Eveningwear may be a league of its own, but the category remains a substantial contributor to New York’s fashion economy. This season, the designers whose speciality it is stuck by romantic silhouettes, bold colors and intricate embellishments, offering a counter to the ’90s-inflected minimalism that continues to dominate in contemporary and luxury ready-to-wear. Here, WWD spotlights their spring collections.
More from WWD
Naeem Khan gave India’s royal families a special tribute for spring — it’s about time; after all, his father and grandfather have a well-established history of dressing them.
Using the Garment District studio he operates from, Khan’s choice of show venue was for more than just convenience. “I make clothes which are so intricate you can only appreciate them from up close,” he explained. Models twirled down the runway between columns strung with marigolds, their dresses reflected in mirrored wall panels, bringing to mind the presentations of his former mentor, Halston.
The first dress out was scarlet-colored with an inverted basque-waist embroidered with hand-folded ribbon, which could have easily been mistaken for lace if it weren’t for the intimate setting. It led the way for a collection that was both lighter in spirit and in weight than those Khan has been showing recently.
His love for Indian traditions was displayed best in looks that pushed an “East-meets-West” sensibility, offering modern interpretations of ceremonial garb. That first dress and a few others, like one in billowing cobalt mousseline, came with veil attachments to resemble wedding dupattas, while a blush jacquard robe coat trimmed with silver thread was an homage to the maharajas. Elsewhere, sari-style draping was cleverly rethought for a beautiful orchid gown cut on the bias with a trail of fabric tossed over one shoulder before snaking down the arm on the opposite side.
Khan, who has yet to show in India or establish a retail presence there, alluded to a possible collaboration in the works, which could change that. “Hopefully, there’s something big coming,” he said.
Fashion designers usually consider the clothes before whatever setting they’re placed in, but art history major Alexandra O’Neill took a page from the painters this season, getting to work on the background of her look book first.
At a spring preview, O’Neill shared her fascination with shell grottos — a curious interiors trend from the 17th century found in many English country estates, like the St. Giles House in Dorset, which she ended up using. “I really wanted to mesh the regenerative powers of the sea with timeless, romantic elements,” she said, calling again on her fine arts background to find her muse: “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli.
Steering clear of mermaidcore gimmickry, O’Neill added, “There’s a ‘60s feel to it too, so it’s Venus if she were a flower child.” Mod references came by way of an adorable scoop-neck mini with multicolored sequins recalling light as it bounces off water and a bra top made of linked crystal flowers that had a hint of Paco Rabanne’s handiwork.
Her signature wiggle dresses were prominent — one in sparkly net with a halterneck had pleated bust details to mirror the shells, while puffy drop-waist skirts in metallic brocade or watercolor florals were more youth-centric.
Bringing sophistication to the everyday, O’Neill showed her first denim pieces, opting for a crisp light wash that looked great as a shorts suit with scalloped edges. But her favorite look in the collection was by far the most formal — a gown in sea foam silk faille with a caplet attached. Though sweet in appearance, she dubbed it the “Ursula,” perhaps because the princess seams fanned out like tentacles.
Coming off her Barbie-themed resort collection, Reem Acra chose her very own dream house in New Jersey as the backdrop for spring’s look book. Up against a corner where she uses her vintage handbag collection as wall decor, the models resembled fashion dolls as they come in boxes: with their outfits perfectly coordinated to the accessories.
“That wasn’t exactly my intention,” Accra admitted. She may not have meant it, but there was certainly a toy-like nature to a few of her dresses, which could be subtly transformed by whipping off a caplet here or unsnapping a marabou sleeve there. One gown with swirls of pink degradé sequins came with a removable taffeta bustle. It was one of the few that showed off an interesting silhouette as Accra chose a sexier column line for the majority. Pink was prominent, but stepping away from Barbie’s favorite color, the designer embraced cool shades of lavender and lemon drop alongside an unexpected dark teal.
“It’s kind of very laid back,” Accra said of her overall mood, pointing to the models, who were shot barefoot. Still, flipping through the images of embroidered dresses begged the question: what’s laid back about any of it? The answer lay in the construction, or lack thereof. Even a complicated-looking tent of a gown with layers of chiffon squares was made without boning from a single seam — ideal for the kind of fun-loving girls who like to kick off their shoes at parties.
Pamella Roland may be an event dresser, but her dresses rarely have much to do with world events. That wasn’t the case this season as her Marrakech-themed collection walked the runway days after the city was struck by an earthquake, destroying many of its landmarks and killing thousands of inhabitants.
Backstage, Roland was quick to acknowledge the brand will be making a considerable donation for relief and rebuilding efforts. Her show notes invited guests to do the same, reading “our hearts and prayers go out to the beautiful people of Morocco.”
She didn’t really embrace the country’s national costume, save for a few caftan-looking dresses. One in champagne-colored fabric was enveloped in feathers, a detail her North African and Middle Eastern clientele prefers. “We don’t sell them much in the United States,” she said.
For them, too, was a modest column gown with orange sequins arranged in the geometric patterns of Moorish tiles. The same detail also appeared on the cuffs of a blazer and a sheer dress with cutout bishop sleeves. A touch of Yves Saint Laurent, whose love for Marrakech is well-known, could be seen in some looks the same shade of blue as his Majorelle garden. While Roland’s silhouettes are beginning to feel a bit formulaic, she did add sculptural mikado collars that livened up simple viscose sheaths as a nod to the domes atop mosques.
Spring 2024 was a season of launches for Bibhu Mohapatra. The designer cleared out his Tribeca flagship to “launch” it as a public event space, holding his first salon-style runway show there. It’s something he’s been itching to do for a while, but now “seemed like the right time,” he said standing in the basement surrounded by sketches and bolts of fabric.
The new collection was an obvious launch, walking on the main level accessorized by another that was somewhat less expected: eyewear, courtesy of a licensing deal with German manufacturer IC! Berlin. The capsule consists wrap-around and shield-styles with lace accents, but their sportiness distracted from what was an otherwise supremely elegant lineup.
Mohapatra told his usual story of juxtapositions between hard and soft, masculine and feminine and past and present, but this season’s characters were two Black female artists: Augusta Savage from the ‘30s and her contemporary, Simone Leigh. Any references to them or their work was probably surface level, like fringes on skirts resembling the tiers of raffia on Leigh’s Las Meninas sculpture, or a recurring hibiscus pattern, alluding to her Jamaican roots.
Silhouettes were more reflective of Savage’s day with beautiful batwing draped gowns with pearl finishes. Savage was closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance and Mohapatra ticked off the Zoot Suit as his inspiration for tailored jackets with pointed shoulders and wide, peaked lapels. Worn over hot shorts instead of puddle trousers, they had less swagger, but were no less cool.
Dallas-based bridal and eveningwear designer Nardos Imam was overcome with emotion before her New York Fashion Week debut. “Your whole life you think you’ll never make it here,” she said. “This is the moment you finally get to see your work appreciated.”
An immigrant from Eritrea, Imam was the in-house designer for specialty retailer Stanley Korshak before launching her brand in 2012. She has developed a loyal following of well-heeled Southern women, many of whom made the trip north to show support. They sat cross-legged sipping Champagne inside St. Regis’ Versailles Room, a fitting location given that Imam’s inspiration of Venetian glass is an obsession she shares with Louis XIV.
Murano is where she purchased an impressive chandelier with the intention of hanging it inside her Madison Avenue store, which recently made a cameo on “And Just Like That.” Alas, the ornate fixture proved too difficult to mount due to its heft. Her gowns were similarly hefty, made of meaty duchesse satin and silk mikado with beading in overly saturated jewel tones.
While Imam does the bulk of her business through custom orders for cotillions and other formal events, she was keen to land a few wholesale accounts with this collection, showing off an expanded ready-to-wear offering hoping it would attract her dream partners, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. Perhaps they’ll take an interest in her lighter fare; a blue cotton poplin shirt dress with a drop-waisted full-skirt and Watteau back was a highlight.
L.A. designer Kevan Hall showed his “Cote D’Azur” collection during a cocktail hour presentation at 3 West Club.
Hall was inspired by the South of France — from Deauville in the ’30s, where fashion was showcased along the promenade by models donning the creations of leading designers, to the Cannes Film Festival’s red carpets of today.
A column gown, and tie-front jacket and palazzo pants look, all in colorful geometric prints inspired by ’30s artist Sonia Delaunay, were stars of the collection, which went from casual luxe to gala glam.
Among the red carpet contenders was a floral lace illusion gown in pale yellow, which is one of the key colors of the season, a multibouquet floral sequin gown with illusion neckline, and a sky blue shirred bustier dress with ostrich feather skirt.
Hall collaborated on the presentation with Chatham, a luxury brand of laboratory-grown gemstones and diamond jewelry.
Kate Barton’s spring collection further showcased the designer’s use of innovative fabrics and her modern take on eveningwear. The designer continued the use of engineered leather and liquid-like fabrics to create draped dresses, corsets and skirts that can be mixed and matched.
“It’s really blending in this development of textiles and textures and this almost illusion of metal and liquid looks, while still being very wearable and having functional silhouettes that people still feel good in and that showcase the right features,” Barton explained.
The designer offered more styles with her signature detachable metal embellishments, such as a yellow leather set with a detachable, crystal-embellished belt and a silk-like draped dress with a silver metal bow detail. She introduced new fabrics, such as a fuzzy metallic lilac dress and a cutout green sequin minidress.
Mark Badgley and James Mischka are marking 35 years in business, celebrating with the many women who have been a part of their design journey. “Women that inspired us, mentored us, consulted us along the way,” Mischka said during their presentation. Cities the designers love served as another inspiration point — Las Vegas, Palm Beach, Newport, and Savannah — through bright colors and the many events they attend and dress women for.
“Feminine, modern, glamorous and national,” Badgley said of the collection. “All the things you think of, when you think of us.” True to form, the duo delivered on that promise with a knockout lineup of event dressing options in sherbet hues
The love and loyalty for Badgley Mischka is real and their presentation was packed full of Ladies Who Lunch in sequin and embellished frocks, all there to fete the duo, who understand their customer and deliver the modern glamour she desires season after season.
Best of WWD