ANGELINA MATA | Mata makes her Fashion Week debut
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Mata makes her Fashion Week debut

Photo by Xelina Flores-Chasnoff – Special for the San Antonio Express News

By Michael Quintanilla of the San Antonio Express News

NEW YORK — As New York Fashion Week reached its crescendo, 15 designers crammed Wednesday’s fashion calendar. Among them: Norma Kamali, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, Ralph Rucci, Anna Sui and Angelina Mata.

Angelina Mata?

San Antonio’s own talent isn’t a household name yet in New York fashion circles, but the Churchill High School grad is working — and hoping — to hit the big time in the Big Apple with her spring 2012 collection. The debut was financed with “crowdfunding” or donations pledged on, a website where money is raised for artistic projects.

Unlike most designers, Mata didn’t produce a runway show. Instead, she wisely unveiled her collection of haute creativity in a Manhattan setting resembling an art installation with models in still-life poses.

Almost 100 guests, including several San Antonians living in New York, were ushered into a vast white space at Cult Studios not far from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology.

They gasped at the breathtaking sight before them: 25 models, each uniquely exotic — African American, Scandinavian, Russian, Latino — and appearing taller than regulation supermodels because of their extreme platform footwear created by San Antonio artists Jose Chapa and Peter Zubiate.

Their hair was fantastically designed by another San Antonian, Henry de la Paz, to emphasize the variations in artistic themes or looks that Mata created during the past several months in her downtown San Antonio atelier.

One group of dresses was ultramodern and ladylike in white with bright-colored piping. Another was primitive with tribal prints and copper accessories. And yet another set of dresses was delicate and romantic with fragile fabrics in tinted shades of salmon and rose.

Mata also was tuned in to the big story for next spring with a group of dresses in eye-popping orange, fuchsia, turquoise, ochre and various prints.

However, what makes Mata unique as a designer is her innovative and imaginative play with textiles. Her tour de force was an intricate draped gown of sheer organza; she had buried the fabric with rusty barbecue grills, decomposing corn husks and flora. When unearthed, the surprising effect was beautiful.

Another gown’s bodice was simply created with two crocheted vintage doilies coated with paint that was purposely allowed to drip down the sheer pleated A-line skirt. Once dried, the dress was hammered to make it supple.

“My aunts came over to help me,” Mata recalled. “We dug fabric out of the ground. We burned it. We painted it. We hammered it. They kept asking, ‘When are we going to sew?’ ”

Mata, 43, now challenging the New York fashion establishment, already has made it in the Alamo City, where the couturier has a devoted fan base among the social set and the city’s community of artists. Her work as a bespoke designer also extends throughout Central and South Texas.

Of course, the competition in New York is fierce. This week alone, more than 200 designers vied for the attention of media and international buyers who were talent-scouting, star-spotting, blogging and tweeting in search of fashion’s next star.

It takes courage to enter the fray. Mata, who has been building her made-to-order business for 10 years, said New York was the next logical move.

But that progression isn’t just a business strategy; it’s also a growth experience for a creative artist such as the hairstylist-turned-fashion designer-turned businesswoman. And she didn’t go it alone.

For her New York debut, she had a little help from other San Antonians, including fiber artist Laura Beehler; make-up artist Patrick Eichler, who has worked with Alexander McQueen, Valentino and Zac Posen; multimedia artist and brother John Mata; and a graphic artist who goes by the catchy moniker of Can2.

“She’s on the right track,” said de la Paz about his longtime friend. “She means business by taking this to the next level. She should have done this a long time ago. She’s ready.”

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