Ulla Johnson brought fashion back to Lincoln Center with her fall 2021 collection film, beautifully shot at the David H. Koch Theater with accompanying music by Juilliard students.
“I’ve been coming here to see ballet since I was a child, so the ability to work in the space was a dream,” she said of the 1964 Phillip Johnson- and John Burgee-designed theater with gilded railings and velvet details that played well off of Johnson’s autumnal palette and metallic-flecked collection.
“New York’s cultural institutions have been suffering, and this was the first event they have done there since March. There were all these union guys on set who hadn’t seen each other. It was heartwarming,” she added.
Rather than leaning into comfort dressing, Johnson’s vision for fall was a dress-up delight, full of romantic and rich paisleys, animal kingdom and cosmic prints, Uzbek ikats and cable knits. Flow-y tiered dresses and pleated gauchos, tidy puff-sleeve jackets and pencil skirts mixed the sultry bohemia of Seventies Paris with the power-shouldered defiance of Eighties Berlin, while acid-washed denim, glossy leather separates and earthy hiking boots made in collaboration with Dieme grounded the collection in the now.
“I wanted to play with unbuttoning our perception of what a lady is,” Johnson said of twisting such feminine tropes as scarf-ties, Peter Pan collars, lace work and pleating. “I felt much more inspired to talk about the fantasy of putting ourselves together, while also having this undercut of ease, like on a fitted, almost New Look dress silhouette but made out of the softest printed corduroy.”
Made-in-Kenya, handmade brass buttons, brooches and hair pins added another layer of charm, as did gorgeous knitwear, from a puff-sleeved gold foil pullover to an enveloping cream cable-knit sweater dress made in Brooklyn.
“I’ve been trying to bring more traditional crafts back home,” said Johnson.
On her approach to getting through the pandemic, she said, “We’ve been selling runway the whole time and have not pivoted to an at-home aesthetic. The fall collection is a bit of a rebellion against that actually. As opposed to in September when we weren’t sure, now the wheels are back in motion for the world to be back to life.”
Let’s hope the curtain is back up soon.