when it is remade.

“Winning the Little Black Dress Designer competition was simply incredible,” Pham says. “Not only did it give me that boost of confidence I needed, but I also got to showcase my work to professionals in the industry.

“As an unknown student designer, that is a huge deal for me. The generous scholarship will help me further myself and pursue my career. I couldn’t ask for more! I feel very blessed to be a part of the LBDD family.”

The Little Black Dress Designer competition gives students and emerging designers the opportunity to reimagine a fashion icon for a chance to win academic scholarships and network with industry professionals. The competition was founded in 2008 by Jeff Shell, the director of Houston-based modeling and acting firm Neal Hamil Agency.

Since the competition’s founding, LBDD has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships to Texas students.