Cover Story

2016 INDStyle Awards Substance and Style

by Amanda Jean Elliott

Style and substance are not mutually exclusive, and we have the proof walking the runway Oct. 26 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.

Photo by Robin May

Style and substance are not mutually exclusive, and we have the proof walking the runway Oct. 26 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. On the following pages you’ll find familiar faces, fresh newcomers and style mavens on a mission to break the mold.

We brought in subtle style and elegance right alongside artists making a statement and dressers the likes of which you won’t see every day. It’s a combination that represents both the diverse style choices of Acadiana’s fashion lovers as well as the local retailers where they can find the best in wares. One is not possible without the other.

Style in 2016 is less about following what a far-flung trend commands and more about commanding your own personal style. Style that may transcend time, gender and age. Style that is about making more than a first impression. Style that leaves a mark time and time again. True style is represented by those people who seem to make the grocery run casual look above what it should be. These are the people who are proof that style isn’t about big budgets and labels. It’s about making a statement without saying a word, about not taking yourself too seriously while dressing with meticulous attention to detail.

It’s a balancing act you’ll see on full display when our honorees and local retailers take over the AcA runway along with local salons bringing us the latest in beauty.

The night is devoted to style done the Lafayette way. And in the following pages you’ll get a glimpse of what that looks like in the names and faces of Lafayette’s tastemakers — each proof that great taste, quick wit and personality matter when it comes to how we choose to dress.

Photo by Robin May

Valerie Miniex

When Valerie Miniex rattles off her style icons you can’t help but see she’s a mash-up of them all — First Lady Michelle Obama, Kerry Washington, Ashley Graham — while maintaining her own sort of twist.

“Fashion runs in our family,” she says (her hubby of 20 years, Rickey, is a 2014 INDStyle honoree). “My dad took great pride in his appearance and was always perfectly styled. Abdalla’s was his favorite store back in day. My aunt Lucille took fashion to a whole new level. We recently had a family reunion and had a fashion show that embodied her essence — she was a master at mixing. My sisters, brothers, cousins — they all have a great appreciation for style.”

The registered dietician has three children — Rickey Jr., Rylie and Ryan — and an everyday look that’s on point. On the evening of our honoree party, she was killing it in a svelte little black dress that had just a dash of attitude.

“As I have evolved, the way I feel inspires my look,” she says. “I always want to be true to the moment. That makes it a bit challenging to plan ahead. I am also inspired by the way clothes feel. If I am uncomfortable in clothes or shoes, well that makes it difficult to feel inspired.”

“To dress well means to be well — style can be so subjective, trendy,” she continues. “When you feel great in what you’re wearing, then you have dressed well.”

She finds her unique blend of looks at local spots like Aria, Vanessa V. and Shoe La La.

“I am busy working mom, so on an average day, I am in Lululemon or jeans — love, love, love them. And for those special occasions, it could be anything; remember it’s all about how I am feeling.”

Photo by Robin May

Dale Miniex

Dale Miniex doesn’t take a day off from style. He doesn’t want to. And there’s a chance he never has.

“I’ve been dressing since I was a young kid, always wanting to have a jacket,” says the academic counselor at UL. “I’ve been wearing a bow tie for 30 years.”

It’s a bow tie that suits him well. He describes his personal style simply as “modern yet conservative.”

His look has an Old English vibe. “A lot of bow ties and tweed and plaid. I love Happy Socks. It’s colorful yet conservative,” he says.

Miniex believes what we wear says much about who we are. But it also has the power to do far more than tell the world about us.

“The way you dress has a lot to do with attitude and outcomes,” he says. “I feel more comfortable when I’m dressed and I feel more confident. Even hanging out with friends and family I’m ready to go at any given moment. It’s something I’ve take as a passion — to dress for success.”

His other passion? He’s quick to mention the Boys and Girls Clubs and his efforts there as chairman of the area’s Running of the Ducks event. He cares about making a difference in the community, and his upbeat attitude is the sort of thing that feels like it could easily change any mood. Things feel possible when he starts talking. He is that rare sharp-dressed man who could even do some light altering in a pinch and has knowledge about the brands he likes as well as the fabrics he’s wearing.

“The greatest influence is my 82-year-old mother,” he says. “She was a seamstress at high fashion menswear stores in Lafayette, and she also taught sewing at the community center. Because of her I know fabric and texture and how to match and coordinate outfits. I think style identifies you as an individual; before you have a chance to make a verbal statement your style and your clothes make a visual statement,” he continues. “I owe it all to my mother and my sister who got the formal training and education being a buyer and retail manager.”

[Note: Dale Miniex and Valerie Miniex are cousins by marriage and will walk the runway together.]

Photo by Robin May

Asbel Montes

You know when you’ve met Asbel Montes.

He has a style that you don’t miss. It’s clear he’s not trying to fit into a certain formula. He has a way of dressing that is entirely his own. And he owns it.

The vice president of government relations and reimbursement for Acadian Companies has always loved fashion. The only boy with three sisters, his mom kept the mantra about first impressions for her family and it stuck.

“You only have one time to make a first impression so do it well. Be unforgettable. I choose to be unforgettable in the way I dress first, and knowledge second,” he says.

While Montes has a clear penchant for unique looks, he says dressing well isn’t about big names or big budgets.

“You do not have to have money or a knowledge of brands to dress well. Dressing well should be an extension of the person you are. It says a lot about your personality, what you identify with and your work ethic,” he says. “Dressing well is in the eye of the beholder. The real question is what eye of the beholder are you conforming your dress to?” He says if dressing well means approval from fashion icons or the community, “then you may want to rethink your definition.”

“Dressing well should be about making you feel good, confident and ready to take on the world regardless what others think. Dress to the beat of your own drum,” he says.

That drumbeat has evolved over the years to a place where Montes cares far more about how he wants to dress than what others think.

“I’m creative, serious, urban and edgy, especially in my line of work,” he says of what his style reflects about him.

You can find him shopping for his casual wardrobe at Maven Menswear. It’s the only place he buys casual clothes locally. His favorite suit designer is Ted Baker, but he does buy everyday suits from Suit Supply.

Photo by Robin May

Michelle Colón

Michelle Colón loves simple and wild. It’s an apt description for her, although nothing can quite capture the long list of (fashionable) hats she wears. When asked her career? You get a paragraph.

She’s a copywriter at Potenza Creative, founder and chief of LONDRI (a web magazine that also has women’s leadership events and runway shows), she’s a singer and songwriter who will be in an upcoming cabaret musical. This mash-up is evident in her dressing.

“I’m not sure what inspires me exactly, but I like creativity, unconventional styling, boldness, which doesn’t necessarily mean something extremely edgy, but something creative enough that exhibits self-confidence, self-identity and thought,” she says.

“I’m very drawn to people who are unafraid to show who they are or who they want to be. I’m a big fan of statements.”

Colón has been making statements for years from the time she wore a Minnie Mouse dress and black cowboy boots to school at the age of 4.

“I am from Puerto Rico, so cowboy boots are not very common,” she says. “And later my friends starting wearing other Disney costumes to casual days. It made it so much more exciting!” Over the years, her fashion choices have been more exciting, not because of their audacious nature necessarily but because they increasingly represent Colón as a woman.

“I’ve grown to be more confident and therefore more creative and more experimental, but I think that’s true for many people my age. We’ve finally stepped out of the weird early 20s, and now we are braver to be who we are. I definitely embrace my body more; I am mixed race so what I once used to curse about me I now find it to be part of my strengths,” Colón says.

She can be found sifting through secondhand boutiques and vintage spots for one-of-a-kind looks.

“The Lafayette Vintage Bazaar is one that always has great items. Farouche Vintage is pretty amazing — and extremely affordable,” she says. “It’s my favorite for that reason. I can go in a time crunch and find something good that doesn’t hurt my bank account.”

Photo by Robin May

Giorgio Floridia

Giorgio Floridia speaks the way he dresses — elegantly. He’s the face and voice of Marcello’s Wine Market Café many nights. He is a native of Sicily, hailing from the southern city of Messina, and it’s this foundation that perhaps most influences his personal style.

He is not a man of many trends or audacious choices.

“Style is how you’re perceived by people,” he says. “In Italy, there is a lot of elegance — even in a casual way. For me, style is that way you want to be perceived, and it’s the personal touches, the unique characteristics of the way you carry yourself. In Lafayette, people really dress nice.”

And Floridia is among them. He and his wife Antonella have two children — Giuseppe and Francesca, who were both born in Italy — and a subtle way of dressing. At night Floridia is usually in a jacket and during the day chooses an airy palette though no less dapper.

“I’m very careful to all the details — the shoes (men’s shoes tell you a lot; the condition of a man’s shoes is important) and the belt and the shirt,” he says. “I prefer darker colors at night. I like burgundy; it’s my favorite color.”

When it comes to dressing well, it’s his father he most often recalls — a ship pilot with a penchant for detail.

Floridia keeps his entire look in top condition thanks to local spots like Partners’ Ltd. and F. Camalo. He’s never flashy, yet he manages to leave an impression quite easily on those who meet him.

Photo by Robin May

Kelly Dugas

Kelly Dugas kind of smolders. She has a sex appeal that’s hard to define and rare to find. It’s never in your face, but it’s unmistakable. One of 11 children raised in South Louisiana, the service manager for Cox Business looks effortlessly put together from both her workday style to her evenings out with her husband of 29 years, Kevin.

“I want to be stylish but comfortable and confident in what I’m wearing. I am often inspired by what I see other women wearing. I always say, women dress for other women,” she says.

Dugas’ style began young, thanks to a stylish older sister and her ability to rock the second-hand thing.

“I am one of 11 children and we always wore hand-medowns. But there is a three-year gap between me and one of my older sisters. She had a job and always bought the latest trends, and I was lucky enough to get her cool clothes,” she says.

Over the years, Dugas’ style has evolved. She is at the perfect age to know the woes of fashion in the ’80s. And she knows well the big bangs and the “kitchen counter haircuts” from her younger sister. In the coming years, Dugas would lean toward more classic style and conservative fashion. As she’s grown she’s been branching out, but her love for comfort has never waned.

“Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a walking billboard for Vanessa V. Boutique. They know and understand the importance of being comfortable yet stylish, and that makes it an enjoyable shopping experience,” she says. “I also love the Catholic influence of the Virgin, Saints and Angels jewelry line, and Coco Eros has a great selection.”

Photo by Robin May

Kevin James Gordon

When Kevin James Gordon tosses in the word “princess attire” to describe his personal style, you quickly realize he isn’t just talking about his clothes. He isn’t just talking about how he combines basic and sass or how he infuses men and women’s pieces into a look he owns.

“Not too much boy and not too much girl,” he says. “I like to take women’s fashion and turn it into menswear, making my own androgynous style.”

The Lafayette style maven takes inspiration from Beyoncé, Ariana Grande and Kylie Jenner.

“They are all divas in their own right, and I just love their style and how they carry themselves. I literally troll their Instagram pages and Snapchats taking screenshots of my favorite looks of theirs,” he says, The world is his runway, and dressing well is about risk. “I love a very refined and polished and form-fitting look. Having just the right amount of accessories to complete the look,” he says.

Over the years, he’s gone from Express Men’s boy clothes to what he calls “princess Kevin attire.” It’s a process that was less about his clothing and more about a personal journey when you really get to the heart of it.

“Back then, I didn’t really express my fashion because I wasn’t comfortable with myself being gay because of my parents,” he says.

As he grew into who he was, he made a choice: “This is who I am, and I’m done trying to please everyone and be something I’m not.”

He is clearly having a good time creating his style with a polish that’s timeless and genderless.

“I love to have fun and look good having fun, so I take the extra time to make sure my outfits are on point and my face is done up,” Gordon says.

Photo by Robin May

Andrea and Ken Veron

Look at a photo of Andrea and Ken Veron and you’d be hard pressed to guess the year. The duo at the helm of Café Vermilionville are a class act that’s timeless with an air that’s both chic and accessible.

For Andrea, it’s clean lines and a tailored look.

“Simplicity, contrast and, above all, ease are the foundation of my wardrobe,” she says.

And for her husband and partner of 16 years? It’s all about the hard-to-nail balance of function and style when you’re in the back of the house and the man at the front.

“The varying adaptive day-to-day roles of an owner-operator in the restaurant business dictates my personal style,” Ken says. “I have to dress in a way that I can look presentable for dinner service no matter if I’ve been crawling around on the roof 15 minutes before go time, which happens more often than people realize.”

They both love style 24/7. And while both gravitate toward a sort of refined style, it’s somehow all quite down to earth.

“Ken has always been stylish — it was one of the first things I noticed about him. He has this approachable and relaxed demeanor, which makes people naturally gravitate toward him. He’s not a fancy or showy kind of guy, but he does appreciate nice things of great quality, and I think his clothing choices reflect his ease and confidence,” Andrea says.

For her part in their symbiotic relationship, Andrea has taught Ken a valuable lesson when it comes to his fashion choices.

“Andrea has taught me that the notes which aren’t played are the ones heard the loudest,” he says.

Andrea’s color palette is simple — black, white, camel — with a dash of (her words) “obnoxiously scaled jewelry.” She loves a hostess skirt with a simple top and kitten heels. And her hair? That bun is a fixture for life. And maybe beyond.

“My hair is always in a bun,” she says. “This bun. Bury me with it!”