NEWTON’S THEORY: Every designer wants to create a certain narrative with their runway show, and Chiara Boni is no exception.
But she didn’t just channel the late photographer Helmut Newton’s provocative work at her La Petite Robe show Sunday. Before strong-minded models like Coco Rocha and Anna Cleveland hit the catwalk, a voiceover spoke of a fictitious Condé Nast Traveler shoot with the late photographer. Strapless leather dresses and a shrouded black ensemble were among the looks that were reminiscent of the lensman’s work. Even the designer took her final bow looking very much like Newton’s wife and longtime collaborator June, wearing a black turtleneck and pants with reflective sunglasses.
After the show, Boni said she was inspired by Newton’s appreciation for powerful women. So much so that she tried to energize the models backstage by giving them a preshow pep talk — urging them to be strong and powerful women, according to Judith Rice, who produced the show with Kathie Young. After the fact, Boni explained, “This is a moment when we need powerful women. We need to get them back and to be very strong again and victorious.”
Having coming of age during the ’70s, the designer feels that some of the progress that was made since then has subsided. “We need to win again. We are losing many points. In this moment, we are going backwards. We have to be winning again,” Boni said.
Just last week she was inspired by Newton, when a photo shoot in her homeland of Italy was hampered by the rain. “We were desperate because of the weather. I told them a story about one of the first shoots by [Helmut] Newton, where there was pouring rain. What he did was to photograph a woman standing in front of a wall holding a pair of shoes crossed against her chest. He was a genius — he could see things that others couldn’t see,” Boni said.
Her own workaround for the recent rain-drenched shoot was to have the models photographed standing against an all-black backdrop — in other words, very Helmut Newton. As for his lasting influence, the designer said, “There were lots of things that he did that I remember. Your life has lots of things that you remember — you remember paintings, cities, monuments, countries and photos. Photos are part of what make memories. I remember many of his photos.”
Boni planted some models and influencers with robust followings like Alina Baikova, Mari Fonseca, Sophie Sumner, Jose Castelo Branco and Caroline Vazzana in the front row Sunday to post. The designer has been strengthening the Chiara Boni La Petite Robe business, as sales have quadrupled in the past decade to more than $40 million. Coincidentally, the Helmut Newton Foundation recently announced a partnership with Trunk Archive to venture into global licensing, drawing from the archives of Newton and his wife June.