NYFW: Billy Porter, Paris Hilton and Other Surprises of The Blonds' 'Moulin Rouge'-Themed Event

Billy Porter performs on the runway or The Blonds x Moulin Rouge - Getty-H 2019
JP Yim/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows

"When he performs, it's an all-encompassing religious experience," said David Blond of Porter's appearance in the show.

Runways, it seems, are so last season. Exclusive venues have become the talk of New York Fashion Week, from the Wall Street bank that Ralph Lauren converted into an Art Deco nightclub for one evening to the Bowery subway station where Tom Ford sent out his spring collection. And on Monday night, The Blonds chose perhaps the week’s most spectacular setting: the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, where Moulin Rouge! The Musical is currently playing to sold-out audiences.

Of course, The Blonds love nothing more than a spectacle, making the Broadway musical based on Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film a natural choice as both a venue and an inspiration for their latest collection. The design duo of Phillipe and David Blond worked with the show’s producers to craft an event that melded fashion and theater, combining models with the show’s castmembers. Moulin Rouge! is currently one of the season’s toughest tickets, making the fashion show — officially dubbed "The Blonds x Moulin Rouge!" — all the more special, though the musical also was able to capitalize on the high-wattage event, choosing Monday night as a perfect moment to debut the production’s original Broadway cast album. 

Indeed, Moulin Rouge! The Musical premiered on Broadway on July 25, so The Blonds wasted no time in creating this particular partnership. "We felt so embraced by this community, and the process was very organic," David told The Hollywood Reporter. "We worked directly with the producers, creative team, cast and crew, who all possess an amazing passion for what they do. It was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to work with professionals of this caliber and achieve this vision for the show."

"The magic of this world has inspired us in so many ways, and you cannot talk about Moulin Rouge [the film] without gagging over the gorgeous costumes of Catherine Martin — we can only strive to reach that level of perfection," agreed Phillipe, who made his entrance from high above the stage on a swing that’s part of the show’s set. "The Al Hirschfeld Theatre has such a rich history, and to have the opportunity to present a show there was a dream come true. The collection was also inspired by part of the set — there are very specific icons [such as] the heart and other symbols of love, such as the rose."

Rose prints and lush rose embroideries were joined by leopard prints in catsuits and corsets, as well as The Blonds’ signature lavish use of crystals, seen on a corset worn by Karen Olivo and a moto jacket worn by Aaron Tveit, the two leads of Moulin Rouge! The Musical! 

"Theatrical" is always a great word to employ in describing The Blonds’ designs, thus creating a wonderfully blurred line between performance and fashion on Monday night. "I love their energy, I love their spirit, their sense of collaboration, and the clothes are undeniable," said Billy Porter, who made a special appearance in the show, first performing his latest song, "Love Yourself," which debuted during Pride Month and as of Saturday reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart, and then returning for "Lady Marmalade" as part of the show’s finale. 

How much did Porter, resplendent in a white crystal-studded catsuit, matching floor-length coat and glittering headpiece, want to take part in the show? Consider that he was in Boston, where he’s been directing a play — Dan McCabe’s The Purists, which opens Wednesday evening at the Huntingon Theatre Company — but he took the train down to New York on Monday in time for one rehearsal and planned to return on a 6 a.m. train Wednesday. "I just love fashion and I love The Blonds, they’re always a favorite," he told THR after the show. "One of my goals is always to use fashion as a platform for activism and through my art; I’m just always trying to figure out how to do it, but The Blonds make it easy. They’re rock stars."

Added David: "We have been working with Billy Porter for some time now, and he is literally everything. When he performs, it’s an all-encompassing religious experience."

Other special appearances that drew wild cheers from the audience included IMG models Halima Aden and Maria Borges, though the most frenzied reactions were saved for Paris Hilton — positioned against the Eiffel Tower while wearing a richly beaded bodysuit and glittering headpiece — and producer Jordan Roth, whose look included a floor-length, leopard-print cape. "Jordan Roth’s personal style and commitment to the arts is something we admire — we believe he is at the pinnacle of where Broadway and fashion meet," Phillipe said. "The piece-de-resistance was getting to have Paris Hilton enter the stage flying by on the Eiffel Tower — [it was] absolutely priceless."

Speaking of Phillipe, what was going through his mind as he descended to the stage on that swing? "It was a dream," he said. "After seeing Moulin Rouge! The Musical! I knew that just had to be my entrance. Everyone was on board from the very beginning and helped to turn that dream into reality. It took training and several rehearsals, and I also was fitted with a custom belt — crystallized, of course."