Out of This World

Backstage at Marchesa Fall/Winter 2012 Show at New York Fashion Week

Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig took Marchesa on a journey from earth to heaven.

Kevin Tachman for The Daily Beast

During New York Fashion Week, some designers aim to dress the average American woman. Others cater to the ladies who lunch at the Colony Club; others still to the working mothers or the downtown cool-kids. But then there’s Marchesa, whose fall collection was shown here on Wednesday night, which feels like it’s part of an entirely different world.

Held in the gilded halls of the Plaza hotel, the Marchesa show took exhausted buyers and editors off the streets of Manhattan and transported them into a place of opulent fantasy. According to designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, the inspiration this season came from Bouguereau’s 1878 painting A Soul Brought to Heaven, a sumptuous canvas depicting a pair of angels carrying a lifeless woman through the clouds. It’s a journey from earth to heaven—with lots of porcelain skin, great billowing dresses, and angels’ wings. “We were looking at jeweled skeletons from the Catholic churches of Germany and Switzerland in the 15th century,” Craig told The Daily Beast. After a season where so many collections seemed inspired by China or the American Southwest, it was a refreshing concept.

The dresses in the collection referenced that transition from the corporeal to angelic: there was a white feathered ball gown, a gold lace body suit with a skeleton illusion, and a blood-red embroidered dress with a massive taffeta skirt.

Backstage, as models in white robes were systematically circulated between hair and makeup, there was evidence of other-worldliness as well. Makeup was kept dewy, just like in that Bouguereau painting, making the models’ skin look like alabaster or marble, while hair was being braided into loose braids, and frayed around the face, like a cherub’s.

If there were a place fit for these dresses on earth, the venue would have to be the Academy Awards. When we asked Chapman who she’d like to wear her dresses on the red carpet, she deflected it diplomatically. “We always have hopes,” she said, laughing. “You really never know. There are so many people, there’s such a fantastic list. Anyone!”