THEIA Bridal Spring 2020

THEIA has set a standard of classic elegance with its aesthetic of clean lines, signatures crepes, and sometimes, minimalist aesthetic. That said; for spring 2020 Creative Director Don O’Neill decided to push the bridal and ready-to-wear brand in a direction that goes beyond very consumer-friendly bridal gowns that will have a wide appeal.

O’Neill has tried this before, pulling inspiration from such disparate influences as David Bowie and opium dens. Creatively, these sources of inspiration were brilliant, really pushing the proverbial bridal design aesthetic in a fashion-forward direction. Unfortunately, some of these unconventional reference points may not have translated into strong sales for the brand.

This time around O’Neill may have accomplished both goals of expanding THEIA’s bridal design aesthetic without abandoning the brand’s signature aesthetic, as well as increasing retail value. And for good measure, O’Neill included some THEIA favorites, soft ball gowns and hand-beaded gowns for those young brides that embrace romanticism and whimsy.

For spring 2020, O’Neill looked to the 1970s, and in particular those glamorous party girls and beauty icons that swirled and sashayed under disco balls or graced pinup posters. Think Bianca Jagger, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Jerry Hall, Margaux Hemingway, and Jacqueline Bisset. 

Piggybacking on the glam rock trend that was seen in so many fall 2019 ready-to-wear collections, Don O’Neill’s choice of inspiration was key to the success of this spring 2020 bridal collection. O’Neill ingeniously incorporated glitzy glamour into the collection without this injection overwhelming the brand. This was a bridal collection that speaks that bride that wants to be sexy and glamorous on her very special day, even if that means conjuring up images of disco balls and New York City nightlife.

Photos courtesy of THEIA

Though this collection was characterized by plunging necklines, thigh-high slits, gleaming lames, and sexy sequined, halter jumpsuits, O’Neill found a way to elevate this collection out of the disco era, making the bridal garments palatable to the modern bridal consumer.  Standout looks in the collection was the hand-embroidered polychrome sequin duster coat over the Louisa crepe slip gown, platinum lame halter shirt gown, plunge front crepe jump suit with ruched waistband, boat neck crepe mermaid gown with open back with Rhea pearl-embroidered veil, and V-neck gown hand-embroidered with Grecian-inspired bugle beads and polychrome sequined gown. 

—William S. Gooch

Nicholas Mayfield Spring 2020

All bad controversy brings good publicity; well, sometimes. At Los Angeles Fashion Week, Nicholas Mayfield took the bull by the horns. “A black man created all this commotion,” stated Khyran Shank, local multi-talented artist. Leave it to Nicholas Mayfield to never shy away from art that best explains his life revelations.

“Nicholas Mayfield will be debuting the piece that was copied by Gucci” whispered Ann, an LAFW volunteer. 2019 is promising to be the year that high end luxury brands and designers have challenged consumer loyalty. Mayfield’s bold contemporary designs and “happy art” create a worldwide vision of intent and purpose. #SupportTheRealArtist. After a recent Instagram clapback at Gucci for stealing his designs, Mayfield debuted a collection that spoke volumes to the artists who have, and still are, having their work copied without proper recognition.

Nicholas Mayfield’s fall 2019 collection was by far the most anticipated show at Los Angeles Fashion Week. Not only a designer, but a true artist, Mayfield’s unique and diverse form of expression is an ode to kaleidoscope colors, graffiti aesthetic and Afro-American culture. From artistic canvas, furniture and unconventional pieces, Mayfield’s front row access included quirky social messages, an acrobatic performance, and his twenty-plus eccentric guests.

Mayfield has made a statement in the fashion industry for his diverse interpretations and pop culture hand-paintings. Revealing the evolution of past generations, Mayfield’s repurposed pieces embrace diversity, the “15 minutes of fame” era, Black History Americana, and the American Dream.

Photos courtesy of Nicholas Mayfield

As the hottest old school jams played in the background, Mayfield transformed the runway to the ultimate experience; integrating his intimate behind the dreams preparation and widescreen fashion film. Leaving no color untouched, Mayfield’s color palette was colorful and fun with the focus on his first love as a kid, art.The first look of the collection featured a popular-by-demand oversized streetwear puffer coat. As the collection continued, his evolution evolved to hand-painted models as butterflies and head-to-toe prints and patterns.

—Courtney S. Wilkins

The Blonds Fall 2019

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Glamour and luxury have always been key components of David and Phillipe Blonds eponymous label. The collections have borrowed heavily from hip-hop culture in the past with their sexy designs, penchant for maximalism, and the grandiose drama. Celebrity dressing is the bread-and-butter for the brand as they count stars like Paris Hilton (who walked in their runway show), Beyoncé, and Miley Cyrus as clients.At New York Fashion Week: the Shows (NYFWS) this season the brand brought their brand of luxe glamour back to the runway with a collection inspired by iconic gangster movies. The show opened with Phillip Blond wearing an oversized, metallic gold-lined, faux fur white coat. This fall 2019 collection gravitated somewhere between early hip-hop culture and a trip to Las Vegas.

Gold hardware screamed hip-hop culture and was fit for a Cardi B music video, while jewel tones, sequins, and sparkles were fit for Vegas showgirls in the absolute best way. The line-up of celebrity and influencer models also included Lion Babe, Karrueche Tran, Aquaria, MJ Rodriguez, and the Clermont Twins.

The selected celebrities really spoke The Blonds’ client base—super sexed-up musicians and influencers, glamorous drag queens, transgender, and gender non-conforming who want a lot of sexy sparkle and sequins. The show was closed by none other than one of the originators of hip-hop, Lil Kim.

Lil Kim who strut the runway in a gold sequined jumpsuit with a plunging neckline as she performed “Go Awff” and her classic hit “The Jumpoff”. As always, The Blonds show was a party fit for a music video. It’s no wonder pop and hip-hop stars continue to gravitate toward the brand, they complement each other well.

—Kristopher Fraser

Zang Toi Fall 2019

It was unclear as to whether or not Zang Toi’s fall 2019 runway show was supposed to be a fashion show, a fundraiser for the RNC, or an homage to Donald Trump’s America. It would be easy to assume the latter, given that Donald Trump Jr. was seated front row at the show along with Trump Sr.’s ex-wife Marla Maples. Affluent Republicans at fashion shows where the clothes are marketed toward Upper East Side society women and Texas oil wives is nothing new, but what followed was a runway show almost fit for Mar-A-Lago.

The show opened with several street wear looks that quite frankly seemed off-brand for the designer. With street wear making up a large part of the current luxury market, it’s reasonable that Zang Toi would want to do something to appeal to younger consumers. However, any consorted effort to appeal to millennial consumers could start with no longer aligning yourself with the Trumps or their politics.

Once his efforts to appeal to millennial consumers fell flat, Zang Toi moved on to what he does best, evening wear fit for a gala. The color palette for this season’s collection was red, white, and blue in honor of the American flag. Models walked the runway to songs including “God Bless America” and “God Bless the USA.”

The audience could be seen singing along to “God Bless America” as though they were at a political rally. Gasps and awes began when a dress with a sequin pattern of an American flag on the skirt made its debut, and the fanfare of the audience could be heard when the finale look, a black dress with a floor length, sequined American flag shawl attached, closed the show.

Let’s remember that this collection will arrive for fall/winter of this year, just in time for those Texas oil wives and elite Republican women to start holding their fundraisers for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

While fashion has been known to expand political and cultural points of view, Zang Toi clearly missed the memo that fashion leans of the side of progressive/revolutionary causes. This collection was arguably the “Make America Great Again” collection, and looks like Zang Toi may have consulted Ivanka Trump for creative advising and is biting at the bit to get back into fashion.

Photos courtesy of Zang Toi

Until then, we can expect these dresses at Republican fundraisers across America from coast to coast and sea to shining sea. Someone call Georgette Mosbacher, we found her wardrobe for the rest of fall/winter 2019.—Kristopher Fraser

Chromat Fall 2019

No fashion brand gets more inclusive than Chromat. However, sometimes that is not a good thing. Chromat has made a statement in the fashion industry because of their architectural, geometric, revealing collections that embraces sexual diversity, fetish, and the avant-garde with a fashion-forward sensibility. For the past several years, Chromat founder and creative director Beca McCharen-Tran has really sought to include models of all body types, sizes, and sexual distinctions in the brand’s runway shows. For the most part that projection has been successful; however, for the fall 2019 collection McCharen-Tran’s attempt at an all-inclusive runway show was a dramatic fail.

Where in the past Chromat’s penchant for architectural body wear really set itself apart from other brands of its ilk with its standard fare of geometrically inspired aesthetics, McCharen-Tran in the past few seasons has determined to expand the brand’s consumer to not only include curvy women and plus-size, but also trans women, and even women with disabilities. A noble trajectory, but not always successful on the runway, particularly when non-standard models present next to standard size models.

Inspired this season by tropical locales, this collection looked more like a swimwear collection or at the very least a spring/summer collection. Still, this collection does make sense if a consumer is looking to transition some of the garments in this collection from workout gear to a breezy cocktail party in the tropics. Fortunately, this is what the design team at Chromat intended. And in that respect this collection was credible.

Still, presenting this athleisure on models that are in demeanor and proportion far from runway friendly was not a good move for Chromat. Curvy, trans, and plus-size models can be a wonderful addition to runway shows, demonstrating that a variety of silhouettes can be glorious on curves. However, in this outing it almost seemed that Chromat injected larger models for effect instead of a broader inclusion. At times it seemed that the plus-size and curvy models were used to rouse the audience into frenzied cheers and catcalls instead of nods of inclusion.

To be honest, this collection just did not look that great on many of the diverse physiques. And as the paraplegic model walked the runway with much struggle, there was no doubt that Chromat had pushed the boundaries way too far. In a moment in fashion where inclusion and diversity are the order of the day, fashion brands must include diversity with taste and dignity.

Photos courtesy of vogue.com

Still, there were some body wear that did work. However, it was mostly on standard-sized models in the show. Chromat, better luck next time!!—William S. Gooch

Bibhu Mohapatra Fall 2019

Bibhu Mohapatra is back!! After not showing during New York Fashion Week: The Shows (NYFWS) last season, many wondered if Bibhu Mohapatra would show for the fall 2019 season and if there were adjustment at his brand that caused Bibhu to opt out of showing for the spring 2019 season. (Fashion insiders were aware that were some shakeup at the brand with a change in Bibhu Mohapatra’s PR team.)

All the changes at the company seem to now be behind Bibhu Mohapatra; his fall 2019 collection was not only brilliant, but also very accessible. In past seasons, Bibhu Mohapatra’s fashion-as-art design aesthetic sometimes overshadowed the accessibility of his collection; appealing to a distinct consumer base that is not afraid to take fashion risk. Also, this collection will be very appealing to celebrities that are looking for that very special moment. (Bibhu Mohapatra counts Taraji Henson as one of his devotees.)

For the brand’s 10th anniversary season, Bibhu Mohapatra was inspired by his sojourn to Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland. Experiencing the beautiful gardens that were designed by the Marchioness of Londonberry in the early 20th Century, Mohapatra was able to marry the intricate beauty of the gardens with the textured fabrics and embroideries inspired by the paintings of Peter Beard.

True to form and indicative of his design aesthetic, Mohapatra combined fabrics and silhouettes in ways that unique to his perspective. There were lots of asymmetrical silhouettes in this outing, as well as embellishments of fur, sequins and feathers. And though these embellishments conjure up images of luxury and red-carpet glamour, this collection was so much more than that.

With this collection Bibhu Mohapatra is bringing glamour back to NYFWS, something has been sorely missed from NYFWS for several seasons. And Mohapatra’s distillation of glamour and youthful charm is what fashion should always be, now and next. And this collection has now and next to spare.

The now is made evident in a collection that is heavy on retail viability and consumer accessibility. The next is conjured up in the way that Mohapatra combines fabrics, textures, and embellishment combined with his unique interpretation of interesting silhouettes.

Photos courtesy of Bibhu Mohapatra

If there was one hitch in this collection; perhaps, it was the brand’s choice of models. Unfortunately, several of the models just didn’t bring the level of sophistication and regality that the collection demanded. Luckily for Bibhu, most of the garments sold themselves.Standout looks in this collection, and there were many, were Bibhu Mohapatra’s black cashmere overcoat with lace embroidered organza top and crepe pants, scissor-cut lace day/night dress with lace-up waist details, artic fox and broadtail vest over peacock silk gabardine flared dress, blush and lime double satin gown with draped petals, and fuchsia silk garbadine preciosa crystal embroidered gown with feather hem. Welcome back Bibhu!!

—William S. Gooch

Dennis Basso Fall 2019

New York girl, ooh, ooh, ooh

Runnin’ pretty, New York City girl
25, 35, hello, baby
New York City girl

You grew up ridin’ the subways, running with people
Up in Harlem, down on Broadway
You’re no tramp, but you’re no lady
Talkin’ that street talk
You’re the heart and soul of New York City

—Odyssey

For fall 2019 Dennis Basso was inspired by and dedicated his collection to that vibrant New York City fashion girl. Every woman, at one time, wanted to be her; wanted her style and charisma. And though the song that celebrated her came out in 1977, the New York City fashion girl is still an industry icon, setting a standard of fashion-forward sensibility and innovation.

The fall/winter season serve Dennis Basso best, giving him an indelible reason to shower his consumer base with his latest distillation of fur in its many variations. This season was no exception.

Dennis Basso’s fall 2019 collection is perhaps his most youthful and vibrant collection without abandoning his design aesthetic. Known for his acumen and craft when it comes to manipulating fur pelts, Basso’s collection can easily sit more comfortably with a more seasoned consumer. For his spring/summer collections, Basso admirably attempted to redirect his design aesthetic for a younger consumer; however, Basso’s fall/winter collection often lack the youthful vim and vigor found in his spring collections. Many fashion pundits identify his use of fur as the dowdy culprit.

This season Basso proved them wrong. From mink zip hoodies to cropped sable jackets to shearling coats, Basso demonstrated that his talent has not atrophied, but is stimulated and in step with what young consumers want.

That said; Basso has not left his base in the dust. There was more than enough luxury stimulus in this collection to satisfy his tried and true customer. And if leopard print gets your heart racing, Basso had more than enough to satiate your palette.

Dennis Basso also did something this season that has fallen by the wayside for so many fashion designers. Basso clearly understands that a runway show rises and falls on the models that present your collection. Where some designer cast models that look the part, Basso cast models that not only reflect his seasonal inspiration but can also sell the garments with style and panache!! And when you close the show with Supermodel Carol Alt, you cannot go wrong.

Standout looks in this fall 2019 collection include Basso’s tweed trench coat with fox fur, crème shearling jacket with zip sleeve, mink and nylon leopard coat with hand-embellished mini dress, sienna python jacket, and cashmere coat with floral and python applique.

Photos courtesy of vogue.com

That’s right Dennis, help us celebrate New York City!!—William S. Gooch

Self-Portrait Fall 2019

Self-Portrait designer Han Chong, otherwise known as Mr. Self-Portrait, has created a brand best known for its femininity, floral patterns, colors, frills, and ruffles. The brand, perhaps, is fashion’s ultimate feminine expression. While it didn’t quite tread the line of maximalism, the fall 2019 collection was definitely colorful and fun. However, for fall 2019, Chong scaled back the brand’s design aesthetic quite a bit and decided to do his take on minimalism.

The first look featured was an asymmetrical, black jumpsuit modeled by none other than Hanne Gaby Odiele. Odiele is a model, street style star, and an advocate for the intersex community. As brands work to have a social justice component to their designs, Odiele was an excellent choice for expanding the idea of what it means to be a Self-Portrait customer. She doesn’t need to be a typical girly girl with a love for patterns and frills, but, rather, represents a diversified group with varying tastes.

This season, Chong worked on streamlining his silhouettes so that garments had a more classic projection. A tuxedo lapel collar jumpsuit in black suit happily married the world of the vintage with the modern tastes. A sequin cocktail dress was on trend, with sequins ruling the runways this season. That said; Chong didn’t completely throw out his old aesthetic, as he had to make sure he kept his longtime consumer base satisfied.

Mixed media pattern dresses of black and white floral, plaid and checkered helped forge cohesion and uniformity. It is evident that Chong’s customer has grown up from the time they started shopping the brand, but that consumer still has a taste for the feminine, even though that consumer is a bit more paired back as they’ve matured.

Photos courtesy of wwd.com and vogue.com

There was less lace and appliqués compared to previous seasons, but this was proof that Chong can do something different. He’s no one trick pony, and as minimalism is back in a big way, he’s adapted accordingly.— Kristopher Fraser

Laquan Smith Fall 2019

After almost a decade in fashion, Laquan Smith is hitting his stride. And his fall 2019 collection demonstrated that the path Laquan Smith has chosen for himself is the right path for his brand.

Laquan Smith was much heralded for his formal debut collection in 2010 by the esteemed Andre Leon Talley, there was a lot of anticipation and excitement of where this talented designer would go. Fashion pundits who felt that Smith had abandoned his initial point of view for a more urban, ghetto fabulous aesthetic heavily criticized later collections. While that may have been true, Smith continued to design garments that his growing consumer base wanted to wear.

For this eponymous fall 2019 collection, Laquan Smith was inspired by Hilary (Karyn Parsons) from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and what she would be wearing now if she were a fashion diva. Realize that this is Laquan Smith’s version of what a 2019 Hilary of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” would be wearing. (Hilary character might be wearing garments along the line of Proenza Schouler, Bibhu Mohapatra or Cushnie.)

Laquan Smith’s collections are always for that powerful urban woman that wants to noticed and is not afraid of flaunting her sexual charms. This collection expands that design aesthetic and amps up the volume of sexiness and sensuality.

Laquan Smith found an ingenious way to make plaid and trench coats look sexy. With the trench coats there was no need for a sexy reveal. Smith’s trenches were tailored to an inch of the life of the garment, really highlighting a woman’s curves.

There were also lots of miniskirts in this collection; micro mini, in fact. And Smith selected that right models with that extra element of va va voom to pull off his brand of bold sexiness. Though the brand could have done without the very sheer leopard catsuit!!

If there was one drawback to this collection, and there were a few questionable moments, it was Smith’s placing this collection solidly in the area of urban fashion. Lots of women want to be sexy and attention grabbing, but Smith’s hyper sexy collection may not appeal to women outside of urban or international fashion markets.

Images courtesy of wwd.com

Still, Laquan Smith has found his fashion stride. And fashion critics be damned, he is making it work!!William S. Gooch

Romeo Hunte Fall 2019

Diversity and inclusion have become keywords for many of the collections this season. The Fall 2019 season will exceed other seasons with respect to inclusion of models that represent ranges in size, racial and ethnic diversity, and gender fluidity.

Romeo Hunte had his own take on the fashion industry’s expansiveness by creating a fall 2019 collection that a brother and sister could exchange and wear. Hunte’s androgynous distillation also borrows heavily from New York City’s vogueing ballroom scene of the 1980s with his models prancing and vogueing down the runway, which unfortunately was a bit of distraction from the garments.

As Hunte has proven in previous collections, outerwear is his collections’ strongest point. There was a significant amount or reworked denim jackets and coats, as well as shearling, leather and some nicely worked trench coats. Some of these jackets will do very well in the retail market. Unfortunately, in this collection an androgynous design aesthetic is not Hunte’s forte.

That said; there are several garments in the collection that a woman or a guy’s female sibling could mix and match from the man’s wardrobe; however, this is not true in the reverse. I cannot imagine many male consumers wanting to borrow almost any of these clothes from their female counterparts—not even gender non-conforming types. Not because the clothes are too feminine for guys to borrow, but because, in general, the clothes are just not appealing with too many incohesive ideas going on at the same time; the one exception being the parachute-like satin coats.

Images courtesy of wwd.com

Many of the ladies’ looks in the collection look homemade without the sophistication that modern female consumers demand. That said; the menswear looks did have an element of sophistication and restraint, making the menswear more accessible.Current collection aside, Romeo Hunte is doing something that many US–based black designers—Virgil Abloh, Pyer Moss, Laquan Smith, and Cushnie—are doing; looking to international markets to solidify their consumer base. Hunte recently had a “See Now, Buy Now” fashion show in Nigeria and several of his garments sold right off the runway!! Hmm, pay attend black designers. There is gold in them hills across the Big Pond!!

—William S. Gooch

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