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Overall, though, he thinks Kansas City doesn't have a small-town mentality. The people who live here want to do something more with themselves, he says. About a year ago, Garcia and Segura founded 385 Model + Talent, an ethnic modeling agency. When Garcia worked as a model, he was one of the few Latino male models in the city. He got a lot of jobs, but he couldn't work all the time for fear of being overexposed.
Now, more models are approaching 385, and Garcia hopes to develop a larger, more experienced pool of talent. "If you were to checkmark stuff that a big city would have, an ethnic model and talent agency would be one of them," he says.
One Thursday night, Carman Stalker lounges on a sofa on the third floor of the Velvet Dog. Next to her is her mom, Deborah Gipson. They're drinking beers and vodka and eating quesadillas. It's WearHaus night at the Martini Corner bar, and several designers have set up shop around the room.
In the cozy space, Halliday Bertram has two clothing racks. Her designs include T-shirts embossed with anatomically correct hearts, bowling shirts with leopard-print trim, and girly dresses decorated with heart- and skull-shaped patches. HumaNature Salon occupies two tall bar tables, one of which is topped with four mannequin heads with varying hairstyles. Silpada, the Lenexa jewelry company, is situated in one corner. LOVER cosmetics is giving women makeovers.
The night starts off a bit slow. As late-afternoon sunlight filters through the long windows, designers wander around to chat with one another. Bertram abandons her post to sit at a nearby table with Christian Schuster, who designs neckties for his label, ChristianMICHEAL. He sketches outfits in a blank notebook while she orders an appetizer. A little later, Bertram, who's clad in a strapless red plaid dress, goes over to the HumaNature area to get her hair done. Stylist Price Leatherbarrow starts transforming her shoulder-length red hair into a '40s pinup-girl style.
Leatherbarrow has his own big-small-town story. During high school (he went to Rockhurst, Shawnee Mission North and Lincoln Prep), he frequented the city's under-18 clubs. In the late '80s and early '90s, he and his friends went to Oasis on Bannister Road, Pogo's in Overland Park and Starz on Broadway. "The same people went to all of them. Then everyone turned 21," he says.
He moved to Nebraska when he was 22. Three years ago, he came back to Kansas City and eventually decided to go to beauty school in Gladstone. When he started looking for jobs, he went to HumaNature and discovered that he knew owner Amber Cristman from those underage-club days. "I'm sure we danced to New Order at one point or another," Leatherbarrow says.
"Twenty years later, it's like a reunion for me. They're all grown up, in their late 30s, and we all know the same people."
As the night progresses, more people filter upstairs to check out the shopping. The Silpada reps and their fans are drinking pink and light-green-colored martinis. A trio of women who have been drinking on the second floor come upstairs and get makeovers. The boyfriend of a HumaNature stylist lets another person experiment with extensions, so he has a long, skinny braided rat-tail emerging from his curly hair.
A couple of Stalker's friends from high school show up and join her in the lounge area. They talk about what sort of drinking games to play at a Beerfest-style party that some other high school friends are hosting over the weekend. They're calling it "Little Raytown Days."