Carolina Herrera’s Very First Show — And What It Meant For Fashion

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Presented in the Stanford White-designed mansion, Herrera’s first show was a mingling of different worlds and societies — a heady mix that would come to define Manhattan’s creative culture in the ’80s. “The Metropolitan Club didn’t allow men without ties,” recalls Herrera. “Everybody arrived, including Steve Rubell, who was the owner of 54, and they didn’t allow him to go in. So he went to Bergdorf Goodman and bought a tie. And he put on his jacket and said, ‘Here I am.’ And then they let him in.” It was, she acknowledges, a different kind of place to show. And the crowd — buyers, press, artists and the likes of Vreeland, Rubell, Bianca Jagger and a roster of heavyweight New York socialites — felt different, exciting.

Looking at Herrera’s 1981 collection today, the clothes seem the apotheosis of ’80s extravagance. Opulent is the word she uses. “Everything was over the top,” she says. A dress from that show, now part of the collection at Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology, is ecru silk, with puffed sleeves that fluff the upper body to roughly twice its natural width — The New York Times critic John Duka dubbed Herrera’s ruffles “thunderous.”

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Downtown woman shot by Amy Arbus, circa 1983.CreditAmy Arbus

It was a fashion moment that, unexpectedly, has found itself newly resonant today: Herrera ironically takes her last bow in a season where the hard-edged, wide-shouldered opulence and glamour of the ’80s is re-emerging as a key trend. Even as some of the most talented American designers are opting to present their collections in Paris, not New York, we are harking back to a moment when American fashion came into its own. Echoing the ’80s reminds us of why we got excited about New York fashion in the first place.

Herrera’s final show this year — she is the first designer to hold a runway show at the Museum of Modern Art — links with her debut: the old generation making way for the new; in Herrera’s case, the 31-year-old American designer Wes Gordon. But it also echoes her fundamental ambitions: to celebrate glamour and beauty, even in unglamorous times. “I think to survive in this business you have to believe in something. Make it your own and stay with it,” she says. “If you want to be a designer, you have to be really sure that what you’re doing is what you really believe in. I believe in glamour. I believe in beautiful, elegant women. And I believe women become beautiful when they wear Herrera.”

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Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/16/t-magazine/fashion-1980s-carolina-herrera.html

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