CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Serpente minaudière, Bulgari ($4,600). 730 Fifth Ave., 212-315-9000. Red Deco box, Ralph Lauren ($3,250). 867 Madison Ave., 212-606-2100. Jade necklace, Soigne K ($385). 717 Madison Ave., 212-486-2890. Dragon bracelet, David Webb ($148,000). 942 Madison Ave., 212-421-3030. Black embroidered scarf, Ralph Lauren ($1,250). SEE ABOVE
Shantung embroidered smoking blazer, Ralph Lauren ($10,000). 867 Madison Ave., 212-606-2100
When the doors to Skylight Studio opened last February for the presentation of the Ralph Lauren Fall 2011 runway show, a regal parade of models reminiscent of Shanghai Lily, Marlene Dietrich’s bold femme fatale from the 1932 film ShanghaiExpress, marched in to a cover of David Bowie’s “China Girl.”
Emerald velvet gowns with mandarin collars, smoking jackets embroidered with dragon motifs, and carved jade jewelry were just a few of the decadent details. It was the particular mix of the early 20th-century costume references, Art Deco detailing, cloche hats, and chinoiserie embroidery, that evoked lavish images of legendary French fashion designer Paul Poiret, the silk trade routes, and Dietrich.
While Ralph Lauren looked to the past, this was a decidedly modern collection that championed tuxedo dressing, onyx accessories, and the power woman of today.
“I was totally enamored with the Ralph Lauren collection as I had just returned from Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong and was on a total China kick, again,” said Lucia Tait, cofounder and stylist of Coup de Coeur shopping concierge. “My fascination with chinoiserie started when I spotted a bright red qipao-style dress in my mother’s closet as a child. It seemed so exotic! Ralph Lauren’s shots of brilliant red, the jade accessories, and the black and white palette brought it all back for me. I could see both a fashion-forward New Yorker hailing a taxi on Madison and a well-heeled Shanghainese woman strolling the French Concession in any look from this collection.”
Amanda Sheppard, Tait’s partner, added, “Women want to be subtlety stylish, elegant, and appropriate for daily life. This collection encourages both a woman’s feminine and serious sides with alluring details like body-conscious cuts, androgynous pantsuits, bold color accents, and sensuous fabrics.”
Divine Art Deco Details
Accessories such as metal-adorned onyx clutches from Bulgari’s Fall/ Winter accessories collection and Brett Heyman’s new handbag line, Edie Parker, similarly cast 1920s Art Deco in a new light. “I’m drawn to the strong and color lines of the Deco movement, specifically seen in the interior design and decorative arts,” Heyman muses. “Black and white lacquers and metallic finishes instantly add the glamour that represents the prosperity of the time.” Jewelry designer Ivanka Trump is also embracing the Art Deco movement, inspired by the era as well as her international travels. “My collection is a modern-day interpretation from fashion’s most celebrated eras,” she says. “Jewelry should always be timeless and pay homage to the past, but refreshed with a youthful elegance and glamour.”
And what represents contemporary glamour more than a lady in a signature Ralph Lauren tuxedo? “Before [Yves Saint Laurent’s] Le Smoking, Marlene Dietrich rocked a tuxedo and a top hat,” Tait noted. “There is and will always be something sexy about a women in clothes that are traditionally seen as menswear—it shows true confidence.”