Christian Siriano shows new growth with stunning spring collection at New York Fashion Week

Close your show with superstar model Coco Rocha draped in a showstopping black ruffled avant-garde gown? Check. Stack your front row with celebrities like Leslie Jones, Danielle Brooks, Vanessa Williams, Lili Reinhart, Cardi B and Patricia Clarkson? They were all there. And pepper your collection with drool-worthy garments that elicited "oohs and ahhs" from the traditionally reserved crowds of New York Fashion Week? He did that, too.

Christian Siriano's spring collection fired on all cylinders Saturday in a brightly lit, packed waterfront space in Manhattan's Pier 59 Studios. The offerings, which the Annapolis native said felt like a "psychedelic hallucination of what's inside my fantasy greenhouse," showed a new growth for the designer and firmly established him as one of the country's pre-eminent designers.


Siriano sent out stunning look after stunning look in an array of bold colors such as electric fuchsia, sunny yellow and grass green during the fashion show. There were 63 in total. He also sent out a purse adorned with the message "People Are People," which kept in line with his dedication to inclusion. Models representing all ethnicities and body types — there were both male and gender-fluid models — were included in the show. And it clearly resonated with the attendees — especially Jones, the "Saturday Night Live" actress, who was her usual comical, boisterous self as she yelled words of encouragement and provided a running commentary from her front-row seat.

"Christian Siriano has brought back an element to fashion and Fashion Week at large that has been missing for quite a while — the people. From his inclusive runway to his eclectic front row, Christian's ability to make beautiful red-carpet-worthy clothes without isolating everyday people is what makes his brand standout," said Zoey Washington, senior style editor at Brit + Co, the San Francisco-based women's lifestyle company. "It is part of his company's DNA and never feels like a gimmick. Authenticity is just what he is about."


The clothes were exceptionally strong this season from the designer, whose quick trajectory to fashion greatness included studying in London with the likes of Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood before his own international notoriety as the most recognizable winner from the Emmy-winning TV show "Project Runway." That's led to a slew of designer collaborations with brands from Lane Bryant to Payless and Best Buy; inclusion on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in 2015; and earning a reputation as a designer willing to work with any celebrity — regardless of size — for red-carpet events.

He also scored a major feat having Rocha open and close his show. Her appearance on the runway is a rarity. The supermodel typically sits front-row in New York and rarely walks shows outside Europe.

"The collection is playful, bold and feminine: a perfect mix of something new and exciting for our customer," Siriano said.

Actress Jada Pinkett-Smith wore a flounce dress from designer Christian Siriano for the July cover of Essence..

New York Fashion Week is an opportunity for designers to show their latest creations to be absorbed, dissected and — with hope — purchased by stores and endorsed by editors and influencers, according to Washington.


"Fashion Week will never truly lose its luster because it provides the unique opportunity for designers to harness the energy of the city and tell the story of their brands," said Washington. "Fashion is about storytelling above all else and Fashion Week sets the stage for the world to take notice of a designer's unique vision on their own terms."

Siriano was among a number of movers and shakers with Maryland ties at New York Fashion Week this season.

Dubbed the "Naomi Campbell of plus," Randallstown native Liris Crosse will appear as a model on this season's "Project Runway."

Johns Hopkins alumna Eva Chen, former editor of Lucky magazine, attended a slew of top designer collections including Tom Ford, Jason Wu, Tory Burch, Brandon Maxwell, Prabal Gurung, Calvin Klein and Victoria Beckham.

Chen, who is now the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, provided her usual upbeat, pithy posts in which she gave shout-outs to models Bella and Gigi Hadid and switched gears to praise the glittery high heels at Victoria Beckham's show.

Fashion influencers and social media darlings Cipriana and Takenya Quann, twins from Randallstown, attended Diane Von Furstenberg, Philipp Plein, Cushnie Et Ochs, Milly, Desigual and Dion Lee.

They were also featured on the New York Times' Fashion Instagram feed.

Randallstown-born model Liris Crosse walked in the finale show for "Project Runway" and for Michael Costello, a designer known for his celebrity clientele.

Rachel Mulherin, a Baltimore-based jewelry designer, provided the earrings for womenswear designer Pia Gladys Perey's show. Mulherin also provided jewelry for "Real Housewife of Atlanta" star Marlo Hampton during Fashion Week.

"New York Fashion Week was an absolute dream," Mulherin said. "This was definitely a career highlight for me and the first time the Rachel Mulherin brand has participated in a NYFW runway event. I've dreamed about this since I was a child."

Tammy Rivera Malphurs, a Baltimore native who is married to rapper Waka Flocka Flame and is a cast member on the show "Love & Hip Hop Atlanta," sat front row at the Pia Gladys Perey show. Rivera Malphurs, a successful swimwear designer in her own right, wowed from the front row in head-to-toe Givenchy: a fringe-accented red dress, structured red purse and thigh-high red stiletto boots.

Lana Rae, an Annapolis-based fashion personality who also owns the KIS modeling agency, hosted the red carpet on SMTV for "Project Runway" alum designers Korto Momolu and Mychael Knight. Rae interviewed guests like rapper and actress Lil Mama, actress and model Sheena Sakai from "Power" and "America's Next Top Model" and Beyoncé backup dancer-turned-singer Alvester.

"Their collections were refreshing and innovative with a focus on florals, color in motion, neutrals and sequins," Rae said of the designers.

Rachel Mulherin's use of rough slivers and chunks of semiprecious stones in her collections of bling has earned her a loyal following that has her poised to be Maryland's next big designer.

Marcus Bailey, a Baltimore-based wardrobe stylist, followed up working in Los Angeles last month at the MTV Video Music Awards to assisting celebrity stylist Ade Samuel dress singer Jhene Aiko and rapper Big Sean. Bailey also attended a number of shows during the week. His favorite?

"My absolute favorite was Tom Ford. Hands down," he said. "He paid homage to the '80s with power suits, sharp tailoring, bold colors and plenty of sequins."

Bailey also like LaQuan Smith's collection.

"It was truly great to see a return of actual structure to garments and themes through collections," he said.

Christian Siriano continued to make his case as a go-to red carpet gown designer after dressing three stars for Sunday night's Golden Globes.

Trends on the runway

The collections in New York were much stronger than they were in February. And although designers offered up a bevy of trends, the following reoccurred with frequency across the board.

Sparkling embellishments

Pamella Roland created a number of stunning gowns — almost all featured a healthy dose of sparkling embellishments. My favorite was a stunning royal blue ball gown with color-blocked embellishments along the bodice with a mesh underlay. Tracy Reese showed a number of sparkling separates including several floor-length sparkling skirts.




Bold red repeatedly popped up in Oscar de la Renta's collection. From a fire engine red blazer paired with a white shirt and wide-leg beige culottes to a red purse and large red heart painted on a long sleeve white shirt, red was well represented. I also loved the swoon-worthy tomato-red gold-trimmed trench coat at Banana Republic. Red also crept up into the collections of 3.1 Phillip Lim, Tanya Taylor, Noon By Noor and Tadashi Shoji.

Airy fabrics

Leanne Marshall's ethereal collection included what seemed like an endless number of stunning gowns in fuchsia, cotton candy pink, orange and multi-colored sherbet. With a cloud-like consistency, Tadashi Shoji's gowns appeared to float down the runway.


Tracy Reese is known for her bold prints. And this year was no exception. But it was her use of laser-cut prints on her garments that truly stood out in her collection. I particularly liked her neon chartreuse patterned floor-length maxi dress. Lela Rose showed an array of long garden party dresses — almost all adorned by some type of pattern or print. My favorites were the bold diagonal striped dresses and the feminine floral offerings.

Pale neutrals

Beige, light pinks and light caramel-kissed hues flooded the runways in New York. The majority of the collection of Dennis Basso included hues of darker creams and light beige — even his legendary furs. At the "Project Runway" finale show, one of the designers — their identities were kept secret — grounded most of their collection with light pink fabric. It worked well — particularly when used as a leather color block for pants.

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