Fashion / Style File

Top Fashion Designers Bring Back the Debauchery of Studio 54

Disco Inferno Attracts Halstonettes, Barry Manilow

BY // 03.14.19

NEW YORK —  Naeem Khan and Michael Kors were in their late teens when Studio 54 opened in 1977. But the legendary disco of debauchery left an indelible impression on the two fashion designers. Both centered their fall 2019 collections around the free-spirited attitudes of that long-ago era with a little help from special guest stars.

Kors turned a historic Wall Street building into a temporary disco with gold metallic streamers as 62-year-old model Patti Hansen walked the runway in a sparkly ’70s-style pantsuit and 75-year-old singer Barry Manilow performed his 1978 hit “Copacabana” at the end of the show.

Khan delighted onlookers with a surprise appearance from  “Halstonettes” Pat Cleveland, Alva Chinn and Karen Bjornson in gorgeous stretch silver sequin evening gowns. The three models, now in their late sixties, were muses for the celebrated designer Roy Halston, who frequented Studio 54 until its closing in early 1980 with an entourage that included Khan, then a 19-year-old aspiring designer who had moved from India to work in Halston’s studio. (A new documentary on Halston that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival will appear on Amazon and CNN later this year.)

The experiences obviously remained embedded in Khan’s psyche as he created a glamorous collection that opened with a ready-to-party ensemble — sheer black embroidered sequin pants and mosaic print blouse topped off with a multi-colored feather shawl — and closed with a red carpet-ready silver stretch sequin gown and charcoal lame cape. Other looks made for tripping the night fantastic include a leopard-print lame gown and minidresses in pink feathers or heavily embellished jewels.

Khan also revealed a bit of his practical side with lots of separates, including embroidered vests, beaded jackets and sequined pants, so the savvy customer can mix and match styles or buy that one special something to enhance a look that’s already in her closet. He also retained vestiges of his homeland, with Indian embroideries and fringe with a bohemian flair — all showcased in front of a Taj Mahal-like backdrop.

Kors, who was 18 when Studio 54 opened, doubled down for his disco-themed fall collection, even buying the club’s trademark and featuring the glittery image on sleeveless sweater shirts, silk blouses, puffer coats, and a mini-dress with feather sleeves. It seemed appropriate that the designer also featured the disco hit “More, More, More (How Do You Like It?)”   because he gave nostalgic customers, along with the young and the curious, plenty to dress up in.

Metallic mini-dresses with oversized faux-fur coats, a purple sequined gown with a plunging neckline that looked like something Diana Ross wore in her heyday, floral dresses, metallic patchwork coats, nik nik shirts with big collars, shiny suits with wide collars for men — it’s the ’70s all over again, with an occasional nod to ’80s Flashdance (think leg warmers and off-the-shoulder sweaters).

At times, the collection borders on costumey — it could outfit a season of the HBO series The Deuce —  and it’s debatable that the luxe Kors clientele wants to relive that much of the past. But it sure is fun.

Part of the Special Series:

PaperCity - On the Runway Fall 2019
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