Ask anyone who works in the fashion industry, and they’ll be quick to tell you it’s a competitive, sometimes brutal business — and they wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. Another truism: The creatives behind it outwardly seem to possess spines made of steel, and yet every element of their soul will go into a collection.
That was undeniably true on the first day of New York Fashion Week, when Prabal Gurung presented a wholly poetic Fall Winter 2024 collection inspired by personal loss. The Singapore-born Gurung was raised by Nepali parents in Katmandu, and he’s often said that he knew from an early age that he wanted to come to the U.S. and launch his own label; that decision, however, strained his relationship with his father, who died this past November. “I always had a fraught relationship with him, and now I had to go back to Nepal and deal with it,” he told The Hollywood Reporter backstage before the collection’s unveiling. “You know, nobody teaches you how to grieve, nobody talks about it. But while I was back there I came across all these old diaries I had, in which I talked about wanting to work in fashion, and there were all these pressed flowers between the pages. And for the first time, I also looked at old photos from my father’s side of the family. I got so much comfort from it, and out of all of that, this collection emerged.”
Comfort indeed was a key descriptor for the clothes Gurung designed, from cashmere wraps and shearling coats that were essential to a theme of enveloping the body to evening gowns that exhibited a beautiful movement via a sense of subtle deconstruction.
“Pieces from me that normally would be beaded, instead they’re hand-cut bias strips of chiffon and organza that took months to hand-sew,” explained Gurung of the latter. “And I like how they sort of start off strong, and then there’s a sort of unraveling effect.”
With Kiki Layne among the celebrities on Gurung’s front row, the designer’s love of tailoring also was much in evidence, in suits crafted of crimson velvet or sparkling silver beading, but if any of his designs are poised to be a surprise on upcoming red carpets, it will be those hand-sewn gowns. “Sometimes you should create those unexpected moments,” added Gurung.
Deconstruction also quickly revealed itself as a theme at Jason Wu‘s Fall Winter 2024 collection debut on the afternoon of Feb. 11, though his desire was rooted in exploring the beauty of construction. With stars including Diane Kruger, Misty Copeland and Louisa Jacobson on the front row, Wu said he wanted to create a collection that felt inspired by “two heroes,” Charles James and Geoffrey Beene, which he accomplished nicely with structured ballgowns that evoked the first designer, and sleek dresses of Fortuny pleats, in a length that hit a few inches above the ankle for a modern sensibility, as part of an homage to Mr. Beene. “What tied it all together is these masters I’ve studied, because I’m a fashion nerd,” Wu said to THR backstage after the show.
“In today’s American fashion, he really is one of the pioneers of craftsmanship,” Kruger noted to THR. “His designs are as close as you can get to what we see in European ateliers, also because he doesn’t follow fashion as much as he does his own instincts, and it’s always timeless and wearable and beautiful. To me he’s the real deal.”
Jacobson agreed. “Jason surprises me every time, because he’s not afraid to take risks, and yet it’s always very wearable,” said The Gilded Age actress. “He’s also a wonderful designer for the carpet, because he has amazing attention to detail for that specific purpose — not only creating designs that photograph beautifully, but he also knows how to create something that gives a woman incredible confidence.”
For this latest collection, Wu also name-checked British illustrator Arthur Rackham as an influence, one he had explored in his Fall 2009 collection, soon after he designed Michelle Obama’s inaugural ball gown (Wu also designed Mrs. Obama’s gown for the inaugural ball in 2013). Christening this collection “Arthur 2.0,” Wu noted that it’s also the first time in years has been able to put his hands on the designs during the process of creation. “Because I’m always in meetings, because fashion is a business,” he added. (That’s also the reason why, for the first time, he brought the team from his workrooms out with him for the final bow — “because I couldn’t do it without them.”)
An artful strapless ballgown crafted in muslin, meanwhile, was pronounced by Wu as “the dress I always wanted to make,” he said. “It was hard to pull off, and I don’t think I would’ve had the maturity to do it before.” A balance of deconstruction fashioned through an elegant eye, the dress is the most pointed example of Wu’s desire to create a thoughtful, chic update of work he did 15 years ago. “I’ve always been known as a ladylike and pretty designer, but after 15 years I wanted to show evolution,” he said. “So what I envisioned is that I took the pieces from that 2009 collection, stored them, they became moth-eaten, and so I put them back together, but in a sort of fucked-up way — and you can quote me on that.”
Amid the unveiling of collections and several mentions of how American fashion can and should compete with European labels, two high-profile Italian brands also have been in New York to tout their own launches. On Feb. 9, Prada Beauty debuted the U.S. launch of its Skin and Color Collection at a Williamsburg party that included Sofia Richie Grainge, sisters Maude and Iris Apatow, Tommy Dorfman, Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid and Katie Holmes.
The next night, Gucci combined the U.S. arrival of Ancora — creative director Sebato De Sarno’s first collection for the house — with a look at the label’s refurbished Wooster Street boutique, which De Sarno likewise has styled to reflect his aesthetic, including the addition of video installations and modernist sculptures by Taezoo Park, Larry Bell and others.
Anyone familiar with Gucci’s cred among Hollywood stars shouldn’t be surprised by the crush of A-listers who attended, which included Jessica Chastain, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Elliot Page, Jodie Turner-Smith, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Beanie Feldstein and many (many) others.
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