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Designer to the stars returns home to KC with weekend fashion event series

Designs from Wild Things, the 2017 spring collection from Travis Cal Styles. At his pop-up shop June 30, customers can shop and order pieces from the collection.
Designs from Wild Things, the 2017 spring collection from Travis Cal Styles. At his pop-up shop June 30, customers can shop and order pieces from the collection. Smash Glam Studios

Four months after his big return to Kansas City — highlighted by a sold-out debut of his menswear line — fashion stylist and designer Travis Cal is back again for his Hotter Than July Summer Series, a weekend of fashion and nightlife events starting Friday.

“Overwhelmed and encouraged,” is how Cal, the Paseo Academy grad turned fashion designer for celebs like Travis Kelce, Matthew and Solange Knowles, Patti LaBelle and Vivica A. Fox, says he felt in the aftermath of his 24K Gold Fashion Experience show last February.

The show, which, in addition to his debut featured other local black designers, was Cal’s first professional return to Kansas City after moving to Houston nearly two decades ago. “It was overwhelming to see the amount of support for my first event,” Cal said over the phone this week. “And encouraging to see that there is a need for the types of urban events and programs that my company offers in the Kansas City market.”

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Travis Cal, a KC native who built a fashion and lifestyle empire in Houston, is returning home for the Hotter Than July events series this weekend. Smash Glam Studios

It’s a need, Cal said, that didn’t so strongly exist when he booted town to begin his fashion empire in 2000.

Then, before the Power & Light District, the Sprint Center, a vibrant Crossroads and the Cerner Corp. millennial influx, leaving Kansas City to establish a lifestyle brand wasn’t just a choice but a necessity.

“But what I find most inspiring coming home is seeing all the change and the growth,” Cal said. “I see clientele changing and communities transforming before my eyes.”

They are the same changes anyone can see, in parts, as Kansas City continues to inch its way onto the national stage as an attractive city for millennials: a downtown skyline constantly under construction with posh new apartments and storefronts; a seemingly never-ending list of new trendy restaurants, boutiques and bars; the ascension of the Crossroads as a bona fide art and innovation district.

Still, Cal said, there are areas where Kansas City lags when compared to established millennial hotspots like Houston, particularly in its failure to provide diverse social events and atmospheres that feel inclusive to all. Already listed as one of the most economically segregated cities in the country, KC is as socially segregated, and when looking at our local entertainment and nightlife scenes, that’s painfully obvious.

Bars and clubs in major entertainment districts like Power & Light and Westport still won’t play hip-hop music, despite the genre’s near ubiquity in millennial nightlife culture. Few black-owned bars or nightclubs exist west of Troost Avenue.

Local fashion presentations and music festivals, while slowly improving, remain overwhelmingly white and one-note, despite a city teeming with artistic and musical diversity.

But as Cerner and other forces continue to bring millennials to town in droves, Cal said he sees a need, and an opportunity, to fill that void.

“So many young people coming here are often from other diverse, cosmopolitan areas,” he said. “They’re looking for new experiences and entertainment. There’s tons of new customers looking for things to do, and I’m a new business looking for new customers.”

Cal will take his second stab at making this happen with his Hotter Than July series downtown Friday, June 30, to Sunday, July 2. The series is a mix of pop-up retailing, workshops, fashion presentations and social events.

On Friday, Cal will open a pop-up boutique from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Creative Mindz Studio, 2004 Main St. Designed with “creatives of all curiosities” in mind, the event will allow visitors the chance to shop and order pieces from Cal’s “Wild Things” spring 2017 collection in addition to apparel, art, streetwear and accessories from other local boutiques and artists. The event is free.

On Saturday, Cal will conduct a four-hour “model boot camp” beginning at 10 a.m., also at the Creative Mindz Studio. General admission is $25, open to male and female models ages 12 and up. Cal began his career as a professional model with credits working for Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Dillards.

On Sunday, the weekend ends with “Skindependence,” a fashion presentation and social soiree from 5 p.m. to midnight on the rooftop of Sporting KC’s Three Points event space in the Crossroads. Against a panoramic view of downtown, guests will be treated to what Cal describes as “a VIP experience”: a walk down the red carpet with arrival photos, complimentary gourmet hors d’oeuvres courtesy of executive chef Leto Blackman, a cash bar and live DJ. At 8:30 p.m., Cal is scheduled to debut his latest collection, Desperado, a 25-piece men’s and women’s swimwear line.

“No urban events have happened at Three Points, which was perfect and right in line with what we do,” Cal said. “We wanted to present something no one’s seen before.”

“The taste of the city is changing, the vibe is changing. … It’s a perfect time for me to be here.”

Aaron Randle: 816-234-4060, @aaronronel

Events

▪ “The Shop: A Pop-Up Concept Boutique,” 4 to 9 p.m. June 30 at Creative Mindz Studio, 2004 Main St. Free.

▪ “The Business of Fashion: Model Boot Camp,” 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 1 at Creative Mindz Studio. Tickets start at $25 at traviscalstyles.com

▪ “Skindependence: Models & Bottles Edition,” 5 p.m. to midnight July 2 at Three Points events space, 1511 Baltimore Ave. Tickets start at $50 at traviscalstyles.com

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