Vera Wang has done it again.
The fall 2007 collection she showed Thursday afternoon in The Tent at Bryant Park was a feat of both imagination and artistry, this time filtered through the lens of Russian history, from Bolshevik workers and country peasants to the extravagant opulence of the Romanov court and Doctor Zhivago.
"It’s my first Vera Wang show," said Project Runway winner Jeffrey Sebelia before the show began. "I think in the last two years her direction has gone darker and I love it. I love it."
As do we. From first look to last, Wang took her audience on a moody sartorial journey across the snowy Steppes and into the heart of Red Square. Backed by a dire soundtrack meant to evoke émigrés on the march, out came somber-faced models (their sunken cheeks, blackened eyes and bare lips making them look like an Army of Haunted Orphans), bedecked in padded taffeta fencing jackets, deconstructed voile tops beneath heavy woolen sweaters, distressed shearling cutaway coats, and layer upon layer of beautifully cut wool, mink, tulle, flannel and brocade pieces.
Many of the looks were worn with clunky-chic leather boots, Cossack hats and fuzzy wool kerchiefs tied under the chin, Babushka-style, all topped with haphazardly pinned brooches or fanciful crystal pendants that looked as though the beleaguered wearer had tossed them on before running out the door in fear of her life, until the end, when the layering eased up, as if to suggest that our heroine had finally reached her destination safely, and felt free to ditch the sweater, coat and scarf for an elegantly embroidered frock.
"It was a really powerful show, with the music and energy," said actress (and Vera Wang Princess spokesmodel) Camilla Belle afterwards. "It was like a rich fantasy world. I really loved it."
Backstage, Wang greeted friends and fans like Vogue's André Leon Talley, who was mugging for the cameras and shrieking at the top of his lungs about something-or-other.
"Why Russia for me?" Wang repeated to the question we had posed after Talley made his exit. "Because I fell for it for winter and I felt I was ready to tackle it. I have some ideas that I keep on the shelf and then I wait 'til the right moment. I felt it was time. And it was also a very good vehicle for me to explore more masculine cuts and tailoring. Even the skirts were very tailored. We really worked hard on cutting and we wanted to be in direct opposition to spring, which was very flou. So it was a totally different inspiration."
And were the jewels and sparkles - which turned up even on the back of some heavy leather boots - meant to counteract all that masculine energy?
"I think so," Wang replied with a laugh. "It’s almost like the Bolshevik girls stole the Czarina’s jewelry and ran away and threw it on their gray, washed Japanese wool jackets."
Photos © Gg/The Bigger Picture Pictures. For additional, larger images from this show, click here