Alice + Olivia Majors in Revolutionaries for Fall 2018

Samantha Reed

School is in session.

Given that women's education and the empowerment that comes with it served as inspiration for Alice + Olivia’s fall 2018 collection, it was a bit ironic that the chorus "We don't need no education" — from Pink Floyd's "The Wall" — rained down on showgoers at the Tuesday afternoon presentation.

Line founder Stacey Bendet soon explained, however, that the education she was referring to was one of the history of revolutions — in which case, the anti-establishment anthem was particularly on point.  

"I’ve been so passionate about the world right now — equal rights, equal pay, women’s reproductive rights — and I wanted to create something that allowed women to feel inspired but also empowered," Bendet told THR of her jumping-off point. "I also wanted to look back and reflect on the past, to see that you can change the future. When we look back at the suffrage movement and other revolutions, we see that we really can make a difference."

For Bendet, the idea of empowerment through knowledge manifested in the idea of AO University, where courses included the brief and stylish histories of the American and French revolutions; the 19th century ladies of Langham Place Group, who campaigned on behalf of a variety of women's issues; and Murasaki Shibiku, the 11th century novelist who penned The Tale of Genji. Each section received its own "class room," adjacent to the library at the entrance of the presentation.

"You enter the Rainbow Library and it’s about education and equality," explained Bendet of the wall-to-wall ROYGBIV books, a nod to the LGBTQ community. Models in the library were far more stylish than the sweats-clad zombies at my own university, donning varsity-inspired jerseys (in sequins, of course) and schoolgirl plaids that played perfectly into Bendet's signature '70s-inspired silhouettes. "The color palette for my university is rainbow," she said. 

 

In each room, the rest of her rock 'n' roll-inspired pieces (which on their own are not unfamiliar to the core Alice + Olivia customer, who prefers a structured bell-bottom or Stevie Nicks dress to, well, everything) were tweaked slightly to accommodate each theme. For example, two models in the Rococo Rock 'n' Roll room were styled with foot-tall Marie Antoinette wigs. 

The New York-based designer, who in November launched AO.LA — her more casual line of denim and tees inspired by the lives of Angeleno rockers of the '70s — added that the grittier collection actually inspired a bit of her fall offering. "I felt like the AO.LA pieces gave that edge, with all these vintage T-shirts cut up with lace and studs and chains." 

"It was important to have that tough kind of fringed, studded leather or crazy denim," added Bendet. "There’s the incredible trims and lace ruffles and beauty, but made tough. That to me is women right now. We can be beautiful but we can be tough."

See more photos below.