Fashion / Style

Christian Siriano Shows the Edgier, Sexier Side of Hawaii

It’s Happy Clothes For a Trying Time at Fashion Week

BY // 09.12.18

NEW YORK — With a packed schedule, Christian Siriano hasn’t had time to visit Hawaii lately. But it didn’t stop the popular designer from dreaming of what it must be like to live a glamorous tropical life. He channeled that energy into a playful spring/summer ’19 collection that doesn’t take itself too seriously or too literally.

“I went to Hawaii years and years ago when I was a little kid, so it’s more like my fantasy of what it would be like,” he says backstage before his runway show. “(The collection) is not traditional Hawaiian. I just wanted to have the essence of that.

“No grass skirts or coconut shells. It’s not that vibe. It’s a little edgier. I wanted it a little darker, sexier but still romantic.”

The understated Hawaiian theme is evident in the collection, which opens with a series of dresses, trousers and bustiers in muted floral prints and ends with three models in crystal-studded flamingo pink eveningwear. Siriano dubs green ruffles that trim the neck of a white gown “lei detail” and a sexy off-the-shoulder gown “Hawaii blue” because it conjures up thoughts of the island seas.

However, some of the loveliest looks, like a studded black gown worn by a curvy model, don’t seem to have any clear connection to the Hawaiian theme. And a series of ensembles in leopard print and tiger stripes are a bit puzzling, given the collection is set in Hawaii, not Africa. But that’s easily forgiven, as the looks are showcased on an array of models in different shapes, sizes, ethnicities and gender identities.

Siriano was among the first to champion diversity on the runway and continues to lead the way.

It is meant to be a happy collection, Siriano says, particularly in these trying times.

“We’re trying to get everyone to take a break and try new things and have fun. We got in a hard place where people were really worried about their image or looks (saying) ‘I can’t wear this because I’m too big or too small’ or whatever it was. We’re trying to get everyone to have fun again.

“Last night I did an in-store event and it was so nice to see so many different types of women trying on new things and going for it. It made all this make sense, which is really nice to see. Sometimes in fashion you get really stuck in it and forget what about the customers. I have some of my biggest shoppers on the front row every season and this season especially and (they) are really supportive. I want to support them.”

A large group of Houstonians traveled to New York to see the collection. Jane Wagner was on the front row with Brandon McClendon. And nearby, Angelaka Stolte, Tijuana Stolte, Elaine Stolte, Natasha Stolte, Jordan Seff, Ashlee Rubbo, Allison Flikerski and Meredith Marshall enjoyed the show and went backstage afterwards to congratulate Siriano. When the designer was in Houston in April for a benefit for the Children’s Assessment Center, two groups bid furiously for the opportunity to attend the Siriano show, so it sold twice. The package included a party that night hosted by Siriano at the chic club, Tao.

Siriano said he was impressed with his Houston fans. “It’s great for me. They love to shop. They love fashion. And they like to have fun,” he says.

Also in the audience were Tiffany Haddish (who has been on the front row of nearly every major show during fashion week), Danielle Brooks, Judith Light, Carmen Electra, Whoopi Goldberg and former Sex and the City co-star Cynthia Nixon, who is running for Governor of New York. Siriano is a big supporter and wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Vote for Cynthia,” when he made his runway bow.

Some of the runway looks could appear on the red carpet at Sunday’s Emmy Awards, although Siriano, who usually outfits a large number of nominees, is known for whipping up one-of-a-kind gowns for his favorite celebs.

“I did four Emmy fittings this past weekend (in the midst of preparations for the runway show),” Siriano lamented. “I said, ‘Guys I can’t do it.’ It’s just the timing every year. But it was nice to do it.”

In Houston, the Christian Siriano collection is available at Elizabeth Anthony.

Part of the Special Series:

PaperCity - On the Runway Spring 2019

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