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Meet the Judges


Cesar Galindo, a self-taught designer and the youngest of eleven children, began his career in fashion designing corsets and period costumes for The Miami City Ballet, and then for The Houston Grand Opera in his hometown.He moved to New York in the mid 1980’s to continue his work as a designer and started in the fashion industry at TSE Cashmere as a show room manager. After a year, he went on to design for Carmelo Pomodoro, a then rising international sportswear designer.  During this time, Cesar began developing his own line, a signature collection specializing in dresses for social and evening events.


For the last twenty-two years, Cesar has balanced his time designing his own collection as well as working as a contract designer for private clients and for established labels including Dolce & Gabbana where he designed predominately for celebrities for nine years followed by seven seasons for Calvin Klein Collection under the design direction of Francisco Costa.  His most recent assignment was at L.A.M.B., a contemporary women’s collection launched by Gwen Stefani. In October 2011, Galindo launched CZAR by Cesar Galindo, his secondary women’s collection consisting predominately of dresses and soft separate components and varied edgier statement items. CZAR offers a younger sophisticated version of his signature collection at a contemporary price point.  Neiman Marcus’s online store, Cusp, launched CZAR S12, with a successful overall selling performance.Femininity, social occasion dresses, architecturally draped hems and necklines and a rich color palette are inherent of Galindo and will remain present to both CESAR GALINDO Collection and CZAR.



Inspired by her African roots, Liberian-born fashion designer and stylist Korto Momolu (pronounced Cut • Toe – Mo • Mo • Lu) is stamping her global brand on fashion forward women’s wear and accessories that celebrate the essence of her rich heritage through the use of traditional, luxury fabrics; skins; mixed prints, etc.

A graduate of the L’Academies des Couturiers Design Institute in Ottawa, Ontario [Korto relocated to Canada in 1990 following the coup in Liberia a year prior], Korto also studied at the renowned Parsons School of Design in New York City while working as an independent fashion designer. Advancing her field experience, she auditioned for and earned a spot on the 5th season of Bravo TV’s hit show, Project Runway. Throughout the season, Korto’s primary signature for high color and diversity in style and presentation, in addition to her feisty spirit, resonated well with audiences, earning her the prize of “fan favorite” and ultimately, a placement of 1st runner up at the season’s close.

As the Korto Momolu brand expands, so do her accomplishments and opportunities to include designing for Miss Universe (Leila Lopes) and the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; creating an accessory line for Dillard’s Incorporated department stores; producing an eco-friendly jewelry line for the Smithsonian museum stores; designing the uniforms for the Walton Family Museum (Crystal Bridges); serving as the Cheerios’ ambassador for the Shoprite Partners in Caring “Knock Out Hunger” campaign; and contributing her time and talents to countless charitable and philanthropic endeavors.

Highlighted in the ‘Top 5 Designers to Watch’ in New York City this season, Korto has been featured in many international and national publications and has appeared on numerous television shows, including two seasons of Project Runway AllStars. She presently makes her home with her husband and daughter in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Valerie Cassel Oliver is senior curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texas. Prior to her tenure at CAMH she was director of the Visiting Artist Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000 she was one of six curators selected to organize the Biennial for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Cassel Oliver has organized numerous exhibitions including Splat Boom Pow! The Influence of Cartoons in Contemporary Art (2003); the acclaimed Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970 (2005); Black Light/White Noise: Sound and Light in Contemporary Art (2007); Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image with Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee (2009); Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft (2010); a major retrospective on Benjamin Patterson, Born in the State of Flux/us, as well as the survey Donald Moffett: The Extravagant Vein (2011). In 2012, she mounted the project, Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, currently touring through 2015. In April of this year, she opened a major survey of drawings by Houston-based and internationally-recognized artist, Trenton Doyle Hancock entitled, Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin and Bones–20 Years of Drawing.


A retired oral surgery administrator for husband Donald G. Gardner's practice, Gayla Gardner describes herself as a "country girl at heart with deep family values," though her unofficial moniker should be Mrs. Claus. The Twelve Days of Christmas Inc. co-founder provides community service year-round in six cities nationwide through her "Parties with a Purpose" campaign. Gardner also moonlights as a fashion designer for Cortlandt's Closet when she's not supporting March of Dimes, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church's women's guild, United Negro College Fund, Bering Omega, National Kidney Foundation, Ensemble Theatre, Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce or spending quality time with the couple's three adult children, Donya Gardner, Breht Gardner and Kendahl Gardner Lucas.


Selven O’Keef Jarmon is a Houston based fashion designer/artist whose approach to art making is built around the profound meanings drawn from social and cultural existences within the mundane experiences present in daily lives both current and historic. Using the mediums of fashion, visual art and community development, Selven invites an audience into introspective spaces framed by networks of people working collectively. His current work titled, “360 DEGREES VANISHING” features 4 large beaded tapestries, over 450,000 beads, that will cover the exterior walls of the Art League Houston due to be unveiled Fall 2018. This piece was fabricated by 16 South African beaders working with over 1,000 individuals throughout Houston as a social sculpture that speaks to the collective power that exist when cultures intersect in the creative space. Prior work includes the content development for South African TV series “KWANDA” that involved South African designers and artisans from several communities tasked with informing the quality of their life through their crafts.

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