It’s T time, Kansas City: How to bring out the best in our local T-shirts

07/28/2014 4:11 PM

07/29/2014 2:33 PM

Kansas City fashion in three words: eclectic, versatile, comfortable.

That’s from the mouth of local fashion guru Wlaa Elashkar.

And in this town, he says, the T-shirt is on top. Think about it — WNBA star Skylar Diggins recently was spotted in a Baldwin tee. Last month, Jason Sudeikis, Paul Rudd and Rob Riggle rocked exclusive Charlie Hustle Big Slick tournament tees. We also have boutiques like Westside Storey that celebrate an entire buffet of local tees.

“It’s a staple in the Midwest,” Wlaa says. “Charlie Hustle shirts, Baldwin hats. We have a lot of local brands, and the T-shirts can be dressed up or down beyond the basics. Women can wear pencil skirts and cardigans with a tee. Men can tailor it and add a blazer. It changes the whole look.”

We asked the stylist to help us celebrate Kansas City’s favorite wearable and show off its versatility.

Wlaa (say it like voila), 31, is a style maven: fashion shows, personal shopping and photo shoots, a local style commentator (second Thursdays) on KCTV-5’s “Better Kansas City.”

He was raised in a home where fashion was a big deal. It started when he was 3 and his grandma dressed him in a pair of blue corduroy overalls. They were for fun days. For picture day, he always wore a bow tie. In his family, attention to detail is equal parts cultural and personal.

“My grandmother’s from Egypt,” he says. “She threw dinner parties. She made all of her own clothes; it was a form of expression. There were specific outfits for every occasion.”

By the age of 10, the KCK-born, Overland Park-raised Wlaa was styling himself, his three brothers and his sister, too.

And to think he almost became a doctor. He studied biology and chemistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and medicine at American University of Antigua.

“I was the fashion guy at med school,” he says. “But one spring break I came home and a friend encouraged me to follow my passion.”

Event planning opened the door. He and his siblings do weddings and parties, and often he would be asked to help with gowns. That evolved to closet transformations. About four years ago, it became steady work: window displays, runways and creative direction.

He keeps up on the latest trends by attending New York Fashion Week, and a few years ago he ran into Anna Wintour and her Vogue entourage. A chance encounter, the kind that happen often in NYC, but it was a moment. He hopes to build a heavyweight brand one day, too.

“The aura,” he says. “It was surreal. I love fashion. It’s my world. This is what I do.”

He travels to Los Angeles, New York and Miami to help with fashion shows and shop for clients, but he loves the style of Kansas City.

“We have a very stylish community,” he says. “We have all of the pieces. Sometimes it’s just a question of how to wear it.”

Wlaa believes we all have personal style, even if we don’t know it. He says it all comes down to figuring out the statement you want to make and developing it over the years.

What he loves most about clothes is not as simple as the latest trends or how people look — it’s how they make people feel.

His niece and nephew come to him for fashion advice all the time. He teaches them that style starts inside.

“It’s about the uplift,” Wlaa says. “Everything changes when you feel good. The right outfit enhances that.”

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt, call 816-234-4380 or email josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. On Twitter: @jeneeinkc.

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