Behind You

Kendall Jenner’s NYFW Show-Stopper: Reviews of La Perla, Cinq à Sept, Adam Selman, and Tadashi Shoji at New York Fashion Week

At NYFW, La Perla featured Kendall Jenner and Naomi Campbell at their most dramatic, Cinq à Sept playing it cool, and Adam Selman and Tadashi Shoji feeling floral.

JP Yim/Getty

La Perla by Brea Tremblay

I trekked through piles of freezing slush to get to Thursday night’s La Perla show. I turned my face away from the bitter wind off New York’s Hudson River, and I made the same small talk everyone else was making.

“This weather is crazy, right? So crazy.” Of course, it shouldn’t be crazy to have snow in February in the Northeast. And yet, it is a little—it was 60 degrees the day before.

“Climate change is fake news,” a fellow showgoer joked. Even weather small talk has been politicized.

Stepping out of the wind and into the backstage area of the La Perla show was like slipping into some wondrous feminine nirvana populated entirely by attractive people.

The models lounged in the white satin La Perla robes, glam slumber party-style. Makeup and hair people fluttered around them, adding dark lips and studding their soft, pretty hair with tiny crystal flowers. But everyone was beautiful. The models, of course, but also the photographers, the hairstylists, and even the lady arranging a poster board of the outfits.

“Are you one of the girls?” a makeup artist asked a random passerby. No, she was not—she was just insanely good-looking like everyone else. This backstage area was highly evolved.

La Perla Creative Director Julia Haart shook my hand with both of hers. She was wearing a suit with sheer leopard print panels and a purposefully exposed bra. Built-in bras were an essential part of this evening’s collection. Fitting, for a brand that built their business on decades of fancy underpants—La Perla has been an undergarment legend for decades but this is only their second clothing season.

“There shouldn’t be any type of women. I want every woman to determine her own beauty,” Haart said. She was standing in front of a wall of pink flowers. Kendall Jenner popped over to shriek a hello. They hugged.

As for the actual show, it was as deliciously over-the-top as a pillow fight in soft-core. The set was a two-story fake house decorated with pseudo-Greek columns and fake pink wisteria. The models were posed in vignettes in “rooms,” living room, study, bedroom, etc. The audience’s chairs sat on fake grass—we were in the “yard.” I was sitting behind Teyana Taylor and let me tell you—her hair looks fantastic.

Naomi Campbell opened the show in a blue satin and lace slip dress. She looked far better than she should have, both because she is a superhuman marvel and also because of all the pieces shown this evening, the satin and lace cocktail dresses were my least favorite.

They were a wink to the company’s history, and no doubt whoever wears one out on the town will have a really fun night, but I think the nightgown-inspired trend requires real heft to the garment or the dresses look far less expensive than they are.

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More successful were the pieces that combined the lingerie history with more structural elements. The bra detailing on a peach blazer was striking. A nightie-style tank was nicely paired with a flirty leather mini. A grey suit with flower details was charming. A glittery, belted cocktail dress looked great. And Lindsey Wixson rocked a deep blue high-waisted pant/matching bra top combo.

But the finale dress. The finale dress! Kendall Jenner strode out in a sheer ballgown, ass cheeks winking at the audience, covered in crystals and pearls. She stood on that tufted stage, and she looked like a wedding in Queens. A good one. A really good Queens wedding.

Over the soundtrack, Beyoncé bellowed about freedom.

Of course it shouldn’t have felt political—this was a fashion show with pretty ladies wearing pretty clothes. But everything is political now. And this silly richness, this overabundance of femininity, the lace, the trailing wisteria, the built-in bras showcasing bodies the new administration is desperate to control, it all felt like a very lush, very bejeweled statement.

“It is to liberate women in my own small way. I am designing clothing that make women feel empowered,” Haart said.

Cinq à Sept by Lizzie Crocker

Of the many ways that designers are trying to shake up traditional runway shows—be it transforming the catwalk into a marketing moment with see-now, buy-now collections or presenting at secret locations where attendees arrive after enduring a torturous scavenger hunt—Cinq à Sept has laid claim to the most pleasant experience: fashion presented over a sit-down meal at an elegant but unfussy French bistro.

The Ludlow Hotel’s Dirty Laundry restaurant played host to Cinq à Sept’s show last season, where guests picked at artful displays of pastries while models sauntered around bistro booths in a collection of boudoir-inspired separates.

This season’s show was at Le Coucou, a new downtown bistro, and offered sparkling wine and canapés alongside romantic clothes with an edge.

One menu featured terrine de veau and celeri remoulade, while another detailed the collection’s 24 looks: swing dresses with ruffled straps and necklines layered over rib turtlenecks with their own ruffled touches at the wrists and shoulders; a military-inspired embellished jacket worn over roomy velvet pants; and silk blouses and skirts in floral and brocade prints that were reminiscent of the kind of moody wallpaper that served as a background for lingerie pinups in the ’40s and ’50s.

Not coincidentally, designer Jane Siskin looked to old interiors from Havana, Cuba, when dreaming up the collection. “We want the brand to feel cool and young, so we combined the romance of the ’50s with ’90s grunge,” said Siskin.

How does she distinguish the label from other lines targeting a “cool and young” demographic?

“By trying new things,” Siskin said matter-of-factly. Leggings are part of the downtown girl’s everyday uniform, so Siskin designed an embroidered pair this season. “Throw a T-shirt over it and you’re done!”

Indeed, statement tees with the words “I love everyone” emblazoned in faded black letters were gifted to guests near the entrance at Le Coucou (Siskin wore hers beneath a bolero-style blazer). Absent CFDA’s Planned Parenthood pins, Cinq à Sept’s tees nodded to the message of unity and inclusiveness that is expected to permeate fashion week. Sure, the "I love everyone" message is nice. But most people with any sense of irony wouldn't be caught dead wearing it at the gym, let alone on the streets of SoHo.

Still, Cinq à Sept gets most things right. Lest anyone think they're just an appropriately priced brand rehashing trends and targeting the “It” crowd, consider that Malia Obama wore a Cinq à Sept dress to Barack Obama’s farewell speech. Forget the Kendall Jenners of the world: When it comes to cool-girl quotient, Malia Obama is tough to beat.

Adam Selman by Tim Teeman

The wind was indeed biting Thursday afternoon, the snow, now all fallen, whipping off rooftops creating sporadic micro-blizzards.

This dramatic state of meteorological affairs meant not that fashionistas were striding down Washington Street to the Skylight Clarkson space, giving it maximum Zhivago, but rather—and more predictably—alighting from cabs or limousines and darting inside. For every wet-seeping snowshoe, there were three deliciously impractical, vertiginous heels. Blizzards do not mean practical dressing, my dears: not at New York Fashion Week.

Once inside, there was another lesson. “Welcome to New York. There is no personal space here. Group closer together please,” bellowed a security guard.

Adam Selman’s front row included the politically timely pins that the CFDA have produced: “Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood,” and his show was a stirring demonstration of female strength. The music was pumping and Western-style, and the clothes featured the recurrent motif of the rose.

If we were out on the prairie, it was one filled with drama and dancing, as one would expect for a designer most famous for dressing the likes of Rihanna, Britney Spears, Scissor Sisters, and Lady Gaga.

Sometimes the rose turned up as the multiple print on a shirt, sometimes it was appliquéd to denim. Sometimes it was the basis for a slinky dress.

Roses big and small appeared on a biker jacket, a denim trench, a cowgirl shirt, a zip jumpsuit, a sheer shirt, and overalls. Most dramatically, they were worn for real in the hair, with dramatic black veils.

This was a beautiful collection, even when roses were not in play. Selman also showed languorous silk pajama pants and more fitted jackets.

There were long, checked shirts perfect for lounging (with nifty boxer shirts underneath) and metallic jeans, slinky party dresses, slightly butcher short dresses, and precisely tailored pleated mini-dresses for long nights out on the town, or to be cleverly worn over denim.

A long Lurex trench provided drama, while a merlot and navy striped bandana shirt was accessorized with a rose embroidered skirt. For Selman, everything is to be mixed, and then—to applause-worthy effect—not necessarily matched.

The handsome, moustachioed Selman appeared bashfully at the end, in dark overalls, cap and Planned Parenthood badge, to roars and keen applause—and sure this is Fashion Week and such things are staple. But the appreciation was genuine and keenly felt: This collection was assured and gorgeously realized.

On a poignant note, the show was dedicated “in loving memory” to the young designer Scott Stevenson, who died recently (his funeral was on Saturday). Hopefully Stevenson was looking down smiling from somewhere filled with rock and roses.

Tadashi Shoji by Lyne Lucien

The runway showing Tadashi Shoji’s fall 2017 collection stunned via a gaggle of psychedelic colors and a recurring floral motif.

There’s a subtle conflict associated with flowers, considering the softness from the petals contrasted with the edginess of thorns. The paradox premise of feminine and edgy, hard and soft, was the overarching theme throughout the collection. Shoji combined velvet with lace, metal studded shoes with A-line short dresses, and metallic fabrics with the draped Grecian silhouettes. The beautiful collection felt like a ’70s take on medieval fashion. The most memorable look was a floral brocade mini dress with long bell sleeves. In addition, there were several plunging necklines and gold trim capes.

The show’s program described the collection as “a revolution of the senses.” When the beautiful gowns swept down the black runway, boisterous songs like “Boys Wanna Be Her” and “These Boots Were Made for Walking” echoed a feminist undertone: a delicate balance of attitude colliding with the soft hip-hugging silhouettes.

Judging from Shoji’s impressive clientele including Oprah Winfrey, Octavia Spencer, Gabourey Sidibe, and Queen Latifah, it’s clear that it takes a certain ballsy confidence to pull off his clothes. Despite sending traditionally thin and tall models down the runway, Shoji seems to understand how to dress a range of women’s shapes, including those who aren’t sample size. Sidibe even told The New York Times his clothes “made me feel like a superhero.”