Narciso Rodriguez Shows Why Less Is More at NYFW
Narciso Rodriguez showcased proud minimalism, Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s models threw food, and Naeem Khan served easy glamour.
Narciso Rodriguez by Lizzie Crocker
Twenty years ago, when Carolyn Bessette wore a simple yet stunning bias cut dress by Narciso Rodriguez to her wedding, the pearl-colored, silk-crêpe gown became an instant classic. Today, Rodriguez’s dress is idealized on bridal blogs and Pinterest pages as the epitome of ’90s minimalist chic.
The designer has carried that minimalist legacy through decades of a shifting fashion landscape. While other veteran fashion houses have resorted to bells and whistles to stay relevant, Rodriguez has doubled down on his aesthetic and clothing-focused presentations.
Late Tuesday night, the New Yorker showed his spring 2017 collection in an intimate space to a relatively small crowd. Seating was arranged so that almost everyone at the show—not just Jessica Alba and Jessica Seinfeld, who brought her 15-year-old daughter Sascha—had a front row view and could clearly see the beauty of Rodriguez’s designs: exacting tailoring, bias cut silhouettes, and coated silk satins in black and silver that rippled like liquid metal.
A white see-through bias knit top was reminiscent of Bessette’s dress, while several long colorblock black and ecru coats—a wool and flax linen blend—were among the most modern-looking pieces in the collection.
The shoes were similar to those on his runway last season: pointy-toed oxfords in black patent and ecru python skin that looked like babouche variants.
But the coated silk satin dresses stole the show, particularly those that were partially embroidered with metal.
Maryam Nassir Zadeh by Lizzie Crocker
You cannot walk around downtown Manhattan without seeing a pair of Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s signature Roberta pumps or suede, sorbet-colored sandals and mules.
Ever since her namesake footwear collection launched in spring 2013 alongside a ready-to-wear collection, Zadeh’s shoes have amassed a cult following (it helped that Zadeh’s eponymous Lower East Side boutique, where she began selling hip brands like Telfar and Ekhaus Latta in 2008, was already a hotspot for the downtown set).
Retailers like Topshop and Zara sell knock-offs of Zadeh’s pumps, sandals, and mules. Last September, Zadeh devotees kicked off a dispute between her and Mansur Gavriel, accusing him of plagiarizing her designs.
After all this hype, it was about time for Zadeh to make her New York Fashion Week debut, with a rollicking show that was part performance and part presentation.
In a small West Village gallery, Zadeh’s models (many of them friends) danced around a long wooden table where a colorful, eclectically arranged feast had been set. Tomato branches—yellow and red cherry ones on sticks like lollipops—sprouted from small boxwood trees; vases were filled with endive leaves; loaves of bread sprouting various vegetables looked like food sculptures interspersed among piles of peaches, grapes, apples, artichokes, and cherries. A live band provided dining entertainment.
The feast began civilly enough, with models sitting down at the table then picking at the food while they danced. Suddenly, one stood up on the table and slowly walked across it in a pair of fantastic blue lace-up boots, crushing grapes as she bent down to pick up a tomato lollipop. A young, waifish man—the only one in the show—tossed a Tuscan ceramic plate on the floor. Others began to throw radishes at each other.
From there, the scene quickly descended into savagery: Zadeh’s dinner-and-dance guests held vases and ceramics up overhead and gleefully smashed them on the floor.
In Zadeh’s Iranian culture, the shattering of glass wards off evil.
“The idea of breaking things is not a cause of sadness or negativity, but more a cause for celebration,” the designer said. She wanted to “show women wearing my collection breaking vessels in a way that is a symbol of the ephemeral moment. The idea is to let go of control and to find the beauty in the unexpected.”
When conceiving the show, Zadeh also wanted to shatter the illusion of life, travel, and fashion as we see it on Instagram—to “narrate the idea of time that you cannot capture.”
As for the collection itself, there were plenty of Zadeh’s signature shoes but also textures and patterns that reference Ibiza in the ’70s: exposed skin (crop tops), transparent fabrics, knotted bra tops, and white separates painted with loud, abstract prints. Zadeh was also inspired by “interior spaces, domestic material from kitchens, and women together in intimate settings.”
The clothes were as cool as ever, but they came alive in this show more than they would have if the models were just mannequins, as they are in most other standing presentations. Zadeh’s designs and shoes are sought after because they’re minimalist, streamlined, sexy, and inventive. But the brand has flourished because it evokes an alluring lifestyle, one that prioritizes travel, art, and a community of fun-loving, strong women.
What better way to further elevate her brand than by bringing this community together and having them break bread, smash plates, and dance like no one is watching?
Naeem Khan by Tim Teeman
Every day was a desert island day at Naeem Khan’s beautiful NYFW show. To go with the dreamy music, it didn’t take much of a leap of the imagination to imagine you really were there, sand between your toes, waves lapping nearby.
If many of the shows—Zac Posen, leading the pack—had majored on romance, Khan took that and added hundreds more flower petals, sending out long and short gowns with gorgeous floral motifs and designs.
“Every designer needs a story,” Khan once told The Times of India. “Mine is all about glamour because my family has been in the business of glamour for three generations.” His grandfather started his embroidery and fabric-making business in the 1930s. “My earliest memory is of playing with yards of rich fabric spread across my house in Bombay [as Mumbai was called then], and making toys out of wooden spools.”
Khan, whose mentor was the great Halston, is famed for dressing some extremely famous people, not least Kate Middleton in a beautiful white and blue embroidered dress when she visited the Taj Mahal, from a collection that was inspired by Mexico. Other boldface Khan-wearers have included Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Jennifer Lopez.
It was working with Halston that helped inform the theatricality and glamour of the dresses Khan has become so well-known for. He has said he was enveloped in the Halston subculture “alongside Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, and Truman Capote. They shaped who I have become as a designer. Working with Minnelli on the costumes of theatrical productions, I understood how to design for theater.”
Wednesday’s show showcased this foundation and how Khan has built on it, kicking off with long dresses with simple black, white and red geometric swirls, and after that floaty small smock dress of many colors, with a similarly-designed tunic and trousers to follow.
After this came a beautiful riot of color: pink and yellow flowers on one dress, a glittery trouser suit with more flowers, a majestic green and gray frock, and one which, if it could have screamed, would have done thus, “strawberries and cream,” as it had all the smoothness and tones of that dish. Another dress was the vision of a sunset: a lovely melding of pinks and oranges and blues.
Lest this all sound too easy-going, Khan also bought fun: a succession of ra-ra, tassel-fringe dresses in blue and yellow (he even created a pair of flares out of fringing)—the perfect dancefloor outfit for the expert shimmier.
As “Stormy Weather” struck up, Khan sent out a glittering halterneck dress, a gorgeous strapless yellow patterned gown, and then one whose design looked like a sunny, lazy day view of the dunes and sea.
The audience was enraptured, and let Khan know as much when he followed the last procession of the models on to the runway. Prediction: As is apposite for this master of theatrically-inspired dressing, we’ll be seeing more than a few of these dresses on a red carpet very soon.