Photo courtesy Kitty and Vibe

For some, there is nothing more daunting than finding the right fitting swimsuit. Does it cover all the right bits, will it be snug in some parts but gape in others, or even worse, ride up where it’s not supposed to? Enter Kitty and Vibe brand swimsuits and their 28-year-old founder and CEO Cameron Armstrong.

Armstrong has put a lot of thought into this stressful ordeal. Though the brand officially launched in 2018, things really took off after Armstrong shared a January 2021 TikTok of herself trying on bathing suits and explaining the Kitty and Vibe sizing. The video went on to garner 3.9 million views, reaffirming the brand was on to something.

Organic and authentic celebrity endorsements soon followed from the likes of Katie Sturino, and Lena Dunham, as well as TikTok and YouTube celebrities. What these women were embracing was not only the cute fabrics, the fit and styles, but that the swimsuits came in sizes 00-28, where many on-trend swimwear manufacturers stop at size 10 — even though size 16 is the average dress size in the United States. Kitty and Vibe considers hip and inseam for best fit, in other words, hip and butt-focused sizing along with sustainable fabrics.

As the brand gained traction in 2021, Armstrong decided to relocate herself and the company from New York to Austin in February 2022. Once she’d settled in, she put out the welcome mat, celebrating the arrival with a pool party “for every booty” at the Austin Motel in early September. With local Austin vendors and a guest list that included customers showing off their Kitty and Vibe suits, the brand relies heavily on customer input to determine product launches. Their campaigns feature real women and real customers.

“Kitty and Vibe is a community-first brand,” Armstrong says, “which means we don’t make any major decisions without asking our customer base and social following first.”

Armstrong, grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, started her career in New York City in brand marketing working for companies like L’Oreal, Yves Saint Laurent and Giorgio Armani. When she decided to launch her own swimwear company, she wanted to instill the concept of kindness into the brand. The trademarked slogan “Kind is my Vibe” isn’t just about being inclusive with branding, but something much more personal to the founder.

"A part of my story that isn’t as well-known is how I chose to focus on a mission of kindness,” she says. “I am blessed to be the sister of a special needs person. My brother, Richard, has been instilling the virtue of kindness in me from the day I was born. Although he can’t talk, his heart speaks volumes. He is the purest person I know, incapable of cruelty, jealousy, or any ill intentions. His impact on my life has directly influenced our mission of fueling kindness at Kitty and Vibe. Our trademarked slogan always makes me think of him.”

With the move to Austin, Armstrong hopes to tap into the city’s “entrepreneurial spirit.”

“Austin drew me in because some of the most successful female-founded businesses have been built here – Bumble, Outdoor Voices, Kendra Scott, etc. I’ve found that Austin is an incredibly inclusive and welcoming town. This inclusive and open-minded nature is very reflective of both Austin and Kitty and Vibe, making this a perfect place for our business to grow. We hope to become the Austin gals’ favorite swimwear brand – spotted on Lady Bird Lake and Barton Springs, and top of mind for women of all shapes and sizes and known for our inclusive nature and welcoming events.”

Armstrong welcomes the Austin community to apply to be models for the swimwear, but also their line of pajamas and play dresses, a hybrid swim-meets-exercise dress made for activities in and outside of the water. Their most recent campaign was shot at Boggy Creek Farm and included all local Austin women, demonstrating that Kitty and Vibe are serious about becoming the kind, considerate neighbor we’d all like to meet — the one who also throws the good parties.

Photo courtesy Kitty and Vibe

Kitty and Vibe celebrated their move to Austin with a pool party at the Austin Motel.

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2 trailblazing Texans to be honored with history-making award at Austin museum

local history ripples

There are many conceptions of Texas around the world, but most can agree that Texans do have a knack for making history. An annual acknowledgement by the Texas State History Museum Foundation (TSHMF) will celebrate the contributions of two very different Texans who used their leadership skills to coordinate huge wins for their respective teams.

Retired Navy Admiral and former University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven and former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach will be honored with the History-Making Texan Award at the 19th Annual Texas Independence Day Dinner, taking place March 2, 2023, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

Photo courtesy of Bullock Museum

The History-Making Texan Award winners will be celebrated at the Bullock on March 2.

McRaven’s contributions and Staubach’s are similar by nature of leading teams — one commanded troops and the other played an integral part in the Dallas Cowboys into a wave of undeniable success — but the similarities mostly stop there.

McRaven led troops to rescue the ransomed Captain Richard Phillips, search for Osama Bin Laden, and ultimately capture Iraqi politician Saddam Hussein. The Four-Star admiral has advised U.S. presidents in his retirement and written several books, mostly imparting wisdom around changing one’s own life, and hopefully the world around them.

Staubach took a more entertainment-based path to greatness, rising to fame as a star player while lifting the rest of the Cowboys with him. The team had nine consecutive winning seasons with Staubach, of 20 total. Aside from giving Texans yet another point of state pride, Staubach spent his retirement and influence on real estate and philanthropy.

“Our recipients reached the pinnacle of accomplishments and eminence in their fields. Importantly, they were selected as honorees based on their personal character and commitment to improving the lives of others,” said dinner chair and TSHMF trustee Lisa Cooley in a press release. “They stand as role models to emulate, and we look forward to sharing their dramatic and inspiring stories with our guests.”

The dinner supports the Bullock Texas State History Museum with ticket sales and underwriting from nearly 500 attendees annually. Austin’s Jan Felts Bullock, wife of Bob Bullock and museum trustee, joins Dallas’ Cooley as honorary chair. In 2022, the award went to pianist James Dick and philanthropist Lyda Hill.

More information about the foundation and the History-Making Texan Award is available at tshmf.org.

SXSW rolls out next round of music showcases for 2023, including 29 Austin artists

300 more

Obviously, 190 music showcases is not enough for South by Southwest. That’s 19 a day? Make it another 301. On December 7, SXSW announced the second round of 2023 showcasing artists, bringing the current total to almost 500 acts performing March 13-18, 2023, in Austin.

Of those newly announced artists, 29 are from Austin, and eight more are from Texas, keeping the local numbers relatively high compared to the whole world. This round contains almost 10 percent Austin bands, while the first round contained nearly 7 percent.

Some of the more widely recognizable Austin acts announced in the second round include:

  • Good Looks: Vocalist and guitarist Tyler Jordan cites an increasingly venerated Austin band, Spoon, as an influence. Good Looks is guitar riff-driven, wistful, and a little Southern in sound.
  • Graham Reynolds (solo), Graham Reynolds & The Golden Arm Trio: A prolific composer and bandleader, Reynolds’ name pops up all over Austin films and awards ceremonies. He appears solo and with an eclectic jazz trio.
  • Kalu & The Electric Joint: Frontman Kalu James arrived in Austin from Nigeria at 18 and has made a strong name for himself (and guitarist Jonathan “JT” Holt) through psychedelic, vaguely jazzy, and decidedly funky jams.
  • Pleasure Venom: One of the rawest acts in town, Pleasure Venom is well-known for punk hits (and honest takes) that don’t hold back. The band is consistently making news between lots of live shows and festival appearances.
  • Primo the Alien: Solo artist and producer Primo the Alien is bringing the 80s back with synthy electro-pop. She attaches it all to a double persona that’s both candid on social media and a delivery system for sensory overload onstage.
  • The Tiarras: A triple-threat band of sisters, The Tiarras are always thinking about family and stepping into their power. They’ve tackled topics like lesbian and Latina representation, and although they’re young, they’re seasoned pros.

The remaining Austin bands in the second round are: Andrea Magee, Big Wy's Brass Band, Billy King & The Bad Bad Bad, Caleb De Casper, Daiistar, Del Castillo, El Combo Oscuro, Font, JM Stevens, Johnny Chops, Marshall Hood, Otis Wilkins, Pink Nasty Meets El Cento, Rett Smith, Rod Gatort, Schatzi, Shooks, S.L. Houser, The Tender Things, Thor & Friends, Trouble in The Streets, and West Texas Exiles.

Showcases are the base unit of the SXSW music experience, so to speak. They may be solo or part of a multi-day affair, especially when sponsored by large entities like Rolling Stone. Attendees with music wristbands get priority, but all wristbands get access if space remains.

Even as the lineup seems to bulge at the seams, a press release states that there are more to come. A full schedule of showcasing artists, where users can select events for their customized schedule, is available at schedule.sxsw.com.

Austin's Central Library announces open call for artists for future gallery exhibits

Beyond Books

People can learn a lot at the library. Besides all the books, magazines, online resources, and in-person programming, Austinites enjoy a buffet of rotating art exhibits that populate the gallery at the Central Library downtown, publicizing local artists and teaching visitors about the culture around them.

Now the ever-changing Austin Public Library is looking for another new exhibit sometime in 2024 between January and September, and inviting artists to apply through February 28.

Good news for artists who crave freedom, and frustrating news for artists who love something to bounce off of: This engagement offers few to no parameters. There is no explicit theme, but the library does claim a mission in a press release about the call for artists.

“The mission of the Central Library Gallery is to support local artists and art communities, raise awareness of contemporary and diverse forms of art, and to provide exhibitions in which a wide variety of identities and interests are represented,” said the release.

The Central Library website lists four current exhibitions: Hannah Hannah lends some expressionist portraits, Release the Puppets tells stories in a classic and playful medium, the Austin American-Statesman explores Austin communities of color through photographs, and a traveling exhibition documents Pride parades of the past.

The call is addressed to “artists, collectives, curators and beyond,” further widening the possibilities, but still restricting them to applicants residing in Texas. Applicants should consider the size of the gallery (2,700 square feet) and a few logistical stipulations, including that pieces may not be hung from the ceiling, and that walls may be painted.

When the jury — made up of local artists and others in the industry — announces a winning proposal in March 2023, the artist will be offered a stipend to complete the work. All project costs are the exhibitor’s responsibility, so this stipend is not unlike an advance, except that the project will not continue to generate revenue at the library.

Applications are open now through 11:59 pm on February 28, 2023. Applicants may make their proposals via submittable.com.