By Terry Trucco
New York hotels love Spring Fashion Week, unspooling in the dead of winter, for obvious reasons – full rooms, bustling bars, parties in the ballrooms and a sprinkling of glamour. What better way to perk up a slow season?
Historically – even if we’re talking seasons, not decades – this has been the realm of hip boutique hotels, places like Standard High Line, The Empire Hotel, Hudson, Ace, Dream (uptown and downtown) and all the Ws. Most observe with a combination of parties, signature drinks, fashion blogger lounges, pop-up shops, even art students drawing fashion habitués in the lobby.
But this winter brings a Fashion Week surprise: The Pierre, an East Side luxury heavyweight better know for society parties than hipness that’s situated across Central Park from the Lincoln Center fashion tents (but around the corner from Barneys).
Collaborating with Parsons The New School for Design, the Fashion Week Rising Designer Showcase fills the Pierre’s Two E Bar/Lounge with dress forms sporting new-look fashions by a quartet of talented Parsons alumni, February 6 through 13. To top things up, a special menu of Emerging Designer Showcase Cocktails features a drink inspired by each designer ($16), available just for the week.
For fashion lovers whose idea of heaven-sent porn is sipping a pink cocktail and gazing at
gorgeous dresses, this is your moment. The event culminates in a February 13 trunk show by the designers in the lounge, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The showcase kicked off with a party, naturally, attended by three of the designers (the fourth was in India, sussing out local artisans). The room had the look a scaled down design show at the Met – or a Barneys annex with cocktail tables.
With nearly all the dresses in shades of cream, black, gray, brown and an occasional shot of coral it was as if a stylist had chosen them to complement the black and white lounge. But, no. “They’re just the colors in fashion at the moment,” said designer Brooklyn-based designer Angela Gao, wearing a fetching, flowing cotton dress emblazoned with a bold, abstract black print.
Born in China and raised in New York, Gao specializes in wearable clothes with a breezy, urban look. “I believe in making clothes for real women and not stick figures,” she said. To wit her silhouettes are fluid and flowing with generous swaths of soft fabric cut to hide whatever needs to be hidden. “If you have a nice waist you can add a belt,” she said. Priced from $150, her designs sell in more than 20 stores across the country and her AnGG boutique in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Cool fact: a martial arts expert, Gao was a trainer and assistant choreographer for the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Favorite designers: Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Yohji Yamamoto. CV: designer for Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Collection. Cocktail: Cosmique (half Cosmopolitan, half champagne).
Chicago native Samantha Sleeper started sewing at age eight and went on to make prom dresses for her friends. “We used double-stick tape to hold them up,” she recalled. That was then. These days her precision cut pieces – many with an edgy take on lace – turn up on people like Katy Perry and Ciara.
In addition to ready-to-wear available in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Taiwan, her made-to-measure couture designs, a favorite with brides, include an authoritative black gown with a lace collage bodice and mermaid skirt, topped nonchalantly by a leather bomber jacket on view at Two E. A flirty black dress with a bodice and short, flared skirt adorned with hand-sewn poufs, also on view, is a pitch-perfect mid point between a cocktail dress and a gown. Cool fact: Sleeper also creates lighting installations, including one for – hotel connection coming – the Mondrian SoHo. Favorite designers: Dries Van Noten, Rodarte, Jil Sander. CV: works closely with French lace and artisan textile maker Solstiss. Cocktail: Flame & Flower (Stoli vanil vodka, sour apple pucker, lychee liquer, white cranberry juice & fresh green apple).
The standout red cocktail dress designer Wen Shi wore to the party features the sleek tailoring and statement silhouette characteristic of her designs. “I grew up in China’s third
largest city, Tianjin, but it wasn’t super Westernized,” she said. Indeed, much of the population, including her family, wore uniforms, from military garb to nurse’s mufti, statement silhouettes of a different stripe.
Shi, who moved with her family to Florida at age 10, deftly tweaks structured silhouettes. She gives a long-sleeved white dress an elongated peplum that’s open in front and pairs it with a white jacket with full, feathered sleeves. “I like the play of volumes,” she said. Cool fact: winner of Gen Art’s ‘Little White Wardrobe’ design contest sponsored by Crest 3E White and Procter & Gamble. Kudo: chosen as a Forbes.com Designer to Watch CV: internships with Vera Wang, DKYN and TSE Cashmere; designer for Theory. Cocktail: The Modern Glam (Grey Goose vodka, tonic & white cranberry juice).
Designer Laura Siegel’s boho chic creations display her formidable skills in knitting, natural dyeing and embroidery. Consider her gray and white hand-dyed dress topped by an invitingly chunky hand-knitted sweater with a mammoth scarf. Siegel’s mission, according to her website: To ethically handcraft easy-to-wear, textured designer pieces while enabling artisans in third world countries to continue their uniquely creative skills. From what’s on view it’s mission accomplished. Cool Fact: Nelly Furtado and Niki Taylor own her clothes CV: collaborated with designers Megan Park, Life with Bird, Yigal Azrouel, Luca Luca and Arthur Mendoca Cocktail: Viviana (Aperol, St. Germain, Fragoli, Agave Nectar, fresh lemon juice).