Zac Posen has always favored a strong woman. One need only look at his front rows — Katie Holmes, Jennifer Hudson. Lucy Liu and Debi Mazar were in attendance Monday night — to know that. The collection he showed for fall was based on one specific powerful woman: Ugandan Princess Elizabeth of Toro, the first East-African female to be admitted the English bar. She was also a model who appeared on the covers of top fashion magazines in the late Sixties.

 

Posen celebrated all aspects of her remarkable life, offering his take on traditional tribal batik wear in a series of appealing dresses in navy, burgundy and green floral prints based on a Forties bouclé that evolved to have an African-Japanese quality. He riffed on authentic tribal-wrap silhouettes but spliced them with his signature swing to create a modern feel.

 

The challenge, Posen said backstage before the show, was to take some of his silk bias cuts and apply them to cotton — a fabric he felt his customer would want when the collection hits sales floors. The dresses, done in a variety of lengths, featured tuck-and-fold details as well as a drapy, one-shoulder cape motif used throughout the collection.

 

The princess’s life in England was explored through a double-faced cashmere group, which mirrored the color scheme of the floral dresses. Its tone was austere and simple, save for a navy-blue beaded Nehru-collar tunic jacket; puffed-sleeve waist jackets worn with cropped trousers, and Edwardian detailing on a full-length coat and long sweeping cape that spotlighted Posen’s tailoring skills. Floor-length wool column dresses with long sleeves melded both the African and English sides of her life.

 

The collection, while a departure for Posen, showcased his strengths in a way that was novel but not costumey. Princess Elizabeth of Toro was a bit of an “It” girl in her heyday, and the exotic flair of his dresses should resonate with those who aspire to that status today.

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