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Mara Hoffman Fall 2013 Show — A Colorful Caravan of Traveling Gypsies

In the past, I’ve compared designer Mara Hoffman’s runway shows to magic carpet rides that, for an exhilarating and wondrous period of time, transport audiences to exotic locales — a feat Hoffman accomplishes via the clever use of original prints and silhouettes that reference the native flora and fauna of these locales, the landmarks and architectural wonders therein, the crafts and art forms that flourished in these cultures, and the overall colors of the landscapes. The magic carpet metaphor seemed all the more fitting for Mara Hoffman’s Fall 2013 show, which was inspired by the idea of a gypsy wagon circus  traversing such lands as Jaipur, Morocco, Istanbul, Dushanbe, and Tashkent in their hand-painted caravans, accompanied by zebras, elephants, camels, and tigers. In keeping with her sense of whimsy and her penchant for fantasy, Hoffman tapped into fairy tales and folklore, incorporating references to medicine women, fortune tellers, bandits, soothsayers, and elephant riders, while also tapping into the colors and architecture of the lands explored by these mystics. And, of course, she retained her own signature aesthetic and her penchant for bold strokes of color.

As usual, Hoffman created several original prints for her Fall 2013 collection — all remarkably beautiful and vibrant. Her Caravan print, for instance, incorporated psychedelic illustrations of elephant heads, often placed so as to face each other as these creatures were standing before fun house mirrors, with peacock feathers positioned in unexpected places ands dotted lines placed in geometric angles to create a kaleidoscopic effect, compounded by the color scheme, which incorporated violet blue, neon pink, yellow, teal, and turquoise colors. This print appeared in pieces ranging from a form-fitting, abode-the-knee jersey dress with three-quarter sleeves (as shown second below) to a caftan-like chiffon blouse with a high-low hemline and long billowing sleeves cuffed at the wrists (as shown fourth below). The gorgeous Compass print, meanwhile, incorporated star burst-like shapes divided into tiny, multi-colored, mosaic-like sections so that, ultimately, the print felt inspired by the stained glass windows often found in Turkish mosques. But again, Hoffman gave the twist a youthful and irreverent feel via her use of punchy shades ranging from a coral pink to a minty blue and a pastel yellow. One of the most stunning pieces in the show, then, was a sleeveless black column maxi dress featuring this print (as shown above, at top), as was a look that incorporated black pants in this Compass print, a cropped and sleeveless black leather top, and a sheer black shirtdress with a high-low hemline (as shown sixth above). The Suzani print, meanwhile, nodded to the textile by that moniker that has historically been crafted in Central European countries and that commonly includes sun or moon discs. Hoffman’s version of the print, then, incorporated medallion shapes, each filled with ornate concentric circles, as seen in the loose-fitting chiffon maxi gown with spaghetti straps shown last above, which featured an element of surprise via the black leather trimming along the top of the bodice and at the back.

Since wild animals played a major role in this traveling circus story, two animal prints appeared in the collection: Leopard, a rather straight-forward spotted print that appeared mainly on knit sweaters and jackets; and Phoenix, a psychedelic zebra print with tiny dots making up each single stripe, thereby making the pattern appear a bit pixelated and giving it an urban cool factor. The latter print appeared in such playful pieces as a mini dress with long sleeves and a coquettish peplum accent (shown above, fourth from top) and the finale look: a floating, Bohemian, floor-length chiffon gown in a poppy red color featuring a keyhole-shaped cut-out at the center of the chest and long, wide, caftan-like sleeves.

Other prints and motifs that alluded to the aforementioned Central Asian locales included a Nazar (Turkish evil eye) woven onto the back of a knit wrap, a floral tapestry motif incorporated into a chiffon blouse, slouchy harem pants, and needlepoint vests and tunics featuring stars and geometric shapes worthy of ceramic crafts and wall mosaics.  

To add an urban edge to these gypsy-inspired looks, models wore multiple Pamela Love rings in each hand, and some even rocked ear cuffs with multiple chains that draped along the back of the head, connecting one ear to the other.

The show, then, was a masterpiece of wit, whimsy, and fantasy, a wish granted by the genie that is Mara Hoffman.

Check out some of the standout pieces in the collection above and below and don’t miss the video of the finale walk embedded above!

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