By  on January 31, 2008

Jangling nerves? Not for Liz McClean — her sanguine approach can be chalked up to creative collaboration.

While most designers will spend the next few days feverishly pinning, sewing and sweating their way through fittings and run-throughs, Liz McClean, a stylist and designer, is prepping for her show in a much more relaxed manner: readying photos for display at SoHo's Openhouse Gallery. Last fall, while contemplating her fifth fall collection, McClean decided to bypass a runway act for a more intimate showcase. She and a close friend, photographer Mary Rozzi, recruited more than 20 women — mostly friends, some famous, some not — to be photographed wearing pieces from McClean's upcoming line. The result will be exhibited on Feb. 7 at Openhouse; her subjects will be in attendance, wearing the dresses in which they were shot. (The show, which is sponsored by Cover Girl, will be open to the public on Feb. 8.)

"What makes my work relevant as a designer is the woman who wears it," says McClean. "I didn't want to use random models this time around, I wanted the clothes to tell a story, and the photos do that." A longtime stylist for actresses including Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Asia Argento, McClean is best known for her drapey, tie-dyed dresses and tops; the new collection includes mostly silk chiffon, georgette and taffeta frocks. McClean sought to personalize the line by designing pieces with individuals in mind, finding inspiration in what she calls "strong women who work hard." Gyllenhaal, as well as actresses Keri Russell and Maya Rudolph, musicians Feist and Melissa Auf der Maur, Barneys New York fashion director Julie Gilhart and photographer and cooking aficionado Paola Ambrosi de Magistris are among the participants, all of whom selected individual locations for their photo shoots. "The [places] revealed a lot about them," says McClean. "The clothes just fit into those contexts."

Auf der Maur was one of the first women shot, lounging on a dock at a lake in upstate New York, wearing a black silk chiffon dress and skimming a red scarf across the lake's surface. The photograph of Russell, in a crinkled silk chiffon number, depicts her sitting, contemplative, at the foot of a bed in her Brooklyn home. Ambrosi de Magistris is perched atop her kitchen stove wearing McClean's ivory silk georgette dress, while Feist posed under the hot Mexican sun decked in a hand-dyed pintuck gown. The latter, in fact, was among a group of friends who traveled to Mexico with McClean and Rozzi for what ended up being several photo shoots. "I literally filled a hammock with dresses," says McClean. "One by one everyone tried them on [for] the shots. We were in the sand, near the water, just hanging out, and it felt very organic.... It was important to keep it spontaneous because that's the type of woman I see in my clothes."More From the Shows

Lewis Cho:
Sheer panels and asymmetric ruching on Annie Lewis and Helen Cho's T-shirt dresses — in lavender, black, blue and forest green — made their fall collection anything but basic.

Oliver Spencer: Men's wear designer Oliver Spencer ventured into women's wear this season — since, he explained, "my wife is always wearing my cardigans" — presenting an assortment of charming tailored looks, from boyish tweed knickers to a grandpa sweater.

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