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Houston’s best-kept fashion secret, HBO’s Emmy award-winning “Sex and the City” designer, Houstonian Rebecca Weinberg
by Todd J. Ramos
Her energy fills the room. She is part rock star, part diva and exactly how I had imagined it would be to meet Madonna. To be sure, her presence is felt when she walks into a room. She is surrounded by an aura that is exotic, creative and sexy all in one. She is Rebecca Weinberg, in town recently for a benefit with fellow Houston fashion designer Cesar Galindo, and she took some time to visit with H Texas magazine.
Weinberg knows a lot of people in town, and they all love her. So when she stopped by our studio for the photo shoot, it was as though we already had met. She is bold, beautiful and upfront, and what you see is what you get. She is a very direct person and she knows it. She is a passionate woman with lots of creative energy. “I?ve known Rebecca since we were teen-agers. Her spirit has always been vibrant and very stylish. She?s always been very proud of her roots,” says Galindo, fashion designer for the House of Dolce & Gabanna. “Her style is unique, it has definition, and it’s sexy. Her spirit is genuine, and she is very focused, charming and edgy yet, at the same time, calm and confident,” notes photographer Kevin Jeffries.
Weinberg attended Spring Oaks Junior High School, where her drama coach, Mrs. Summerlin, made a huge impact on her life. She attended Hastings High School in Alief and was accepted to the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She was a creative and eccentric youth. “The Alabama Theater is where it all began. ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ played there, and it was the place to be when growing up,” she says. She also frequented Rich’s, Lola’s, Numbers, James Coney Island and House of Pies. When she thinks of the ’80s in Houston, she thinks of individuality and diversity. Punk and new wave were the big looks back then.
Weinberg is very proud to call Texas home. In fact, the day after our shoot, she was having our fair state tattooed on her elbow. She says Texans are like peacocks – very proud. She is most comfortable in her cowboy hat and boots, which have become infamous in New York. She describes herself like a cartoon cowboy – “Grand Ole Opry” meets Texas, with an edge.
In the mid-’80s, Weinberg moved to Atlanta. She worked the door at a nightclub, assisted hairstylists and was a performing artist. Rebecca befriended drag diva RuPaul, and they ventured off to the Great White Way. There, RuPaul appeared at an underground club in drag. The Texas Jewish girl and the drag queen diva definitely made their mark on the club scene. Rebecca was trying to make her way as a performing artist but found the bar scene to be very difficult. The late hours and smoky bars really got to her. During this time, she had a rainbow of friends surrounding her, including painters, artists and performers. Soon after, she met Patricia Field, who is well known for her eponymous and notorious Greenwich Village shop. Field took Weinberg under her wing and taught her the art of styling (costuming). She started off as a production assistant, and a creative partnership began.
While working on the movie “Miami Rhapsody” Field and Weinberg met Sarah Jessica Parker along with Mia Farrow, Antonio Banderas, Gil Bellows and Kevin Pollack. This unique film enabled the designing duo to showcase their talents to the world. Their hard work on the front lines landed them at the hottest new show on HBO, “Sex and the City.” This show, about four fashionable, independent and smart women living in New York, highlights the woman of today. In 2000, “Daily Variety” and “New York Women in Film and Television” featured Fields and Weinberg as rising stars. Also in 2000, the Accessories Counsel Award honored Weinberg.
I sat with Weinberg at one of her favorite local hangouts, House of Pies, and discussed life and other issues.
Who are some of your fashion role models?
Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga
Who inspired you early in your career?
Downtown designer André Walker, Patricia Field and André Courreges
How would you describe your own personal style?
It depends on what I am doing that day. I like to dress the part. I’m very diverse; everything from uptown to downtown – you might say “cross-town.”
How do you prepare for styling a job?
It is like a triangle. I take the actor’s perception, my own style and what is written and create a unique style. You have to read between the lines.
What do you think about Houston now?
It has grown to be a very diverse and fabulous city that has drawn it?s own influences from a variety of sources. I’m really proud to be from Houston.
How was the styling team composed on projects such as “Sex and the City?”
We would have two designers, Patricia and me, two assistants, two costume supervisors, a tailor and three set costumers.
What is the fashion business like?
I didn’t push to get here – it just happened. Fashion is a business. It’s a little flat now since the events of Sept. 11. Just like any other business, it has its highs and lows.
Where do you pull ideas from?
From everyday people – people on the streets, kids, artists – people from all walks of life.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to be in your business?
Know your business! Theater is a good place to learn and have fun. You need to know the terminology, references, measuring and sewing to begin with. Get involved in the local union as well. Do local then go national. Try to stay true to your own style and what really excites you. Create, create, create and create artwork.
What’s next for Rebecca Weinberg?
Anything creative. I’d like to work on everything from advertising campaigns to editorial work, commercials, music videos, film, theater – you name it. I am open to exploring any outlet where I can express my creativity. Who knows, maybe I’ll start dressing celebrities for awards shows. Gwyneth, call me before the next Oscars; we’ll talk!