Fashion / Style

Hearts, Flowers and Badass Looks — Top Designers Break From Fashion Week and Reveal Bold New Collections on Their Own

Shattering Those Old Industry Norms

BY // 03.11.21

Even though New York Fashion Week ended several weeks ago, a number of top designers who are usually center stage at the big event decided to unveil their new collections at their own time and pace. It’s part of the new American Collections Calendar from the Council of Fashion Designers of America that allows designers more flexibility to debut their latest work whenever it works best for them during pandemic times.

Among the big names was Tom Ford, who had planned to unveil his latest womenswear and menswear collections during fashion week but postponed the debut twice due to COVID-related circumstances.  When a video and lookbook of the two collections were finally released a few days ago, it seemed clear the celebrated designer is determined to bring sexy back in a way not seen since his heyday at Gucci in the ’90s.

As Ford explained in the show notes for his womenswear collection, “Fierce, powerful and badass are words that resonate with me this season. I mean, who doesn’t want to be be badass? Especially after being trapped at home for a year.”

In Ford’s mind, the badass woman craves “dangerously short skirts and the tiniest of shorts,” worn with turtleneck sweaters or oversized puffer coats. In addition to hot pants with dangling gold chains and micro minidresses, he introduced handmade slip dresses as evening wear, showcased tailored jackets in zebra patterns and ribbed velvet, worn with bleach washed jeans and introduced luxe cashmere underwear.

“When I was young there was a woman’s underwear ad when a woman wearing nothing but her underwear and a coat goes out on the town,” Ford said. “It was also a very Edie Sedgwick thing to do. And so I thought how great it would be to have cashmere underwear that was actually made for this and worn with oversized coats.”

Since relocating to Los Angeles a number of years ago after living in London, Ford has been in a more colorful mood. This collection features lace minidresses in lilac, lavender and hot pink, oversized sweaters in a golden yellow with matching hot pants and a tiered peach gown, accessorized with magenta heels.

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Ford’s menswear collection seems divided between sumptuous stay-at-home wear and out-on-the town designs. Blazers in metallic animal prints and bold velvet florals are meant for dress-up occasions, while bleach-splattered jeans, ’60s-inspired mohair sweaters, down-filled coats and cropped quilted jackets are perfectly suited for casual life, although anything can be worn together.

“I feel that this mix of casual and dressed pieces will be a legacy of the pandemic for a few seasons,” F0rd said.

At home, the Ford man can channel Playboy magazine’s iconic founder Hugh Hefner in silk pajamas and robes in floral, polka dot, or leopard prints. “As the trend to stay home more will linger, we have done pajamas and robes in intense colors and patterns. If you have to stay home, it might as well be fun,” Ford explained.

Wes Gordon’s New York Love Affair

Carolina Herrera creative director Wes Gordon declared his love for New York City with a fall collection that “is my tribute to the city that never quits,” he said. Gordon showcased it with photos shot high atop the iconic Empire State Building Observatory and the new One Vanderbilt skyscraper and a video on a double decker tour bus amid a snowfall, as models shimmed to the classic ’70s disco hit, “Native New Yorker.”

There is a lot to love in the collection, which features hearts everywhere — dotting a pink minidress and a long black slip dress, woven dozens of times into a pink and red knit dress or just once into a green sweater (worn with a swirling multi-color skirt). Embellished belt buckles, buttons, and embroidered rhinestone patterns all in the shape of hearts show up on a number of pieces.

“A heart motif is so much more than just a design — it is a reminder to love. Love ourselves. Love each other. Love our city. And love getting dressed,” Gordon explained.

Carolina Herrera FW21
Carolina Herrera pink and red heart dress with heart purse. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Herrera)

The collection also featured capes in an exaggerated giraffe print, pleated gowns and short voluminous cocktail dresses with jumbo polka dots, and sequined gowns in Technicolor patterns. There’s even a magnificent cape like the kind Little Red Riding Hood would crave. Among the best evening wear looks are the iconic Herrera silhouette of white blouse, swirling long skirt and heart-shaped belt and a form-fitting strapless black gown with pink taffeta underlay.

Siriano’s Flamboyant Evening Wear

Christian Siriano returned to Gotham Hall, the scene of many of his previous New York Fashion Week runway shows, to present his fall collection before a live audience of around 60. Siriano said he was inspired by a recent visit to Aspen, which was reflected in a few of his more restrained pieces, including a woven leather jacket and skirt, a stylish cream-colored overcoat with cape detail, and several gowns in a swirling orange and black pattern meant to evoke a Colorado sunset.

But the bulk of the collection consisted of evening wear with Siriano’s flamboyant signature touches — clashing colors, ruffles, cutouts, yards of tulle — more suited for (hopefully upcoming) galas than the Rocky Mountain slopes.

Siriano continues to champion an array of body-hugging styles for all sizes — a now accepted fashion trend that he pioneered —  and is among the growing number of designers touting sustainability. He repurposed some secondhand pieces from previous collections into new items that were sent down the runway and sold for in a partnership with thredUP, an online consignment and thrift shop.

Flowers on the Mind

Oscar de la Renta didn’t show a spring collection due to the pandemic, but it seems that designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia are making up for lost time. The fabled fashion house’s fall collection is “a tribute to late summer, when sunflowers and wildflowers radiate in full bloom,” the duo explained in a press release.

Oscar de la Renta fall 2021
Oscar de la Renta floral print strapless gown. (Photo courtesy of Oscar de la Renta)

During the lockdown they gathered and pressed flowers in collaboration with actress and artist Tricia Paoluccio, who had learned the art of flower pressing as a child. The results are reflected in a  three-dimension floral minidress that opens the collection and continues with sunflower prints and appliques that blossom on crocheted dresses, capri pants and evening gowns.

The floral theme continues even on sharply tailored monochromatic suits and dresses with bow details in crepe, taffeta, metallics, and crystal meant to evoke the ribbon used to tie a bouquet of market flowers. The final look, a tulle ball gown with crystalized bows, is the most memorable piece in the collection. It took 120 hours to make the stunning gown, which will likely end up on the red carpet when there is one, or at an upcoming Houston gala.

The Oscar de la Renta fall collection will be shown in Houston this Thursday, March 11 through Saturday, March 13 at Tootsies in select private viewings.

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