Education is more than just the learning of facts…
It is the training of the mind to think.
While walking into Alice and Olivia‘s New York Fashion Week (NYFW) showcase, I was alarmed by the Hogwarts style entrance titled Alice and Olivia University. It was a testament to designer Stacey Bendet‘s view of her girls as broad and open minded individuals, and the entire presentation was themed around this theme of female empowerment. What was curiouser was how she bound different eras of history to showcase the true power of thoughtfulness. After an Alice in Wonderland series, a Mughal era one and a luxury Chelsea Hotel themed one, this was next in sequence for a memorable visual treat.
The all-women’s university was decked with books of all rainbow palettes, with collegiate references including basketball jerseys embelished entirely with sequins and faux fur cuffs with words like “Queen 01” and “Perfect 10”. Matching clutches, as always, were a mainstay, even when transitioned to slightly less casual jumpsuits in rainbow stripes, one with an enviable, addictive leopard print floor length overcoat. This transitioned into Americana prep, with plaids and stripes aplenty. From a multi-textured and studded rainbow suit with a matching plush coat to a skirt with a mosaic of Bendet’s iconic face, these pieces were a sensory explosion of color. Classic black and yellow windowpane checks and gingham plaids were paired with zebra print accessories and studded leather, making a haute statement by combining iconic basics.
A nod to the 80s came in the form of what I called a living room area, with a monochrome trio placed between a global inspired collection with literal classroom style globes flocked around the set, much like a lilac dress model draped on a couch like an afterparty dress. A red lace top and shocking red loose fit pants and a gigantic cookie-monster blue coat gave way to a series of leggy girls draped around a traditional scenography set. The plaid worked well with a pleated dress and snake print boots, while the 80s denim jacket made a comeback on a metallic chain dress. Both were a mix and match that worked well in relaying effortless glam and epic rock style. The scene continued with an homage to snake print with a leather-look skirt and coat on two separate models, paired with a studded black blouse and tie-dye pants, wrapping up an era when women could dress as outrageously as they wanted to, with nothing to withhold their courage and desire.
The actual classroom setup was in a garden of sorts, with Alice in Wonderland references with red roses in faux greenery, and a princess quality with damsels in dresses and bright red Snow White apples. With a blackboard in the middle of this, it was like a 60s style garden classroom, elevated in the world of haute. Sequin and embroidery snaked down strapless casual dresses and gowns, blurring the lines between couture and street, making way for printed florals maxi-length skirts with matching coats and ruffled blouses that made them more red carpet ready than ever.
The Chinoiserie opulence formed a bedroom and vanity case in particular, with gilded Asian prints snaking across the carpet and on the furniture. My favorite piece was a red leopard print pleated dress with a multi printed varsity jacket on a gold and black bed, surrounded with red roses and a damsel in matching leopard print boots and a gold sequin high top skirt. All my delicious textures and prints in one frame! By contrast, the brocade blue and gold cropped suit and bell shaped dress paid homage to East Asian history, offset by a beaded monochrome red gown in the most ferociously red of hues.
A Victorian drama unfolded with a chandelier room with clandestine and candles, centered with two women who had just landed from the era. With voluminous platinum wigs, one was dressed in a shoulder-less beaded black gown, and the other in classic multilayered ruffles and a huge fur coat. In this flock was a girl in a heavily beaded dress and Indian style kolapuri slippers perched on a book, her dress reminiscent of many South Asian designs with opulence that was red carpet ready. By contrast, a mellow gold gown was for the more conservative lasses, while the lingerie inspired lace dress with fur accents and high heels spoke to other fetishes. The scenography was vivacious again, with a sultan style couch guarded by a girl in sequined and beaded black.
And things ended with a hip tribute to Rock ‘n Roll boldness with an explosion of leather and studs. From the whimsy of pairing a striped sweater with a studded leather jacket and over-studded capris and leopard boots, I knew this was my zone in entirety. Leather bell pants were paired with studded hats, and truly any metallic spark that could be embroidered onto a pair of boots or a leather skirt was present. Black and white were mainstays, with a tonal variation courtesy of the texture of lace and pearls, which was a signature way to do monochrome styles with pizzazz. The bejeweled California blue jeans were a juxtaposition of laid back with party-centric, making way for more formal rock style outfits with a slit black dress with studded cuffs and neckline jewelry, a gray plaid blazer with thigh high shoes and a shiny red gingham dress.
There were many references to women and their education and employment, with a nod to the Bill of Rights and other academic and literary backdrops that exemplified the fact that it was truly a case of apt storytelling (and matching scenography) that could elevate fashion to create history. Yet another history, which we lived in and would become memory tomorrow.