From prêt-a-porter menswear to haute couture red carpet gowns, Tre LaVoux has the drive — and talent — to be Dallas’ next big designer
“The only thing bangin’ in Shreveport are the casinos — fashion-wise, it’s all old ladies in fanny packs,” LaVoux jokes.
But he knew from an early age he had an aptitude for style. First, “I come from a long line of seamstresses, starting with my great-grandmother,” he says. That gave him the basics, and he took to sewing easily. Moreover, “I was always the little gay boy telling my mom, ‘That color doesn’t work for you.’ I was the fashionista in my household.”
LaVoux even recalls how, while he and his grandmother were watching an episode of Oprah one afternoon, he had an eye-opening experience: “That’s when I first saw [fashion designer] Valentino,” he says. “I was glued to the TV.”
Nevertheless, despite his interest, LaVoux had another future in mind — one that, on the surface, couldn’t seem more removed from fashion.
“I planned to be a medical student, majoring in anesthesiology,” he says.
It wasn’t a waste of time, though: Studying the human body let LaVoux see what he wanted to be.
During a physiology-biology lecture, “I saw myself drawing fashions [on the bodies]. I realized I like the kind of needles you stab through fabric, not through people.”
In 2009, after leaving an unhappy relationship, he earnestly began to change his future. He started with an internship with Dallas designer Nicolas Villalba and went on to receive his associate’s degree in fashion design and merchandising from Wade College. (He’s currently working toward a bachelor in fine arts degree).
At his graduation, he heard Dallas supermodel Jan Strimple give the keynote address at his graduation; a chance meeting with Strimple a few months later opened doors for him when he talked his way into helping out with the DIFFA Collection runway show.
That was more than a year ago. Since then, LaVoux has been featured in several runway fashion shows, all while establishing his own couture line, doing designer commissions for a variety of clients. He even launched a line of prêt-a-porter fashion shirts, which went on sale earlier this month at Union Jack (where he maintains a day job as a sales associate).
“I’ve been at Union Jack for three years, and they are like my second family, but I’m working towards becoming one of their vendors instead of one of their employes,” he says.
LaVoux certainly has the knack. His collection of high-fashion gowns is impressive and creative (Project Runway would raise the bar if he were on it), but he also enjoys doing something many designers don’t: Creating menswear. (It’s rare to find LaVoux wear something he didn’t design himself, or carefully tailor to fit his muscular frame.)
LaVoux has worked on everything from red carpet looks to prom dresses to mother-of-the-bride outfits, and he knows he still has a way to go to reach his goals. But he sees the end-game.
“A lot of people think [fashion] is about the visual, but you also have to consider the psychology of it as well,” he says. “What the client wants is important, but it’s not simply about pleasing them. Sometimes simple is best, for example. It’s all about boosting self-esteem.”
And in a Tre LaVoux creation, that’s an easy thing to feel.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 24, 2013.