Her NYFW Show Revealed Why Women Love Vera Wang
At NYFW, Vera Wang was ghostly, Alice & Olivia future-looking, Monique Lhuillier and Reem Acra reveled in glamour, and BY. Bonnie Young stayed in the 1970s.
Vera Wang by Lizzie Crocker
Emily Ratajkowski, the bombshell model-actress-activist with a wisp-thin waist and prodigious breasts, hasn’t been show-hopping much this fashion week. She’d seen DKNY and Jason Wu (she’s the face of Wu’s fall campaign) before arriving at Vera Wang on Tuesday in a sleeveless black tuxedo dress by the designer.
There are few designers that women fantasize about wearing as much as Vera Wang. It’s the wedding dresses that they dream of more than her ready-to-wear, which is reliably feminine and ethereal (“elegant” and “diaphonous” are other common Wang descriptors) but less lusted after.
It’s hardly surprising that Ratajkowski “obviously” loves Wang, but it has less to do with her frequently wearing the designer’s clothes (she doesn’t) and more to do with the rule that all women love Wang.
Indeed, her shows invariably attract off-duty models and celebrities (Jasmine Sanders, aka the “golden barbie,” sat front row with Ratjkowski, as did actress Chloë Sevigny and West End star Cynthia Erivo) along with fashion power players and powerful women. Maria Sharapova sat opposite the other stars and next to Anna Wintour, both of them rapt in conversation before the show began.
Wang’s spring collection was, in a word, dark--mostly black, in fact, and as far removed from her bridal confections as any ready-to-wear offerings in recent years.
The show opened with a series of corseted, midriff-exposing wool jackets in off-the-shoulder silhouettes. Some were worn against bare skin, others layered over white ribbed tanks and paired with black peplum shorts. Their sleeves were deliberately long, extending well beyond the wrists and in some cases past models’ fingertips.
She also sent out blouses with absurdly long cuffs that looked like horse hooves or monster limbs. The overall effect was ghoulish and paranormal.
Other looks included sheer black georgette skirts and matching off-the-shoulder gowns--an indication that the ubiquitous silhouette of this season isn’t a passing trend.
The most satisfying pieces were louder (literally): skirts and minidresses embroidered with large white pearls that clip-clapped as models walked down the long, florescent runway. Dissonant, Psycho-esque music soundtracked their final lap.
After the show, Sevigny conceded that the Hitchcockian score at the end was “a little heavy-handed,” though she was a fan of the corseted pieces and mini peplum skirts.
“I’m always into a mini,” said the delightfully approachable Love and Friendship actress. “I picked up on some [Olivier] Theyksens vibes too. It was very goth and very wearable, I thought.”
Sevigny could certainly pull it off, as could someone like Lady Gaga. But most of Wang’s collection would probably look heavy-handed, to borrow a phrase from Sevigny, on even the most style-versatile women.
Alice & Olivia by Allison McNearney
Fashion may be a trillion-dollar commercial juggernaut of an industry, but its real power lies in its ability to transform. Put on a gorgeous gown or get all dolled up in a funky embroidered number, and you instantly step inside a fantasy world of your own making, one that can bestow confidence and an addictive energy.
This magical force was on full display at the Alice & Olivia presentation on Tuesday, where a thick crowd of fashionistas stepped over the threshold of the event space at Skylight Clarkson Sq and found themselves transported into the middle of a fantastical wonderland.
While most fashion presentations feature a troupe of models standing in some formation for an uncomfortable amount of time, Alice & Olivia CEO and creative director Stacey Bendet is known for instead creating installations that bring to life the world that inspired her latest collection.
This year, she outdid herself once again, building the “romantic mystic gardens of Bomarzo in Rome” to show off her designs for Spring/Summer 2017.
A large, greenery-covered keyhole stood sentinel in the middle of the room, while little vignettes ringed the outside. Among these was a patch of floor strewn with red flower petals and topped with two model-sized birdcages and a white archway, all with ivy creeping up their sides. There was a space with an antique white iron bed with vines of greenery growing around it and a model laying seductively in the middle.
In our social media-bombarded world, Bendet found her inspiration for this collection in the power of positivity and the power of self-interpretation, how people reach to find a higher form of their selves.
“To me, fashion is all about interpretation, especially in this day and age when you’re inundated with so much visual content at all times, on Instagram, Twitter, social media, Facebook,” Bendet told The Daily Beast. “There’s imagery at all times.”
One image that she kept coming back to was a set of 18th-century tarot cards. Bendet “wanted to kind of take the tarot cards and think about how the tarot card is really about connecting to your higher self and how each outfit that you put on each day should feel that way too. It’s like connecting to how you feel that day.”
This mystical visual made a direct appearance in several elements of the collection, like a silver box purse with a re-creation of “The Lovers” card on the front, and a handbag featuring the vintage icon of the tarot sun. But this spirit of self-invention can be felt in a more ethereal way throughout the rest of the looks.
There was the series of pieces decked out in colorful embroidery, like a light blue denim dress covered in flurry of white flowers and leaves or a tan shorts-and-jacket combo with matching navy, red, yellow, and green patterns of vintage flowers.
A V-necked maxi dress had a cascading long skirt in a rainbow waterfall of colors. And a grouping of black-and-white striped affairs—a pair of casual dresses in both short and maxi next to a model in wide-legged pants topped by a long-sleeved red blouse.
These more daytime offerings for confident, modern women were paired with party-worthy frocks that Alice & Olivia has become known for, like a black lace dress with delicate red roses sewn on top, and a flirty white dress whose skirt was bedecked with black-accented butterflies.
It was impossible not to smile looking around this fantasyland, and the playful and fun attitude extended to Bendet’s own ensemble. The designer joined a long line of politically-minded fashion folk who have been literally wearing their support for one particular candidate on their sleeves this fashion week—well, in the case of Bendet, her skirt.
Bendet held sway over the packed room in a red shirt tucked into a long white voluminous skirt hand-painted with American flags, chic fashionistas, and long-lashed eyes—and a repeating pattern in bold black proclaiming “I’m With Her.” When asked to pose for a photo, she also made sure onlookers got a good look at her backside, that had a cheekily placed name, “Donald Rump.”
“I felt like this is a really good moment to support Hillary,” Bendet said. “I am not a Democrat, I am not a Republican, I’m a total independent. But I’m with her.”
Monique Lhuillier by Allison McNearney
Season after season, Monique Lhuillier has proven herself a maestro of eveningwear, constructing elegantly romantic gowns and sexy cocktail numbers that, with their show-stopping details and painstaking construction are worthy of any red carpet.
She wowed again with the graceful reveal of her Spring/Summer 2017 collection in the lobby of the Frank Gehry-designed IAC building (where this publication also has its offices).
While Lhuillier often works in the realm of romantic fairy tales, this season, she designed with a twist. Her palette trended mostly to soft, delicate hues of blush pink, light blue, soft purple, and white, but many of these gowns were accented with black belts and draping black scarves to give the looks a little edge.
It’s hard to choose favorites, as every look offered a little something new to dream of. There was the neck-to-hem rose-gold sequined gowns with a plunging, gunmetal-lined neck and back. Or a high-necked white gown with the deepest of indigo floral embroidery. Or the elegant sultriness of a long-sleeved, skin-tight, sheer cocktail dress with black beaded embroidery and a bundle of ostrich feathers rounding out the knee-length hemline.
All of the trappings of the most sumptuous evening wear were present: gowns celebrating sequins and feathers, embroidery in silver and gold and some of the most incredible and intricate beading.
Sexiness was very present too. A series of evening gowns featured a foundation of bodysuits, with only flowing sheer chiffon skirts providing leg coverage. Others had thigh-high slits, plunging necklines, and designs of delicate fabric that were just this side of see-through.
Quite besides the flashes of skin, the collection still maintained the quintessential gorgeousness, opulence, and fairy tale perfection that have come to define the brand over the past 20 years.
Reem Acra by Sarah Shears
At the Reem Acra show, hosted at the Mercantile Annex, up in the northwest edge of the Garment District, classical music played behind the murmur of voices as people loitered about and looked for their seats.
There was a whiff of formality, as those attending all seemed to get the same memo to abide by a monochromatic color scheme—white, gray and black, which matched the interior.
Singular pops of funkiness were sighted: a woman with light teal hair, a man wearing a large Hindu nose ring/ear ring combo, and the striking twin sisters T.K. and Cipriana Quann, demurely dressed, but still clearly dancing to their own beat.
As the models came out, the music changed from classical string music to an echo-y new wave tune that matched the show’s ethereal and enchanting quality.
The models looked pale but fresh, with rosy cheeks, light lips and hair done up in a modified french twist that winked knowingly to the court of Louis the XVI.
As at Zac Posen, the collection was enchanting, like a room full of fairy tale princesses coming back to life.
Dresses were full of beading, sequins and floral appliqué that made the models look like they were rising out of a meadow of sparkling wildflowers.
Slight nods to fashions past appeared across the runway: modified versions of Elizabethan collars adorned necklines, black lace accessories gave a distinctly Victorian appeal, and puffy sleeves were reminiscent of both the 1800s and the 1980s take on gigot sleeves.
The ensembles were mostly in creams and shades of pastel, but a metallic sheen gave the fabric an edgy look, adding a complexity to what was otherwise a sweet and extremely delicate aesthetic.
Translucent chiffon was appliquéd and layered to create full silhouettes while still showing off the lean bodies of the wearer and little black ribbon bows adorned the necklines and waistlines of some of these near-transparent pieces, adding the slightest Lolita quality.
A series of mini dresses had structural skirts that retained the feeling of softness with folded pleating and bubble hemlines that in turn helped create the shape.
Gowns were the focus of the second half of the show, and the designer’s experience in bridal couture came through. The fabric sashayed with each step, fluttering elegantly as the models moved past.
A very 1800s-style empire waist gown, in the lightest of pinks with embroidered gold leaves that lessened in density down the length of the dress, was strikingly beautiful.
A high-low light pink chiffon gown was intricately embroidered over the bust and below the waist, creating the effect of a secondary more risqué silhouette being placed onto of an otherwise simple piece.
The show ended on a stunning note, a model walked out in a gorgeous appliquéd and beaded silver gown with a plunging halter neckline and a train with slight bustle, embodying perfectly the otherworldly quality of Reem Acra’s enchanting collection.
BY. Bonnie Young by Sarah Shears
Bonnie Young’s second collection for her new line, 'BY. Bonnie Young,' blended 70s boho chic with a minimalist modern edge. The presentation was at Tutto il Giorno in Tribeca, designed in the modernist, industrial-ish aesthetic du jour, with washed out yet dark gray walls, and oil-rubbed bronze lighting fixtures.
Upon entering, there was an arresting display: two incredibly still models in floor length bright white dresses flanked tall vases filled with huge lush green branches, which all stood behind a long table filled with moss and white candles.
Directly behind these erect human grecian statues, sat a huge flat screen television, which created a wall designating the space of the presentation.The room felt crowded and the crowd felt select, close friends of the designer and fashion industry folk.
On the giant TV, a video look-book with modern day flower children jaunting about in green fields, played on loop. In the actual room, a single model in a floor length floral dress stood in front of a large picture window that revealed a wall of live greenery behind the glass.
By candlelight, the guest browsed racks with the static versions of the garments.
Although the collection had a strong retro influence, it didn’t feel especially derivative. Embossed fabric gave a trumpet sleeve poet blouse with a ruffled neckline a modern edge, a ruffled mustard off the shoulder dress was made into a midi, a velvet suede “poncho” top came in a surprising jewel blue, and an earthy green silk floral dress with trumpet sleeves and a lace kaftan would’ve made Thea Porter proud.
Loose, wide-legged pants came in a variety of colors and prints, pleating embellished an emerald silk shift and a white shapeless maxi, and a pony hair blazer was elegantly layered with a fine mesh white tie front dress.
Young herself was in an all-denim sleeveless ensemble that matched the feel of her new collection: retro but sophisticated and just a little bit edgy. In spite of the clearly 1970s inspiration, the pieces didn’t feel stale; the color palette, mix of patterns, layering and proportions, and the play with textures made it all feel fresh again.