Christian Siriano is a designer who is known best for his frothy confections, gowns that have made him a red carpet favorite and formalwear must-have for women of all shapes and sizes. So how does such a designer pivot from tulle-and-sequin fantasy to the unquestionably starker reality of our current Covid-19 lockdown? Well… by not pivoting at all, apparently.
If anything, Siriano leaned harder into his signature over-the-top glamour for Collection 37. “I approached it as, with everything that’s happened, let’s just do fantasy here,” he told WWD‘s Bridget Foley ahead of Thursday’s show. “I wanted to do things that are really special and textural and visually impactful. Hopefully everybody will escape for 20 minutes and feel a little bit like they’re in another place.”
That translated into “Clueless”-inspired matching mini skirt and cropped jacket sets, sharply-cut suiting with comic book prints, bright red dresses piled with ruffles or exploding with feathers and of course, yards and yards of tulle. While certainly Siriano knows his way around a beautiful, fanciful look, it was somewhat of a jarring experience: It’s hard to imagine a customer who has spent the past six months in comfortable athleisure racing out to buy a sheer dress that slips to show an errant nipple or enormous ball gowns that must be held aloft lest they trip up the wearer. (It should be noted that every model that walked his show was wearing a face mask that went with her ensemble, so the current reality was never too far away.) But that didn’t seem to concern the designer.
“The idea was to keep all the big gowns, all the fancy and all things that I love making. I thought, sales are crazy, all the stores are struggling, everybody’s struggling,” he told WWD. “I’m just going to make the clothes that I want to make.”
Contrasted with, for example, the whimsical take on loungewear from Rodarte or the joyful statement against climate change from Collina Strada or even the relaxed vibes from Tom Ford, it makes one think: What does this collection say about our times? Hell, what does it say about Siriano? The show notes referenced films he was watching, daisies from his garden and food he was cooking during quarantine, but the end results feel divorced from any reality, even a relatively charmed one.
To Siriano’s credit, health and safety at the show were handled magnificently: Everyone adhered to wearing masks (including the models), seats for the 80 showgoers were placed far apart, arrivals and departures were timed out to prevent large groups. In fact, as someone who has dealt with…let’s just say, not terribly smooth front-of-house experiences at fashion week over the past few seasons, the civilized proceedings were a welcome change.
Mostly, it was surprising to see this specific approach to a new season from a designer who became a leader in New York City’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, being one of the first to pivot production to make PPE and working directly with the Governor’s office to get supplies to those in the frontlines. There’s no question that we look to fashion for escapism — and there’s nothing wrong with a beautiful gown — but is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Too much optimism? The problem with escapism is that it’s then possible to lose sight of reality.
See all the looks from Christian Siriano’s Collection 37 in the gallery, below.