EVENING’S MYRIAD MUSES

Byline: Eric Wilson / Arthur Friedman

NEW YORK — Pack your bags.
Inspired by far-off places from Morocco to Tibet, or looking back to the Pre-Raphaelite period or ahead to new technology, eveningwear designers are beginning to sound a little like travel agents.
Whether they’re thinking of the esthetic of the new Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, cited by Carolina Herrera, or the banks of the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe that impressed Marc Bouwer, designers have created a world view of fashion in their fall collections.
Following are descriptions by designers of where their ideas originated for the season:
Mary McFadden: “Last summer, I flew to Lhasa, following the footprints of my great uncle, Suydam Cutting, who made his first trek through Tibet in 1935. Photographs of his trips are on exhibit in the Tibetan Galleries of the Newark Museum, where there is a famous photograph of the 13th Dalai Lama taken during his exile in Darjeeling in 1911. From the bazaars and Buddhist paintings, architectural fact and fantasy, I have recreated the color palette. The fantastic tantric gilt bronzes are symbolically woven into my fabric design.”
Oscar de la Renta: “This season, it was the summer pavilion at Tsarskoe Selo and Catherine the Great’s winter palace, as well as the opulence of the Moghul dynasties. In addition, I am inspired by the way elegant American women dress; those who believe in luxury with understatement.”
Nicole Miller: “The collection was inspired by a trip to Morocco. Cracked tiles were imitated in burnout velvet and jacquards; clay architecture inspired textured fabrics. I used to get inspiration from billboards and advertising or food and liquor at restaurants, but that was before I got married and started a family. Now, I’m more internally driven. For instance, I’m thinner than I was before I had a baby, so I’m into more body-conscious clothes.”
Marc Bouwer: “I was touring Zimbabwe. There was a watering hole near the Victoria Falls Hotel where a leopard was living with her cubs, and at certain times of the day you could see them walking there. Another inspiration there was the banks of the Zambezi River, which have a really pale, beige sand, and on them there was wood that had been charred black and was wet and glistening in the sun. I thought this combination would look great in colorblocks. I also saw that in native art and tribal masks.”
Pamela Dennis: “My collection had a Moroccan feel with exotic bordeaux and jewel colors. I had been in Paris and stayed at the Hotel Costes. It has a bordello feel, with stark wine colors that translated perfectly into eveningwear. There was incredible beadwork and sexy Middle Eastern works of art, as well as lots of Moroccan tile work. I work with tulle a lot, but I had gotten tired of traditional flowers. Large tiles on tulle gave it a much more exotic feel.”
Badgley Mischka: “A few months before we designed this past season, we saw ‘Doctor Zhivago,”‘ said James Mischka. “We fell in love with the character Lara, played by Julie Christie, but we were more into the look of the movie than the plot. It’s a late Sixties Hollywood version of what they thought Russia looked like.” Added Mark Badgley, “The decadence of this movie was so over the top that it was a very specific inspiration to us.”
Eric Gaskins: “I am a fan of Ellsworth Kelly for the way shapes are paired together, and in Mark Rothko’s paintings, I like the idea of mysterious, haunting colors that are neither here nor there. I also love to go out to dinner and people-watch. I don’t just get an idea, but a mix of ideas, and that reflects a modern way of thinking. I go to Cafe Luxembourg, which always has an interesting mood, and to the Bright Food Shop in Chelsea. That covers two spheres, which is reflected in my evening separates.”
Carmen Marc Valvo: “I took my inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelite movement of the 19th century and painters such as Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Thomas Woolner and Edward Burne-Jones. Inspired by chants, madrigals, magicians and mythology, the silhouette is looser, with Watteau pleats, off-the-shoulder boatnecks and shrugs. Fabrics conjure up the rich spirit of the period — hand-painted and iridescent velvet, moire silk velvet, hand-embroidered and hand-painted lace, silk taffeta and waterfall and placement beading.”
Angel Sanchez: “I have always been intrigued by the way women can transform in the night. I wanted to visualize and then embody the essence of this dark seduction by creating the collection ‘Brujerias’ that brings to life the female form dressed in shadows, fantasies and temptations.”
Steve Fabrikant: “Lately, I’ve been getting inspiration from flying. I got my private pilot’s license last October, and I’ve been taking trips to places like Martha’s Vineyard and Albany and all over the Hudson corridor. The views are breathtaking from a single-engine plane flying at a thousand feet. Other times, I get inspiration by doing nothing; just taking a walk down the street.”
Tom Platt: “The most inspiring phenomenon of this decade is the proliferation of technology. Each day is an adventure in the discovery of new materials and technology, and we bring this modern focus to our design work. On a futuristic level, I’m looking at fabrics that protect the body from nature’s elements like UV rays or materials used in operating rooms.”
The final word belongs to Bill Blass: “Sometimes I get inspiration from an opera or a painting, but in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking, ‘Is this something a woman will wear?’ I can remember a trip to Japan that inspired a group of clothes inspired by the culture. It was memorable for its lack of customer appeal.”

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