Fine Art Turns Couture


By Kimberly Rene’ Vanecek

The great works of Tom Lea have walked off the canvas, jumped off the page, slid off the wall, and exited the book. His many mediums of art have been transformed into a couture line of clothing bursting with color, style, and a statement. Local fashion designer Zayra Estrada received her biggest commission recently when gallery owner, Adair Margo asked Zayra to design a collection of clothes inspired by the illustrations, murals, paintings, and writings of famous artist, Tom Lea.

Zayra referenced several mediums in order to create her collection. A painting called “Manolete Awaiting a Quite”, an abstract drawing Lea designed in John Norton’s art class, a stained glass window in the First Presbyterian Church here in El Paso, and a 1948 Illustration from a book he wrote, titled “The Brave Bulls”.

“Utilizing the “Manolete Awaiting a Quite” and the 1948 illustration, Zayra combined Lea’s love for bullfighting into two separate “Traje de luces”. (In the 18 century, the Spaniards called the bullfighting outfits suits of lights). Zayra took that concept and created two elaborate silk outfits that flowed with rich colors, tasseled chords, elaborate gold sequined accessories, and vibrant details. She even kept with the traditional dressing for a matador when she introduced the capote de paseo in one of her creations. (A matador drapes the capote de paseo over one shoulder as he parades in front of the audience in the arena prior to the beginning of the fights.)

The illustration from the art class of John Norton conveyed an abstract vision from Lea. Zayra transferred that vision into a black and white elegant knee length dress. In Lea’s work, there appeared to be a form swathed in cloth. This form visually expressed a jovial mood sharing a playful, yet alluring grin. Zayra’s creation is minimalistic in nature but teases the viewer ever so slightly as one shoulder is bared while the other is enveloped amongst black and white layers of satin waves.

A stained glass window inspired Estrada’s last design. First Presbyterian Church is the backdrop for this massive palette where colorful rays from the sun can be seen dancing in the background as a lofty golden cross set the center stage. Zayra knew incorporating the hues would be her biggest challenge. “I stumbled upon the perfect fabric one day and realized the similarities immediately from the stained glass window. I have to say, the fabric found me,” stated Zayra.

Zayra found a love for designing when she was in the fourth grade. She knew her goal in life was to create stunning clothing for women. “Women are already beautiful, so I want them to feel even more gorgeous. I want to enhance their beauty, “ noted Zayra.

Zayra Estrada’s collection is currently on display at the Mills Building.

Photographed by Peter Svarzbein