For fashion designer Alvin Alan Ramírez Riojas, developing a love of art and design came quite naturally as he was growing up in a family of creatives. “I have memories of my grandfather playing the guitar at family gatherings. I remember the joy of those gatherings full of music and many activities,” he recalls.
And his mother was a fashion designer in her own right. “My mother was very creative; in a self-taught way, she created costumes and outfits and dressed me in them for the festivals that we celebrated when I was little. She also made costumes for Christmas and decorated the house. She was my first teacher, who taught me to combine colors, discover different fabrics, and develop a concern for aesthetics.”
Motivated, perhaps, by his mother’s enthusiasm for the work, Riojas developed a strong preoccupation with fashion. “I remember from a very young age worrying about being well presented—attentive to every detail of my clothing, including body expression, accessories, and hair.”
Even when he was quite young, he participated in as many folkloric events as he could, just so he could wear a suit. “Back then, I dreamed of [fashion-show runways] where my creations were displayed. I think all of this motivated my interest in fashion and design,” says Riojas.
A native of Monclova, Coahuila, the northern Mexican town where he lived for many years, the 41-year-old has been in Houston since 2003. He is now a full-time fashion designer with a studio in the Sawyer Yards artists complex. “There, I have my production space and my shop. I sell all my creations: clothing, costumes, pet clothes, and accessories—mainly millinery hats.”
But on occasion, he also works as a costume designer—something he’s done for more than twenty years now. “My creative work oscillates between the playful and the sophisticated. My thing is to express myself and be creatively free,” Riojas adds.
Despite his success, his path was not always an easy one. “In my hometown, the cultural, social, and economic limitations postponed my career as a designer,” he says. Now, though, he is about to earn his degree in fashion design from Houston Community College, where he is a member of the Honor Society.
The inspiration for his work, he explains, is “the folklore of my city and my native country, its costumes, and that floral spirit.” But what inspires him the most is the satisfaction he gets from creating. “It is that desire to express myself through couture design, to pour something that is very personal and complex into my clothing creations.”
The bilingual designer is a big fan of Karl Lagerfeld’s style, as well as his views on fashion. “I also adore Frida Kahlo and Marilyn Monroe. My dog is a Mi-Ki named Frida, and is part of my family here in Houston,” he adds.
Riojas was recently honored in Dallas at this year’s Fashion Group International Rising Star Awards. “They awarded my work. I feel like I’m on track in my career,” Riojas says.
Now, he is working more than eight hours a day on the details of premiering his first collection as a designer. “The fashion show is entitled Ethereal Blooms, and is an evocation of the natural and cultural beauty of the city of San Miguel de Allende. This collection expresses the most characteristic elements of my work: flowers, elegance, and colonial style,” Riojas says. The October show pays tribute to Riojas’ Hispanic-Mexican cultural heritage by showcasing hand-sewn embroidery and appliqués. “I am 100 percent focused on this, and I hope it will be a great celebration of new opportunities in the world of fashion,” he adds.
And just what advice does he give up-and-coming designers? “Even if something seems far away, it is necessary to continue with your work day by day and move forward with your creations. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, your dream materializes. [Seek out and get help from] positive people who also believe in that dream. That is a good guide to success.”
As for his personal life, Riojas calls his partner “my love and my greatest collaboration. He is the one who has supported and strengthened me on this path of self-realization. Designing and sewing is my passion, and all my achievements are with his help.”
Riojas also enjoys exploring Houston’s thriving cultural scene. “I enjoy the fine arts and music concerts. I am also attracted to pop culture, and of course I am always up-to-date with looking at fashion trends. All of these elements inspire me.”
At every social event he attends, Riojas admits that his fashion choices make him stand out. “I feel like it’s one of the things I love about clothing design. I believe that what we wear and how we look makes an external statement about who we are. Designing and creating that statement for people is my goal.”
WHAT: Alvin Alan Ramírez Riojas fall fashion show
WHEN: October 14 at 8:00 p.m.
WHERE: Sabine Street Studios, 1907 Sabine St