By David Goldberg
For creative types who dream of sharing their art with the world (including some who write for this magazine), Houston is an ideal place to start. Though Andrew Drayton hails from Louisiana, he’s seen his dream of creating couture become a flourishing reality in Houston.
Last month, the Hobby Center hosted Drayton’s seventh show for his fashion line, Lord Andrew Couture, which was met with instant applause. Now, as he takes steps to bring his brand to New York and beyond, the designer spoke with OutSmart about how he found Houston, and what the city has given him.
Drayton was born in Trenton, New Jersey, where his father was stationed in the Air Force. He moved with his mother and brother to the small town of Jennings, Louisiana, in the early ’70s and soon fell under the tutelage of his grandmother, a master seamstress in the area. Years later, his family played another pivotal role in his development as a designer when his cousin asked him to design a lavish ensemble for her Mardi Gras costume. Drayton originally refused, thinking he wasn’t up to the task. “She said, ‘Yes you can. I believe that you can,’” Drayton remembers. Soon, he was helping friends in the industry and developing his own technique.
When he was 21, Drayton came out to his family and friends in Jennings. “Being a young African-American guy from a state like Louisiana, it was nice for me to know that whatever I did, my family would support me,” Drayton says. When he moved to Houston in 2001 to pursue new career opportunities, he felt confident enough to arrive as an out gay man, and was able to easily assimilate into Houston’s gay community.
Landing a job at the Saks Fifth Avenue designer salon in Houston in 2008 exposed Drayton to the work of some of his future influences—Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, and Valentino. At the insistence of a few friends in the industry, he began tinkering with the idea of his own line.
Lord Andrew Couture launched in 2012 and has shown two fashion collections per year since then. Because Drayton makes every piece custom, it didn’t take him long to make a name for himself within Houston’s high-fashion-hungry socialite scene. He insists that he can make anything his clients need, from formal wear to costumes. “My clothes are for any woman who wants a timeless, classic piece,” Drayton says. “What I make is true couture; it’s made to last the test of time. If I make something for a woman today, she can pull it out in five years and she’ll still be in with the trends.”
Drayton’s most recent June show (which he calls the “feather in his cap”) was themed around transitions, with black, red, and white colors symbolizing death, love, and purity. He’s now making arrangements to possibly debut next spring’s show in New York City, and he views his recent success at the Hobby Center as the ideal springboard to the next phase of his company. He hopes to have consistent shows in New York, and eventually to cross the pond and establish a presence in Europe.
And once those dreams are down? Costumes. Drayton hopes to one day make costumes for movies of all kinds—from big budget to independent—and to eventually focus on the lavish look of period costumes.
Drayton has been grateful for the receptive welcome that Houston’s fashion community has shown him, and believes that he is now in a unique position to share the love. “In the fashion industry, there aren’t many African Americans with big names,” Drayton says. “I see myself as an ambassador to show other African Americans that you can aspire to do anything and be anything that you want. You will have to work at it, but it is something that is truly attainable.”
David Goldberg also writes about marriage equality in this issue of OutSmart magazine.