In Conversation: Ariela, the Steampunk Cowgirl

Western style isn’t just for those who live in the country or ride horses. Anyone and everyone can adopt it. Last season, Isabel Marant, Veronica Beard, Louis Vuitton, Chloe, Alberta Ferretti and Chanel were all inspired by the West. Dior’s Resort18 collection was inspired by the Lascaux cave paintings. These Paleolithic caves in southwestern France featured earth tones such as ochre, red, orange and brown which Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s Creative Director, incorporated in the Resort18 collection. Dior’s Cruise19 collection was inspired by escaramuzas, female Mexican rodeo riders.

Dior Resort 2018, (from left), Chanel Pre-Fall 2014, Dior Resort 2019. Photos: Vogue

Pyer Moss celebrated the black cowboys of the 19th century, including Bill Pickett, and his Fall 2018 campaign featured the Compton Cowboys and Cowgirls of Color.

Photos: Rubberband and Kerby Jean-Raymond

The STRUTitup Team did something differently this rodeo season. Instead of styling models in our take on western wear, we asked individuals in the Houston fashion scene to style themselves. Then, we asked them about their looks, what inspired them and what western style means to them.

Today, in the first installment of our rodeo campaign, we introduce you to painter and model, Ariela Ventura. Originally from sunny Los Angeles, California, she has called the Bayou City home for many years. During the day, you might find her in the HR/Finance department for the Houston Symphony, and walking in runway shows, modeling or painting in the evenings and weekends. Oh, she also tries to run at least 20 miles a week. At least!!!! One more thing, she’s finishing up grad school at the University of Houston and will graduate in December 2019 with a Master of Arts in Arts Leadership with a concentration in public relations.

Read on to see why Ventura says her paintings look like her outfits.

STRUT: When we initially reached out to you and shared our vision for this campaign, what did you think?

ARIELA VENTURA: My mind went to the desert and I immediately envisioned bandanas, steampunk and apocalyptic.

STRUT: For the campaign, you put together two different looks. Can you tell us about the first look?

AV: All my looks start off with an environment. The first look was the desert and it was steampunk-infused with apocalyptic and classic western style. Very dark, earth tones, leather and grunge. I was going for a rebellious look so I [created] a zig-zag part in my hair because it brought in curiosity and contradiction of wanting to go against the norm.

STRUT: Now, for your second look. What inspired you?

AV: I was inspired by western [style] and the jungle. It was a very Mary Jane approach to it which is where the touch of leopard came in in parts of the jacket and the socks. I still kept with the neutral earth tones, very rustic type of colors and textures. I’m really obsessed with browns and siennas.

STRUT: It looks like you layered multiples pieces together. 

AV: Yes, I wore a crop top with an olive duster and a leather jacket. Then, I [accessorized] with a vintage belt buckle with a small pouch, a black hat and a necklace made of suede.

STRUT: Where did you purchase everything from these two looks you put together?

AV: I always do a combination of new and old. Usually, my first layer is always a more modern basic which I’ll buy from [stores that carry basics] whereas all my layers and details come from local thrift shops and local vintage stores. I would say 90% is thrifted.

STRUT: What do you like about layering?

AV: All my paintings are mixed media, and I’m obsessed with playing with textures and color. I do that with my outfits because I get that same adrenaline and that satisfaction as I do when I’m painting. It’s a habit I brought out from my art.

STRUT: If you go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo this year, would you wear either of these looks?

AV: Oh, for sure. I’d probably wear the second look because it’s comfortable and fitted. The first look had extremely wide leg pants with a long dress over, so I think I’d trip over all the oversize layers.

This interview has been gently edited for clarity.