Behind the scenes: Making saddles, banners, fashion for Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Local western wear store owner is honored to make banners

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

HOUSTON - One of the last standing independent western wear shops in the Greater Houston area was given the task to make all the banners for the championship livestock.

Behind the scenes, this family has done so much for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

For 41 years, Allen's Western Wear and Saddlery in Pasadena offered rodeo fashion staples -- boots, belts, hats and more. Every year, this small family-owned shop makes hundreds of saddles for the event.

"For years, we have built the saddles for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and their cutting -- that's what we do, and it kind of advanced from there," said Larry Allen, the store's owner.

Allen opened it's doors on Red Bluff Road more than 40 years ago.

"It began in 1977 after my college days, rodeo-ing full time. We were giving away participation items for Wrangler Jeans, and I was asked whether I'd be open to opening up a Wrangler Ranch, which was a specialty retail store for Wrangler Jeans company. That's how it began and shortly after they sold the name, and I put my own name, Allen's Western Wear & Saddlery in that position, and took off from there," Allen said.

It wasn't long before his to-do attitude caught the attention of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

"For years we have built the saddles for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and their cutting -- that's what we do, and it kind of advanced from there," Allen said.

Everything from jewelry, metal, leather and more are hand cut and crafted in the back of the old shop. His manager, Tony Alfaro, is the master of tooling. He and his family work for the shop, spending long hours perfecting each detail.

"It takes two and a half hours to finish," said Alfaro who was chiseling away at the detail art on the handle of the saddle.

"Tooling the entire saddle -- the design -- takes 30 hours," said Allen pointing at the fine lines etched into the leather. "It's kind of like an artist -- once they get started, this is what they do."

Allen said the rodeo had approached him asking him to make banners for the champion livestock to wear once they were selected as winners.

"We were chosen and proud to manufacture for them something that stands out. They wanted something that jumped out and grabbed a little attention and that's what we're doing today," Allen said.

Chocolate leather, a taupe fringe and a lot of heart go into each banner. Each piece is 20 hours worth of labor.

"This is a jewelry plate we make for the Houston livestock show," said Allen holding a piece of carefully cut metal with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo logo. "We hope that they see that there's a lot of hand-made quality put into a project, more than just a flower arrangement that lasts two to three days."

The tool shop is behind all the boots, accessories and hats that sit in the front of the store. It is the same area where Allen's daughter, Kylee Allen Brett, makes her accessories.

Brett is a fashion designer who hand-makes all of her stitched bags, purses, clothing and accessories. She owns Ranch Hippie.

"Denim vest with the fur and on the back saddle tooling," said Brett showing KPRC her latest rodeo fashion item. "This leather came off the fender of a vintage saddle."

She takes time to bead belts and hand stitch popular Louis Vuitton handbags.

One hot item? Special armbands she made for rodeo committee members.

"A committee badge bracelet where we were able to add fringe, funky hair on hide -- taking their badge and giving them something they can wear and not have to pin it to their shirt," said Brett.

Brett said Ranch Hippie designs will be available at the rodeo.

"I want it to be fun. I want everyone to feel beautiful, fun, funky and brave," said Brett.

The Allen family hopes people will appreciate the quality work and heart that goes into the precious details of the rodeo.

"This is the only standing independent, family-owned store like this around town," said Allen.

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