Hugh Hefner seems a curious inspiration for mainstream women’s fashion in 2019, but Monse’s Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia decided to go there. The stated reference was both off-putting, for obvious reasons, and gutsy at a time when so many onetime inspiration wells are now off-limits to creatives.

Sourcing lightweight suitings for the collection that ships during summer led the designers to classic silk twills, the compilation of which “started to look like Hugh Hefner’s closet,” Garcia said. That prompted research on the Playboy founder, whom Garcia noted was a big supported of LGBTQ rights. For their look book shoot, Garcia and Kim enlisted model Teddy Quinlivan, who is transgender.

For her part, Kim had little prior knowledge of Playboy or Hefner, so she browsed some issues and found herself surprised. “They’re talking about how to be more open about being a woman,” Kim said. “They have a different point of view on it, but when I learned about it, it’s not what I thought it was.”

Agree to disagree about the Playboy world’s feminist messaging, but not on the clothes, which looked interesting and very chic. Retailers will likely pass on the two collaboration sweaters flaunting that infamous bunny profile — what’s to be gained there? Not so a wide-striped robe dress, which, if you don’t know, is derived from Hefner’s loungewear getup, and on the runway was just an alluring, languid dress. Otherwise, Kim and Garcia worked the Hef thing nearly imperceptibly, mostly in the integration of the bathrobe silks, whether in a dotted red halter top over mannish trousers or snippets integrated into their signature deconstructed tailoring.

The designers sought to advance that core in a sleeker direction without losing its impact. Mission accomplished, from suiting peplums added onto silk dress and pant looks to glamorous jackets with varying degrees of structural manipulation. Even a complicated skirt that incorporated tulle with jacket components projected casual elegance when paired with an off-the-shoulder sweater dotted with big sequined circles. Beats that bunny on a bosom, any day.

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