Carolina Herrera's Pretty-in-Pink Moment

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Carolina Herrera's spring 2016 show

With Penelope Cruz and Lee Daniels in the audience, the subject was roses.

New York Fashion Week is undeniably more hectic than usual, between a change of venues that has everyone dashing to the far corners of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and a fashion calendar replete with conflicts. Carolina Herrera’s Monday-morning presentation, then, was quite literally a breath of fresh air amid the chaos, a rose-themed show staged at the Frick Collection on the Upper East Side.

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Lee Daniels and Penelope Cruz, who arrived with Anna Wintour, attended the first of Herrera’s pair of back-to-back presentations, planned largely because the Frick would only seat 200 (by comparison, 950 guests attended Herrera’s show in previous seasons at Lincoln Center). The trade-off for Herrera? Her ability to stage the event in her favorite New York museum — and being the only designer in the Frick’s history who has been allowed to do so. “It’s always been my favorite, as long as I can remember,” she told Pret-a-Reporter. “They present the most beautiful exhibitions, and it’s really a divine place. I was really very honored.”

The intimate rooms of the Beaux Arts mansion on Fifth Avenue indeed provided a suitable framework for Herrera’s sublime, refined collection, largely comprising her ruminations on pink. “I am in my rose period,” she explained after the show, noting that a scent, Burning Rose, from her recently released Confidential collection of six fragrances, also served as an inspiration (arrangements of pink roses also scented the rooms). “I started with very light shades, and then gradually everything got more intense. And for a woman to wear pink, it’s so flattering; it frames her face beautifully.”

In another designer’s hands, the idea of pink might quickly become too precious, but Herrera is confident in her abilities to take a theme and imbue it with artful, sophisticated tones. Several looks virtually floated around the Frick’s sunlit atrium, aided by the volume of their silhouettes or the addition of ostrich-feather embellishments. The show also ran the gambit from white to deep rose, with a few pieces of black and navy included for those who might be pink-averse. Of the first look out, a white dress crafted of techno-jersey panels, worn by Lily Aldridge (who also fronts the designer’s Fall 2015 campaign), Herrera discussed how she was able to include a favorite detail, but in a thoroughly modern way. “I love pleats in skirts and dresses,” she said. “Pleats haven’t been around for a long time, however. So I used the idea of transparency to create them. For daytime, I also find that transparency to be very sensual and seductive.”

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The strapless finale gown on Kate Grigorieva likewise employed the effect of trompe l’oeil pleats, this time on jersey in a pale “peony” pink. In between there were more overt floral references, including a stunner of a minidress embellished with suede paillettes in deep rose. Ultimately, if you dreamed about wearing any part of this bouquet as it floated by, well, that’s no accident, if Herrera has her way: “After all, fashion is a fantasy.”

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