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Swan Mentality Dominates for Evening During NYFW Fall 2024

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Coinciding with the release of Ryan Murphy’s “Feud” sequel, pitting Truman Capote against his Fifth Avenue swans, New York Fashion Week was abuzz with talk of glamorous women like Babe Paley and C.Z. Guest. It may have been a happy accident, but the city’s evergreen evening designers seized their moment to reenter the zeitgeist. Newer ones catering to a younger, edgier crowd got in on swan mentality too, devoting whole collections to their cool-girl groupies.

More literally, plumes, avian embroideries and sack-back and bustle attachments calling to mind the actual shape of a swan flew by on a few runways, too.

In New York, it would seem, birds of a feather flock together.

Naeem Khan Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Courtesy of Naeem Khan

Naeem Khan

“I haven’t seen it,” Naeem Khan said backstage on watching “Feud.” It may not have been one of his myriad references, but the designer and the Capote set go way back. Babe Paley was an early supporter of Khan’s mentor, Halston who schooled him in the ways of dressing the sort of “gilded ladies” he does now. But there isn’t one Khan swan, he declared, “she’s the one who lives in New York, in Palm Beach, in Qatar, in Saudi Arabia.”

And now she has a companion. Bang-on trend with the coed couture that’s picking up steam in Paris, Khan showed his first looks for guys with fabulous jeweled evening jackets worn over tie-neck blouses and pleated trousers.

The women’s offering was a mixed bag, but he did make a play for the disco divas he scouted at Studio 54 lurking in Halston’s shadow. Even OG Alva Chinn came out to whip and twirl down the runway. With the sunken Noguchi garden at 28 Liberty Street as her backdrop, she livened up a simple black maxi with strong shoulders. Spanglier looks included pajama sets, fringe minis and jumpsuits with Rorschach and golden disk embroideries taken from op-artist Victor Vasarely, whose work with illusions fed its way into a new painted velvet trompe-l’oeil technique. Among the waftier midcentury shapes was a knockout silver spaghetti strap gown with a contrasting gazaar sack-back.

Taken individually, each look was striking, but as a collective, it lacked enough direction to resonate. At least now Khan could potentially add a few Hollywood hunks to his flock.

Reem Acra Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Reem Acra fall 2024

Courtesy of Reem Acra

Reem Acra

Reem Acra loves a novel element for evening.

In past collections, she’s played with ways to subtly change a look with detachable bows, sleeves and caplets, all of which featured in this one. But taking in the full run of images from her Fifth Avenue showroom, it was hard not to notice her novelty du jour: the rooster feather stole.

They were added “to give women a message of empowerment, confidence and luxury,” Acra said. Creating manes around the models’ heads, one in fiery red shot out from a teal mikado dress with a pearl neck attachment, while another in sunflower yellow made a jarring companion for a glam silver gown. These rare birds were outside of their natural habitat. On the rack — sans stoles — they fit right in with what was otherwise an enchantingly brooding collection. 

Acra mentioned her inspiration was a midnight forest, which translated to tent-like caftans of airy lace and leaf embroidered layers in the colors of a moonlit blue lagoon. Her modest puff sleeve A-lines are tried-and-true and there were nice ones here in trendy oxblood and rose-printed silk, but it’s when she goes after the swans of young Hollywood that things get interesting. 

A palazzo-leg jumpsuit with a bow sculpted into the bodice was striking and simple with a dash of pretty, but the showstopper was an embellished black halter neck plunging into a balloon shaped skirt. Luckily, Acra didn’t add rooster feathers to it, so one could admire its backless design.

Bibhu Mohapatra Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Bibhu Mohapatra fall 2024

Courtesy of Bibhu Mohapatra

Bibhu Mohapatra

Snagging the award for most swan-worthy venue of the week, Bibhu Mohapatra took over The Pierre hotel for his show. “This is where Capote’s women hung out,” he said. “So when it came up I was very happy.” 

It was there Mohapatara presented a vision of Paris in the ‘80s through Helmut Newton’s lens. “He made women powerful, but at the same he objectified them,” said the designer, who wanted to consider how Newton might capture today’s power woman were he still alive. 

In a non-Newtonian twist, that woman doesn’t expose much flesh. Highlighting the lack of slits and cutouts backstage, Mohapatra pointed to full-coverage body-con silhouettes in celadon green leather and Yves Klein lace with contrasting fetish belts strangling the waist. Charlotte Rampling furs, cable knits in collaboration with Janavi and Mohapatra’s signature tissue hems gave softness, bringing some of his more sci-fi elements to earth. 

Transparencies did the trick, too. Especially great were skirts in nude-illusion organza (dubbed “the skin”) with alternating black strips or pixelated-looking bugle beads. A stockman dummy crinoline was also a standout, worn with latex leggings under a glitzy dance dress in smoke-gray tulle.

Riffing on the ‘80s drama sleeve, black-and-white gowns had puffs of gazaar arching over their bodices. Throw on a mask and they could waddle a few blocks to The Plaza for a reboot of Capote’s legendary masquerade ball.

Cucculelli Shaheen fall 2024 ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week

Cucculelli Shaheen fall 2024

Courtesy of Cucculelli Shaheen

Cucculelli Shaheen

If New York City’s formalwear market was a pond, Anthony Cucculelli and Anna Shaheen would be the black swans. They design for the sort of rocker chicks who might crash a cotillion, bottle in hand, and get up on the tabletops to dance. But not even this husband-and-wife duo were immune to Capote fever. “This is gonna be us doing our version, which isn’t too stuffy and a little bit more downtown,” said Shaheen, adding “we had the space and we thought really big volumes would be cool.”

She was referring to the pair’s first experiments with petticoats layered beneath swishy drop-waist gowns in black, white and pastel tulle. They wafted through the rotunda of the New York County Courthouse with softer airs than than the louche slips for which the designers are known. One in limoncello was particularly dreamy with the sharp angles of art-deco-style embroidery giving it that Cucculelli edge.

The courthouse influenced the collection in more ways than one, inspiring the name, Veritas, after the Roman goddess of truth, and a glittery zodiac motif used on another one of those petticoat dresses and a silk pajama set in midnight blue. Coming one right after the other, they revealed push-and-pull for Cucculelli and Shaheen who are trying to maintain their high-luxury positioning while simultaneously expanding their assortment. What struck solid middle ground was the tailoring, like a black smoking jacket with a matte bullion crest and a topcoat with tassels over moire cigarette pants. These were versatile and occasion-worthy, without relying on shine to give impact. 

Pamella Roland Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Pamella Roland fall 2024

Courtesy of Pamella Roland

Pamella Roland

Au revoir, Paris. Bonjour, Bruges. 

So said Pamella Roland, tossing aside the world’s fashion capital to use the lesser known European city as fall’s inspiration. She and her daughter were making the rounds during haute couture week when they decided to cross the border and explore, captivated by its medieval architecture more so than the curlicue lines of French baroque or art-nouveau.

The first look out was the most on the nose: a black cashmere cape coat with the Bruges skyline outlined in sequins. It was a fun way to get the theme going, but luckily it didn’t continue. Necklines with graphic cutouts and sharp asymmetries or fishtails with neat-looking princess seams elegantly nodded to spires and flying buttresses. “You can’t take inspiration too literally,” said Roland backstage, adding that doing so would harm the mass-market appeal of her brand. But her method of matching tried-and-true silhouettes to a new color or surface detail appears to be working. “Business is doing well,” she added. 

The feathered caftan Issa Rae wore to this year’s Emmy Awards made an appearance in the same violet of a sunset sky over the Zwyn river. Elsewhere, pre-fall’s satin lattice technique crisscrossed the bodice of a sexy cold-shoulder jumpsuit. What felt at least somewhat fresh was Roland’s use of chocolate brown for a floral jacquard cocktail and tulle ballgown with gold flowers. 

But her finest swan came for the bridal finale: a snow-white wiggle dress poured into a training tulle overskirt, it glided by like the bird in water.

Badgley Mischka Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Badgley Mischka fall 2024

Courteys of Badgley Mischka

Badgley Mischka

Badgley Mischka delivered its signature elegant eveningwear for fall 2024, taking inspiration from the real-life characters portrayed in the FX series.

“I am just so inspired by those women and their style,” said Mark Badgley. “This collection, it’s simple and streamlined and it’s a beautiful column [dress] with one alluring detail because that’s how we find our lady likes to dress today. The color palette is very neutral with lots of black and oyster. We haven’t done black in seasons — there’s a lot of beautiful metallics and there’s some big bold color but it’s mostly neutral. It’s clothes that we love that we know resonates with our customer.”

The ladylike collection offered a range of eveningwear for younger and older customers. Youthful styles included the designers’ take on an LBD — a one-shoulder formfitting dress accented with a black satin ribbon detail — as well as a dual-toned column dress. 

Metallic and sequins gave the largely neutral collection a pop of sparkle with wrap dresses and sharp suiting that offers the brands’ clientele modern and versatile styles. 

Bronx and Banco fall 2024 ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week

Bronx and Banco fall 2024

Courtesy of Bronx and Banco

Bronx and Banco

Natalie De Banco named her fall collection, “You,” pointing directly at her legion of celebrity swans-turned-girlfriends. During a showroom visit, she said, “I always ask them, ‘How do you want to feel?,’” giving two distinct archetypes: glamorous and in color or bossy in black. De Banco is perhaps best known for the former and there was plenty of it here, but surprisingly it’s the latter that the likes of Nicky Hilton, Olivia Palermo and Whitney Port have been leaning toward lately and pulled for the designer’s presentation at the VIP members club ZZ’s.

For them, shoulder pads were added to sharpen up a few outfits, like Banco’s favorite: a cool smoking jacket-inspired bodysuit matched to a low-slung skirt revealing a sliver of hip. Cutouts and lace accents intermingled elsewhere, playing best in swirls twirling up a black single-sleeve gown like a candy cane. Banco usually culls references from her recent travels, and tropical Balinese vibes crept their way in with velvet giraffe motifs and trailing sarong skirts.

Layered over power mesh body stockings in eye-catching shades of turquoise, red and pink,, Banco had a different clientele in mind for these, rattling off a list of performers with which she’s previously collaborated. “Miley, J.Lo, Beyoncé for ‘Renaissance,’” she said, “It’s easier for me to say who I haven’t dressed.”

Tadashi Shoji fall 2024 ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week.

Tadashi Shoji fall 2024

Courtesy of Tadashi Shoji

Tadashi Shoji

Tadashi Shoji ventured into the woods for fall with a lineup of fairy-tale dresses fit for the swans of Disney. Cinderella might like the paillette cap-sleeve dress with a full taffeta skirt in sapphire blue, while a more ethereal blushy-nude option in tulle with a transparent lace bodice had Aurora written all over it.

He showed them off in video format, sashaying as leaves fell over the set decorated with fake trees. It heightened the storybook element, but sometimes to his detriment. Draped velvet gowns with folksy sleeve treatments didn’t quite make the leap from page (or computer screen) to reality.

Despite that, Shoji made it clear on a Zoom call that he’s focused on dressing “real” women aged 30 to 70. Green is something they are responding to for its “soothing” properties, so he used it plentifully for a run of sheaths and a forest print, which covered the cold-shoulder cape-backed finale. Shoji explained that formal occasions are his customer’s escape from a mundane or distressing reality and he’s happy help them do it. Perhaps they’ll want to escape in these.

Nardos Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Nardos fall 2024

Courtesy of Nardos

Nardos

Attendees to Nardos Imam’s show on Friday might have been catching up on the last episode of “Feud” that dropped the night prior, but in the midst of designing her fall collection, she was catching up on another series: HBO’s “The Gilded Age.” Manhattan’s rare birds from that era, combined with actual rare birds, made for a brash display, which she paraded down the halls of the Gilded Age mansion that now houses the Lotus Club. Despite the towering fascinators and gloves, her lineup felt lighter this season with less focus on dense beadwork and more of what she called “manageable volumes.”

The first look out was a bell-shaped coat in citrine silk, giving way to sheer organza blouses with leg-of-mutton sleeves and pierrot collars that contrasted her slender wiggle skirts dotted with feathers or pearls. Corseted bustiers with cage-like basques in shades of fuchsia and peacock did the same, but the chiffon bustle attachments more interestingly played into the layered skirt — looks so closely tied to early 19th-century costume. Later on, birds flew in to flirt with flora and fauna on thread-embroidered gowns. The cranes, doves and canaries were sweet, but Imam could have left the flamingos wading in the water. Things came to a crescendo with gowns in black and cardinal red that had fluttering layers of fabric bunched at the neck or sweeps of it piled into large rosettes. These weren’t so manageable, overshadowing a darling pink ball-silhouette with trellis details that got lost somewhere in the mix.

Nidra Devi Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Nidra Devi fall 2024

Courteys of Nidra Devi

Nidra Devi

Who better to speak about opulence and glamour than former Marchesa cofounder Keren Craig, who debuted her emerging luxe eveningwear label Nidra Devi’s fall collection at NeueHouse.

“This is literally the most magical night for me because I never thought that I would ever be here again with eveningwear and gorgeous girls. It’s been a very emotional day, and it’s all because I have amazing women supporting me,” she said of her return to New York Fashion Week.

The brand quietly launched a year ago with luxe loungewear, whimsical elegance and intricate craftsmanship stemming said to incorporate traditional Indian techniques (the brand is named after the Hindu Goddess of Sleep), but with fall it has cemented itself as a dazzling occasionwear line for high society dress, with shoes by Francesca Bellavita and jewelry made in collaboration with Surya and the Moon.

“It’s about designing for the woman who I am and my friends are. It wants to be a bit fun and flirty,” Craig said of the line’s trompe l’oeil details, tassels, fringes, frayed organza florals, beading, on-trend pearl and black diamond decorations. Here, the Nidra Devi versions of swans are youthful and fun, further seen through an oxblood paillette crop top and mini; a shimmering gold “[Gustav] Klimt” number; velvet tuxedo dressing and even a few embellished black denim layers. 

Markarian Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Markarian fall 2024

Courtesy of Markarian

Markarian

Markarian’s fall 2024 collection gave subtle nods to the swans with a color palette that included metallic golds, regal reds and black, as well as luscious fabrics like velvet and brocade.

“I did a lot of black this season, which I don’t typically do a lot of black, but for some reason it felt kind of somber and right,” said designer Alexandra O’Neill. “It’s not super sad, but it’s serious in a good way.” 

The fall 2024 collection showed O’Neill’s understanding of her eveningwear clientele — offering a range of youthful and mature styles in various silhouettes. Her main point of inspiration was a recent trip to Venice where she studied the immaculate and sacred hearts depicted in various churches. 

She interpreted the inspiration through intricate, colorful hand-beading on various styles that showed the designer’s attention to detail. O’Neill’s usage of blue and green beads rather than the traditional gold and red gave the look a modern and playful feel. 

O’Neill’s brocades also gave the collection a regal touch, creating both dresses and separates in mature silhouettes that are given a youthful touch through small black velvet bows. 

Overall the collection continued to show O’Neill’s skill in the eveningwear category and offered a diverse customer base modern and interesting styles.

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