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Farrah Akhtar | Photo: Alefiya Akbarally | October 29, 2013
Designer Michelle Weisman od 81Poppies brings her flower power home to Houston.
There’s no place like home—and for Michelle Weisman, 32, owner and designer of 81Poppies, that’s H-Town. For nearly a decade, she’s been cultivating her design skills in fashion capital New York City and in Austin, and now the hometown girl is bringing her design savvy to Houston. She’s settling into her quaint 1950s South Post Oak abode, where she resides, along with artist husband KC Collins and Stacy, a pit bull/husky mix.
It’s been an interesting road back home. The Bellaire High grad attended New York’s Pratt Institute, where she earned a BFA in fashion design while working for Mint under Jodi Arnold, followed by five years at Shoshanna as head designer. In 2008, she and Collins, both “sick of New York,” relocated to Austin, where she continued to work for Shoshanna. “After a year of commuting back and forth to New York every month, we were both like, ‘this is crazy.’ That’s when I decided to start my own line.”
Named after her birth year and a favorite flower, Weisman’s 81Poppies has steadily grown in popularity since its launch in 2010. It’s now sold in more than 50 boutiques nationwide—with a few international retailers in Kuwait and the Philippines—as well as online. Locally, Houstonians can find it at Cotton Club and Muse.
With its simple, flattering silhouettes and fun custom patterns inspired by outings to Heights vintage shops such as
Replay on 19th and Retropolis, it’s no surprise that A-listers and stylists have taken notice. Pieces have been spotted on Glee star Lea Michele, and on TV series such as Hart Of Dixie and Gossip Girl. “I like to design clothes that are good for day-to-night, that transition easily, and are easy and comfortable,” she says. “I’m all about comfort.”
The petite, curly-haired Weisman is a one-woman show, working from her home studio on all aspects of her business. “I design everything,” she says. “I do my social media. I run my website. I’m in sales.”
Weisman’s favorites for fall and winter include her A-line sheath Eleanor Dress and lace-sleeved Stella Pullover, both made with a double-knit fabric and accented with vegan leather. Each seasonal line features 20 styles, with only 800 total units produced per collection.
“That’s what I love about small designers,” muses Weisman. “When you find something you like, you know it’s going to be very unique.”