Volume, structure and scuba fabrics: those aren’t words commonly associated with the elegantly ornate world of J. Mendel, yet were the core tenets to a more playful pre-fall collection with inspiration kicked off by the iconic photography of Richard Avedon.

Avedon’s work helped shape the collection in more ways than one. It led to the focus on movement, both dramatic and ethereal when it came to product design, and in the look book shoot with the models’ poses, though shot in color to highlight unconventional color combinations derived from painter Rudolf Stingel.

The biggest departure from past collections were the big, clean (read: unembellished) dresses cut with a glossy scuba silk fabric. They were deceivingly lightweight through the volume of fabric and puffed sleeves, paving the way for presence and romance, a hallmark to Gilles Mendel’s design m.o. that he amped up this season. “To me, it’s like a modern romance,” he said inside his Madison Avenue store, adding: “I wanted my girl to go into a fairy-tale story. Not that she’s a princess, but somehow through the volume and architectural clothes, it felt very romantic, but also very considered.”

With awards season right around the corner, there were plenty of options to choose from, especially for a younger starlet. A white jumpsuit would be a quirky choice, while signature hand-pleated dresses, ranging from a flirty two-tone pink dress to draped grecian gowns, were safer bets balancing exaggerated shapes with lightness. A textural pink number with feathery sleeves and delicate organza embroidery was also a standout for taking Mendel’s signature intricacies in a younger direction.

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