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Making a Spectacle

Quirky young Houston designer Enid Almanza has captured the imagination of fashionistas and art-lovers alike—and even his muse, Lady Gaga herself.

Enid Almanza, above, uses found objects including forks, clothespins, water bottles and industrial coil to fashion elaborate, space-age-gone-baroque garments and headdresses and other accessories. Lady Gaga wore a pair of his eyeglasses on TV last year.

With Lady Gaga as a fan of his phantasmagoric accessories—and two local gallery exhibitions of his Fellini-esque wearable art set for this month—Houston-based fashion designer Enid Almanza, just 22, is on the right track, baby!

It was the Gaga stamp of approval that really got things going for Almanza, whose first name is pronounced “Ee-ned.” He boldly approached the superstar’s style team without any connections or introductions and submitted two pairs of glasses for her consideration. The result is that Lady Gaga chose to wear his wild Coke-can glasses during her televised Thanksgiving special last year. “It was like a dream,” says Almanza in his warm, relaxed voice, with an air of sophistication beyond his years—and indoor sunglasses a la Lagerfeld.

The young designer is still in contact with the sartorially splendid songbird’s team, with a mutual desire to collaborate in the future. And there’s a lot for Lady Gaga and other daring fashionistas to consider when it comes to Almanza’s pieces. Working with found objects such as forks, clothespins, water bottles and industrial coil, the designer creates opulent, sculptural and slightly Baroque headdresses, bodysuits, dresses and, yes, glasses. He’s also styled a fashion shoot for Vogue Italia which included some of his creations.

All of this glamour is a far cry from Almanza’s childhood growing up in near poverty in Guanajuato, Mexico. When he was 15, his parents moved Almanza and his brother and sister to Texas. They settled in the Houston suburb of Pasadena and attempted to build a better life. “My father was an electrician, and my mother cleaned offices,” says Almanza. “I didn’t know the language or the culture, and I was the kid that nobody wanted to sit next to in the cafeteria. I couldn’t express myself.”

As lonely as his life was, Almanza’s dreams were full of magical “visions,” as he has described it. He took to his computer to sketch the contents of his head. “I wanted to turn these images into objects, but we didn’t have any money for materials. So I’d go out on the street and look around for stuff lying around that nobody wanted.” He also made use of very inexpensive materials such as plastic tablecloths sourced at the dollar store. His Gaga glasses were made of two empty soda cans and a pair of old glasses he found on the ground.

Needing space to work, he moved into his parents’ garage, which became both his studio and his bedroom. “There was no air conditioning; it could get very hot, and I lost a lot of weight,” notes Almanza with a smile. “But that did not stop me.” Without any training, the designer figured out how to assemble his fashion/art objects. Sewing? Sawing? Gluing? Welding? He taught himself the skills necessary to execute his creations.

Now his home studio is a guest house on the property of his business partner, marketer and philanthropist Kimberly DeLape, in Seabrook. “I draw inspiration from the water,” says Almanza, “and designing is all that I do. I don’t have a personal life right now, but what I am doing makes me happy.”

What makes him happy will be on full display at a fashion show/art exhibit of his work at Gallery M Squared (339 West 19th St., 713.861.6070) starting with an invitation-only opening on May 11 that will open to the public the next day. And then the show will move to Redbud Gallery (303 E. 11th St., 713.862.2532) May 17-June 1. Pieces will be for sale at both shows; the buyer will have to determine for herself whether they are art or fashion or both.

What next? He may well take Vogue up on its scholarship offer and study fashion in Italy for a while. Or he may hunker down in Houston and work on a new collection. Either way, he’s ambitious and hopeful, clearly seeing the world through Coke-colored glasses, noting, “I don’t believe in limits!”