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A Look At The Christian Siriano SS11 Runway Show — From Safaris To Pagodas

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Last season’s Christian Siriano collection was uncharacteristically muted for the cockatoo-haired designer, whose attention-loving, “fierce”-spouting, sasspot antics made him the most popular and successful Project Runway alum to date. But that, after all, was last season. Playing it safe has never been Christian Siriano‘s strong suit — his fans (myself included) appreciate the outrageous, the unorthodox and, most of all, the theatrical aspects of his work. And so, as his Spring/Summer 2011 designs trickled down the runway, I couldn’t help but feel like Siriano had taken a stand, vowing never again to scale back the exuberance of his pieces in an ill-fated attempt to crystallize the spirit of the Great Recession and make every garment more saleable. Hate it or love it, no one who saw this collection could argue that Siriano sacrificed artistry in the name of commerce.

Siriano says he drew inspiration from the vibrant color palette, traditional garments, and architectural compositions of different places in Africa, India and Asia. The first looks showcased — such as the loose-fitting, white silk crepe trousers and the belted, button-front, sleeveless white cotton blouse pictured below — set the tone, creating an image of a privileged global traveler.The models’ jarring red-orange cheeks added a sunburned, windswept effect, while the conehead shape created by their high textured buns (created by the Aveda team) added to that aerodynamic quality. The sunglasses donned by many of the models (also designed by Siriano) finished the off-the-jet effect.

 

But just as viewers became accustomed to a safari-esque theme and a rather classic white and cognac color palette, Siriano began throwing us curveballs — cottons transitioned into silk chiffons, crepes, and organzas; silhouettes softened to include wing-sleeved blouses and one-shoulder capes; and colors transitioned to aquatic turquoises and muddy ambers made earthy via giraffe print elements, chocolate brown, and paprika red. The African references mainly consisted of wild kingdom-esque references: from the usage of giraffe prints (as with the draped blouse pictured second below) and turquoise giraffe prints, (as with the stunning turquoise-and-khaki strapless evening dress, with a bustle-like detailing adding volume to the skirt, pictured third below) to the usage of croc and snake skins. Indian culture, meanwhile, surfaced mainly through the usage of intricate beading techniques and sequined details (which added a Bollywood-worthy jolt to the pieces. But it was the Asian cultural references that were perhaps most thoughtful and interesting — from the origami-like shape of a blazer with a single flounced adorning one shoulder to the clever usage of a red-and-brown, custom temple print made using photographs showing different vantage points of Buddhist temples.

To close the show, Sirino delved into familiar territory —evening gowns — culminating in a draped tulle gown in a bright red color featuring an explosion of ruffles moving down one shoulder and cascading down to the floor, creating a ruffled trail along the skirt. Some surely considered it a Big Bird moment, but we found it blissful. Finally, some drama had been restored to Fashion Week. Finally, someone stopped worrying about what the buyers would think and focused on creating statement-making pieces in the most impassioned, Fountainhead-like way.

Was the show a perfect ten? No, there were moments when the collection seemed a bit disjointed or when pieces lurked dangerously close to circus territory. But all the garments were impeccably constructed, unarguably inspired, irresistibly fun and playful but flamboyant —all the qualities we’ve come to epect from Siriano.

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