Tadashi Shoji Fall/Winter 2013

Click the photo for more looks from Tadashi Shoji.

Tadashi Shoji is not a designer that aims to shock and awe the audience with tulle bells and glittery whistles. Such a tactic is only common in an industry clogged with social-climbing upstarts looking to catch their big break. So when the designer popped out at the end of his glamorous runway presentation to take a bow, he did so with the saunter of a man secure in both his aesthetic and his vision.

And for good reason: Shoji’s gowns have the enviable quality of working just as well on the red carpet as they would at a West Village loft party. This effect isn’t accidental. While the glossy handouts on every seat invited us to “travel back in time to wintertide in Russia” to experience “a tale of exiled nobility,” the clothes themselves weren’t quite so ambitiously pigeonholed.

The effervescent, meticulously constructed drop-waist white party dresses would work on a Tisch undergrad or Zelda Fitzgerald. The show-stopping black sheer gown glittering with brocade accents in all the right places seemed like something Jennifer Lopez and Kristen Stewart would fight over. The lacy, ladylike cocktail dresses would be right at home in Jackie O’s closet. The chandelier earrings, festooned with gems and dripping from the ears of the models with languorous grace, were the only accessories that truly hit Shoji’s creative mark. They brought to life the image of a lonely Russian princess, exiled from her palace and left to recline forever in a cabin in the woods surrounded by velvet pillows.

While Shoji reveres and celebrates the many different sides to a woman, his collection, inspired by this mysterious Russian royal, often feels more like an international relations convention than a character study.

His models wore their hair twisted into undone side ponytails, a touch that felt more So-Cal than baroque. A pair of high-waisted pinstriped pants paired with a pastel pink capelet was so achingly British that the outfit might as well have come with its own posh accent.

Fortunately for Shoji and for us, none of this really matters. The clothes are so delightfully feminine that we find ourselves drawn to them despite the designer’s creative confusion. The wardrobe of an exiled princess seems to Shoji to be a many-faceted one, but to his audience the point was simple: wear glamorous gowns, lounge around, attend balls, repeat.

Helen Holmes is deputy features editor. Email her at hholmes@nyunews.com.

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