Keeping It Weird: Austin’s 25 Most Stylish

Marni Golden
Keeping It Weird: Austin’s 25 Most Stylish
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We’ll admit that, other than knowing about elements like live music, barbecue, cowboy boots, and that it’s the state capital, we weren’t all that familiar with the much-hyped city of Austin.

As it happens, Austin has more music venues per capita than any other city in the U.S., and was voted one of the greenest cities in the country. (No coincidence, Whole Foods was founded in Austin). What’s more, the city has become an increasingly desirable place to live, with folks from east and west coasts taking up residence in the Texas town.

Starting Friday, the city will welcome thousands of people from the worlds of music, film, and tech for its annual South by Southwest Festival, which spans two weeks and has become one of the must-attend conventions on the media and entertainment calendar. As a burgeoning hub of creativity and artistry, Austin continues to grow its identity, and its residents are along for the ride.

So what, exactly, is Austin style? After chatting with our 25 Most Stylish—including notables like chef Paul Qui, musician Ben Kweller, and designer Kendra Scott, it became evident that the most common style thread in the eccentric city is expressing yourself in a way that’s honest, thoughtful, and true to yourself, with little ego or pretension. In addition, residents stress that choosing to be a nice, caring person is more important than following any fleeting fashion trend—and what’s more stylish than that?

The thrill of experiencing such a genuine melting pot of influences really did win us over—from our unique shoot location, Palazzo Lavaca, (a fusion of 19th-century Venice and modern-day Texas in one house) to the best Thai food we’ve ever had, not to mention some spectacular vintage. Austin truly is a special little gem, whose inhabitants possess a wonderfully quirky kind of sparkle.

Sure, there are some folk who complain about the city’s rapid growth and commercialization, but we feel confident that Austin’s residents will keep its integrity, and, as the old saying goes, keep it weird.

Photography by Nick Onken

Hair & Makeup by Sarah Sallis of Rae Cosmetics

Art Direction by Jin Pak

Location: Palazzo Lavaca

More Most Stylish on StyleCaster:
Video: Go Behind-the-Scenes with Austin’s Most Stylish People
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See Miami’s 20 Most Stylish People: Savannah Brinson, Roman Jones, More 

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Austin's proud local mantra is "Keep Austin Weird," and these 25 Austinites have a wonderfully unique, diverse take on style. Read on to see 25 style stars! 

Photo: Nick Onken/

Alyson Fox, Artist and Designer

"I love the ease of Austin," says Fox. "There are great moments to be had here over something as simple as breakfast tacos."

Regarding Austin style, Fox states, "I'd say we have a little bit of everything. Austinites are bold, curious, tailored, classic, and out-of-the-box."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Liz and Ben Kweller, Grammy-nominated Art Director and Musician & Producer, respectively

When it comes to personal style, Liz explains, "My style is a random combination of art teacher chic, eclectic, rock 'n' roll, classic Parisian chic, with a touch of Hollywood glam." 

Ben adds, "I tend to gravitate to flashy rock 'n' roll stuff—bright colors and metallics—but I go back and forth ... One day I'm a punk from '79, and the next day I'm a used-car salesman in a camel corduroy suit."

Kweller's latest album Go Fly A Kite is available at

Photo: Nick Onken/

Ericka Herod, DJ, I Wanna Be Her

Describing her personal style as "gentlewoman," Herod observes, "This city is definitely growing with the increasing amount of transplants making Austin their new home." She adds, "I love the whole keep-it-local aspect, but I'm also open to change and would like to see Austinites be a bit more innovative when it comes to fashion and nightlife."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Dawn Younger-Smith, Owner of The Boudoir Queen

"There are no rules, and I don't follow trends when it comes to style," says Younger-Smith, adding, "At the moment, I'm channeling a Baby Jane Hudson-meets-Norma Desmond vibe."

Having moved from LA to be with her husband (Billy Idol's former guitarist), Younger-Smith notes, "The music is what makes Austin so special."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Nano Whitman, Musician

"Like so many others, I came to Austin for a short trip and stayed," recalls Whitman. "People are exceptionally nice and genuine ... When you meet someone in Austin, you don't ask 'What do you do?' You ask, 'What do you like to do?'"

Photo: Nick Onken/

Emily Hoover, Co-Owner of Feathers Boutique

"I would describe my personal style as ethnographic," says Hoover. "I love to wear textiles from all over the world but am especially into collecting pieces from India, Uzbekistan and the southwestern region of the United States." She continues, "I found that when I read fashion magazines, I would copy ensembles and I never felt quite right in them, so I decided to return to letting my inner compass guide me on how to dress."

Photo: Nick Onken/

John Van Deusen Edwards and Jonathan Horstmann, Founders, Food is Free Project and Musicians, Mighty Mountain

"Our personal style is all about the silhouette," says Edwards. "We need to convey professionalism but don't take ourselves too seriously." 

When asked about their biggest fashion regret, they laugh, "Ugh, chain wallets."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Jessica Thompson, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Velvet Dust Magazine

"I would describe my personal style as a fusion of European sensibility with North African and Oriental influences," says Thompson. "Great fit and conversation pieces are key. I like to dress with contrasts in mind: soft/hard, masculine/feminine, modern/romantic, and I never like to look too perfect or put together."

In terms of Austin style, Thompson adds, "Austin's style scene will always have this vintage, musically-inspired inclination. I think it's in our roots."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Maggie Lea, Curator and Programmer for Cinema East and Booking Agent/Talent Buyer for Cheer Up Charlies

"Austin is special because everyone is connected to everyone else's project, somehow," notes Lea. "The city is like a sponge that soaks up ideas and is receptive to all kinds of talent and new influences." She continues, "I think it's one of the easiest places to meet like-minded people, pitch ideas and build a community around the things that you and others mutually care about."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Kendra Scott, CEO and Founder of Kendra Scott Jewelry

"Creativity thrives in Austin," says Scott. "While it's been known for music and art for years, the film and fashion scenes are also growing and thriving."

She adds, "I've been able to grow my brand globally because I started in a place that is so supportive of local businesses. I can feel the support of my community here every day."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Cody Haltom, Art Director and Designer at Public School

"Austin is special because of a great work/life balance. People are passionate about what they do, but they also put a premium on enjoying things at a slightly slower pace, which I really like," says Haltom. "There's a nice creative scene, great food, good weather, and an emphasis on being outdoors, and the city makes a point to enjoy it."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Bobby Johns, Co-Owner, STAG and Mercury, and Operations Manager, Bunkhouse Group

On his biggest fashion mistake, Johns explains, "You can't be into fashion without making some fantastic mistakes." He continues, "I think everyone has photos they look back on and cringe, but I think all of these fashion blunders make me who I am and are reason I assume I can pull any look off."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Giselle Koy, AuthorThe Buddha Field, The Modern Muse and the upcoming Iconsciousness: Messages from 100 Icons

With a style she describes as "galactic-pimp," Koy describes her city's style as follows: "Austin fashion and its residents have evolved from naked hippies to organic hippies to neo-hippies to techie-hippies."

Photo: Nick Onken/

J. Miguel Rangel, Creative

"I love Austin for its chips and salsa," Riguel says wryly. "Every now and then you'll catch me wearing flip-flops in public," he confesses. "I hate when people do that, but Austin can get very hot, and there's about a month where all you can do is swim and drink margaritas."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Stephanie Press, Owner of Hold Vintage

"Austin is special for many reasons," says Press. "The people are nice. There is a culture of keeping it homegrown ... You can experience real artistry in food, drink and hospitality here."

"Austin's art and culture scene has evolved significantly since I grew up here," she adds. "It's taken on a more international flavor. I think Austin is really on the verge."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Taylor MuseCody AckorTommy BlankMatt Parmenter and Jeff Weathers: Musicians, Quiet Company

When it comes the their group's stage uniform, frontman Taylor Muse says simply: "We just like to wear ties and black. That's pretty much about it."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Ross Bennett, President and Head Designer at Ross Bennett; recent luggage collaborator with Blue Avocado's "American Designer Series," along with Lauren Conrad and Martha Stewart.

"Over the past decade, I've seen this city finally start growing up," says Bennett. "The buildings are getting bigger, the fashion and fancy things are becoming more relevant, and the dining scene has really changed." He continues, "This city is becoming a global destination, and everyone wants to come here—and I mean that in the best way possible."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Paul Qui and Deana Saukam, Chef/Owner of qui & East Side King; and PR, Media & Events for qui & East Side King, respectively

When asked about her most embarrassing fashion moment, Saukam replies with a smirk, "MC Hammer pants? Although I think I still wear them." Qui chimes in, "Silk shirts and extra big, baggy jeans were mine, but the most coveted item in my closet is my entire shoe collection."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Travis Newman, Director of Entertainment, The Parish/Parish Underground and The Historic Scoot Inn.

"I would have to describe my personal style as coincidental," says Newman. "Whichever combination of band or venue shirt/pants/leather jacket happens to smell the best. No jeans though—definitely no jeans."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Sarah Ellison Lewis, Founder & Chief Creative Officer of Bootleg Market, Bootleg Newsprint and Bootleg Airstream.

"My personal style is gaucho-chic," says Lewis. "I adore oversize tops, coats, parkas, vests, dusters and wide-brim hats. Slim trousers, booties and crazy tall strange shoes suit me best." She adds, "When forced to show my body, I wear anything resembling the '40s and '80s—large shoulders and slim hip lines."

Photo: Nick Onken/

Joah Spearman, Co-Founder of The Neighborhood, Black ELECT, AvecMode and Localeur; and Star Lee, Founder of Dog and Pony Boutique

Spearman describes his style as "a mixture of urban and prep." He explains, "I'm always coming straight from meetings with sneakerheads or a hip-hop show to more formal boardroom meetings and conferences."

Lee, too, admits her style is a blend, stating, "My style is a collection and expression of my life experiences. I was born in Korea, went to fashion school in Italy, and worked in New York before moving to Austin."

Photo: Nick Onken/

"I moved to Austin because of family and fell in love with the quality of life here, and then I met my husband Joah," shares Lee.

Photo: Nick Onken/

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