New York Fashion Week Dresses for the Oscars: Reviews of Badgley Mischka, Zac Posen, Jil Sander Navy, and Claudia Li

At NYFW, Badgley Mischka and Zac Posen showed glamour and occasional edge. Jil Sander imagined a historical heroine, while Claudia Li majored in magic.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Badgley Mischka, Zac Posen, and Jil Sander Navy by Tim Teeman

The effect of sitting at Badgley Mischka’s New York Fashion Week show was to be torpedoed, relentlessly and brilliantly, by glamour on a grand scale. All this at 10 a.m.

The red-carpet knockouts came one after the other: delectable, luxurious, and dramatic. You visually logged as many as you could for recall purposes, come the Oscars red carpet in just under two weeks.

The designers listed the components of the dresses in spare terms: “couture” was broken down into materials used in the dresses (like satin, velvet, devoré, tissue crepe), color (jet, midnight, argent, steel), and then the elements attached to the gowns, like feathers and sequins.

It was, my neighbors agreed, a pretty perfect way to start the day, in that it extended one’s fashion dream-world into regular ole daytime.

The dresses were fairytale, without steeped in cloying romance; attention-grabbing without being trashy, and pretty without being twee.

The dresses also provided a useful lesson in optical illusion for red-carpet watchers. The shimmer of one dress with tassels frisking this way and that, golden and transfixing, looked more stunning live on the runway than it appeared—flatter, less wow—in photographs later.

Strapless dresses came cut straight across the chest, and also extended to the top of the neck (that one in shimmering blue). Some were fitted and ruched at the waist to accentuate the curves of the body. They slinked, oh did they slink.

There was a stunning burgundy Grecian-style gown, and an off-the-shoulder, jewel-encrusted gown that some Hollywood stylist must surely have reserved for their Oscar-nominated client.

A rose-printed dress was shorter and flirtier, while a gold, fitted gown rippled so ridiculously it seemed like it came fitted with its own wind machine; the same for a short, strapless, silver fringed dress.

Around these, Badgley Mischka staged a static presentation of its leisurewear—all as glamorous as their eveningwear—with models lounging around on furniture the design duo had also designed.

Badgley Mischka is becoming a one-stop shop for a very wealthy day-into-night lifestyle, and one which also spies the presence of an ever-near camera.

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Later, at an airy-large downtown loft for Zac Posen’s show—with miniature bottles of bubbly and macaroons, the best kind of diet—a mix of gallery and fashion show unfolded, as the handsome designer showed his collection via a series of portraits of his muses (taken by Vanina Sorrenti), some of whom then turned up in person.

Hilary Rhoda, Jourdan Dunn, Lindsey Wixson, Carolyn Murphy, Aiden Curtis, and Lennon Sorrenti all came to stand beside the designer and in front of their portraits.

Stripped of the business of queuing, and seating, and posing and walking and sitting stiffly made for a feeling that was more party than fashion show. Were the clothes lost in the eventual scrum, with the focus on partying rather than frocks? Maybe a little, but Posen and the models did their best to focus minds and flashbulbs.

The designer, dressed in cream sweater and slim dark trousers, also greeted celebrity well-wishers, including Susan Sarandon, Naomi Watts, Kyle MacLachlan, Olivia Culpo, and Leona Lewis.

The dresses were beautiful: sheer, sleek tailoring, with playful flourishes, like serrated ruffles on shoulders. One lace gown featured an asymmetric sleeve; another was green velvet with delicate embroidery.

Strapless cocktail dresses came in simple black, but in cuts and different materials that made them edgier. The focus in color, said Posen, was on deep tones, from burnt oranges to midnight blues. Velvet ribbons, bugle beads, and the application of threadwork on to fine mesh and organza added visual texture.

Should they have made it out the hot-gossip zone of the main room, attendees could watch a video, directed by Bunny Lake, featuring the models wearing Posen’s accomplished designs. The show also came on the same day that Posen launched his collection of Betty Boop-inspired dresses.

Not all the attention was on Posen. Circulating at the party was a gentleman, Ty Hunter, wearing a long gray coat designed by Andrew Morrison, with the legend “Popular Vote” written in silver on the back—another anti-Trump political statement at this year’s Fashion Week.

Many crowded around the coat, and many pictures were snapped. Hunter told The Daily Beast the coat had received a “phenomenal reaction” and applause wherever he went.

Posen’s own politics were quieter-stated, but still present. Guests went home with a goodie bag containing the now-ubiquitous “Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood” pink pins, and his own simple statement: “This season I married my signature structures with the paradox of fluidity. Referencing the mid-1940s, I wanted to give a message of elegance and hope.”

The same decade came to mind in the brilliant Jil Sander Navy show. Held in a Chelsea loft, the calmest Fashion Week venue—with tea, coffee, and water being offered to soothe weary heads—visitors could wander around the displayed clothes and inspect the material and designs carefully.

The imaginative idea behind this whimsical but precisely executed collection was “of a young Parisienne traveling to Venice during the Baroque era.”

There were voluminous coats in soft materials, and dramatic colors. Wide-bottom trousers came in slate gray, topped with crisp white shirts and softly shaped sweaters and tunics. Pointillist-inspired dresses came dotted with color, and footwear was not tottering heels but rather sleekly flat or block-heeled and square-toed.

Jackets and tops were chic, structured, and belted. There were even some flights of fancy, such as a frothing black skirt and diaphanous top. Jil Sander Navy’s young French heroine is having quite the chic adventure.

Claudia Li by Sarah Shears

Just after 10 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, committed aspiring fashionistas gathered outside the Claudia Li presentation to take pictures of themselves in their Fashion Week best.

Inside of Artbeam Studios—an industrial space couched between warehouses and parking garages on the west side of Chelsea— you couldn’t tell it was daytime.

The large room for the presentation was curtained off by heavy black drapes, keeping out even the smallest amount of daylight, and a playlist by Javier Peral filled the space with breathy female vocals that evoked Portishead.

As guests trickled into the sexy afterparty atmosphere—which felt like a late-night party that had extended too deep into the next day—assistants handed out white bandanas.

Models were perched in two illuminated rows at the center of the room, each with their own pedestal stage, looking like the chicest ever life-size Barbie dolls in their original packaging.

Angled mirrors sat behind each model and served to distort the clothes, creating an extra dimension and to reflect the little light that contrasted starkly with the near black darkness of the room.

The presentation was titled “Take Me Away to Another Place and Time,” which like the clothes, is a sentiment that could be embraced by many different people for a variety of reasons.

Li, dressed low-key in a black T-shirt, black trousers, and white Adidas sneakers, spoke with The Daily Beast about her collection: “For me it’s much more grown up than the last collection, and for me I’m slowly growing into my own woman. So instead of traveling into the future I traveled back in time to look at all these strong females from the past; we had all these spies and pilots on our (look)board, these strong women from the past.”

The young New York-based and Parsons-trained designer—who earned her stripes working for Brandon Maxwell when he was Lady Gaga’s stylist—updated a mix of historical trends: Gigot sleeves were revived in almost every look, woven textiles boasted a World War 2 palette, a checked suit and a standard black trench coat breathed new life with asymmetrical yet perfectly balanced folds and hemlines, and jumper dresses were paired with puffy yet crisp men’s inspired button-up shirting.

What made collection feel new and fresh was Li’s masterful use of the inherent nature of textiles to create structural but utterly wearable garments. An array of unexpected textile techniques were exquisitely implemented in each garment, which made this collection worth taking a long second look at.