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Dual Passports

Gail Chovan

Fall/Winter 2016 Collection: Less is More

In March, Austin fashion designer, Gail Chovan, launched her Fall/Winter 2016 Less is More collection in Paris in tandem with Paris Fashion Week. During her installation of 12 artisanal couture creations at the Subsequi Showroom on Rue Chapon, Chovan was outed. It became very clear that this Jersey-born, Texas transplant is really French.

The Friday night reception for her installation was a like a lively reunion. And not the Romy and Michelle kind. Non! The room buzzed with artisan felt makers, pattern cutters, patrons of the art form, make up artists, models, fellow couturiers — all bons amis de Chovan. A diverse group that seemed joined at the dress form hip to delve deep to their pencil drawings and straight pin souls to birth great fashion on six-month gestational cycles. The Fall/Winter 2016 offerings, black and navy blue hues Gail described as “bruised,” hung and spun on the installation’s display elements she resourced and assembled. Bulb light fixtures from Ikea, disco ball turning mechanisms, electrical converters and, voila! Industrial chic with a lovely accent.

Chovan’s F/W 2016 collection primarily uses silk shantung, a fabric she chose for its foldable and structural qualities. The clothing has details that delight like the concert ticket you find years later combing through pants pockets before the Goodwill dropoff: tucks at right angles, Navajo yarn, ribbed knit. The designer’s muse is close to her heart. “ I constantly think about my daughter Zelda, who is blind, and I try to imagine how she would feel the weight, textures and fold of the design on her body,” said Chovan.

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The evening of the installation’s reception, Gail did more than waft in and out of conversation clouds. She lighted within pods of people and, effortlessly shifting between French and English. No air kisses here. The conversations were personal, animated and full of that famous French light. “Paris is where I am most inspired, “Chovan shared. “I feel soulful and fulfilled in my 40+ year ongoing relationship with this city. I am anonymous, but never lonely as my mind constantly reels with ideas and aspirations.”

For the past six summers, the couturier has taught at France’s flagship university, The Sorbonne, leading international high school students through the world of Parisian Fashion Design. Chovan now teaches full-time at UT in the Department of Textiles and Apparel Design. This is in addition to her many other roles — SOCO boutique owner, mother of 10-year old twins and wife to sign maker and artist, Evan Voyles. She mused she sometimes thinks she should have been a nurse. While Chovan could surely revolutionize the scrubs genre, we’re thankful she has her hand passionately on the pulse of fashion. She’s that rare authentic and generous creator who, by example, gives others permission to be freer, bolder and push out of their comfort zones. Someone who seems to believe a rising tide floats all creative boats, whether on Lake Austin or the Seine. And, we’d wager, those boats would be tied together at the bows, perfect for evenings of music-filled flotilla hopping with a bottles of wine in tow.

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