The Style Awards recognizes the leading men and women in fashion, business, and the arts and honors them for their extraordinary accomplishments.
Join us for the Style Awards Friday, August 19, 2016, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
James Houk is a fashion designer, illustrator and painter who studied at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA James achieved a distinguished military career as a member of the U.S. Army’s Special Reaction Team (SRT) Counter-Terrorism/Hostage Rescue Team based at Fort Meade in Maryland. The SRT is an elite anti-terrorism team trained in highly specialized, tactical law enforcement and helicopter operations. He and his team also assisted in the protection of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, recently even receiving a personal note of thanks from President Bush. Following his Military service James returned to his life long passion, boxing and martial arts, becoming a professional boxer and kick boxer.
After great success at American Eagle James branched out into private label work, designing for companies such as J.Crew and Bobby Jones. This work with Bobby Jones lead to another career ascension as their parent company Hickey Freeman, took an interest in James and introduced him to designing finely tailored clothing for men. After this education in fabrics, fit and patterns James broadened his scope of work to include fine shirts, jackets and pants. In 2000 after his private label success James decided to venture forward with his own company and brand. He took this first brand named after his Pittsburgh neighborhood Brookline and sold it to the first store he approached.. Barneys New York. This began a years long partnership with Barneys that continues until today. He has worked with celebrities from Beyonce to Lady Gaga. He has appeared in many television as
well as published interviews and editorials. He has had major success on the fashion runway culminating in his 2014 show at Union Station in Los Angeles receiving rave reviews from fashion experts in the LA Times. James and his family; his wife Kathleen, daughter Caitlin and sons Christopher and Conner look forward to continuing to promote their home, the greatest place in the World, PITTSBURGH, PA.
Leesa made a decision late in life to follow her and attend “The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree. She was President & Vice President of Fashion Club thru 2011-2014. She was recently inducted into the National Honor Society for academic achievement.
Leesa’s motto had always been work hard & the rest will follow and that is what she has done.
As design teacher to Pittsburgh Community Youth Invasion at the Andy Warhol Museum. Leesa has participated in local featured Runway Shows such as, Habitat for Humanity, 50 Shades of Pink, Earth Day and has been chosen to design a dress for the Mrs. PA Pageant in Philadelphia this year.
Leesa’s future plans is to continue designing & create the second manufacturing plant here in Pittsburgh and in the state as well. This will in hence create jobs for the city and expand to the city that fashion is here in Pittsburgh.
You can check out Leesa’s designs opening night in Pittsburgh for “Style Week” this August where she will be featuring 2 designs from the he 1920’s and three from the 1960’s
Leesa has also been invited to feature her design in the Young Designer Awards in New York & London this fall. An award given to new upcoming designers who are making a impact. She is also nominated for Designer of the Year for Style Week Pittsburgh.
Leesa is just getting started with many accomplishments and we look forward to seeing what she brings to the City of Pittsburgh in the future.
Nisha Blackwell is a Pittsburgh native and Founder of Knotzland, a start up committed to sourcing and rescuing rare & high-quality fabrics around the city and constructing them into stylish upcycled accessories. The uniqueness lies in its commitment to crafting an ecosystem that brings artists, designers, organizations and customers into the sustainable fashion conversation. Starting this process on an ironing board in her living room she then pitched her way into the 3rd cycle of ThrillMill, and now has Manufacturing in a studio space in Homewood – Her journey is one of Niche discovery through necessity where she was given the basis and courage to take her venture to the next level- entrepreneurship. Along with being a Social Entrepreneur , she is also a lifetime resident of the East Side; specifically the Homewood Community. Upon finishing her degree at Edinboro University she moved back to Homewood in 2007 and has since spent a great amount of time serving the Pittsburgh community through platforms like Americorp, Strong Women Strong Girls and Gtech’s ReEnergize Pittsburgh program- advocating for the neighborhood’s economic equality and and bridging the divides in environmental justice. The knowledge and leadership gained from serving has not only enhanced her passion for community engagement, but allowed her to to develop an even more holistic view of the city that has allowed her to plant her feet where she has the most passion for change. She now uses her business to raise awareness in the importance of sustainability in the areas of community, environment and fashion.
Malcolm Anthony Williams is the Founder and Fashion Designer of Willie Gee’s. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Williams founded the company in September 2006. As a company, his plans are to take each collection to the next global level and beyond. Willie Gee’s Designer Collection is an exquisite collection designed to outfit everyone’s style from everyday fashion to gowns and suits for Red Carpet events. Using the past to recreate the future in fashion has allowed Willie Gee’s to become the fashion house it is today. When designing my garments, I like to imagine this fantasy world; a world where everyone is beautifully dressed, and with absolute style and taste. In this world, my friends and I are living busy, yet amazing lives. We’re attending business meetings and dinners to continue our prosperity. We’re flying on jets around the world to be welcomed to red carpet premieres and galas. But most of all in this world, we are living our lives looking and being fabulous.
My motivations to sew are my parents and grandparents. It was my grandparents whom introduced sewing to me. Growing up my mother and my father were constantly working, so my grandparents helped raise me. I’ve learned from my parents that diligence and focus will pay off. And from my grandparents, I’ve learned sometimes sacrifice is needed in order for the family to thrive. They made me understand why my parents were working so hard and why they’ve sacrificed time out of their lives to help raise me. Their influences and characters have made me become the man I am today.
Fashion is my life. It is the air I breathe. It is the runaway that I walk on with every step that I take. It’s my work of art, which comes to life the moment it is dressed upon a person. I am a Fashionist. Cut me open and you’ll find veins of thread and muscles of fabric. I was born to sew. It is why I strive to become bigger and better every year. The real challenge is to not hinder myself, nor let the world’s criticism affect my visions. I am a self taught designer and I will continue to teach myself every technique of sewing that I can. Because with every designed being drawn and sewn, I am living my life fabulously.