Exclusive: The Secrets Behind Designer Inspirations!
Donna Karan describes her fall DKNY collection as “street chic.”
The Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations inspired Marchesa designers (and InStyle contributors!) Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman for fall. “The collection follows Miss Havisham’s eternal plight with dramatic shades of red, blanche, and noir transformed into three dimensional reappliqued lace, python, leather, and goat skin detailed silhouettes. We wanted to create great expectations of classic opulence, both ethereal and romantic,” they tell us. The photo collage, seen here, gets at their girlish gloomy musings.
Mark Badgley and James Mischka are looking forward to going retro. “This season, we are going back to our roots by celebrating the allure, sexiness, and mystery of Old Hollywood,” the designers tell us. “We really love how this dress from our Mark+James collection captures that mood.”
British designer Jenny Packham, known for her illustrious red carpet looks and bridal gowns, is currently inspired by the song “Falling in Love Again,” made famous in the ’30s by Marlene Dietrich. Her favorite lyrics: “Men cluster to me / Like moths around a flame / And if their wings burn / I know I’m not to blame.” Packham’s designs have floated on the backs of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Heidi Klum. Most recently, Glee’s Jayma Mays wore a salmon pink Packham creation to the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards.
Quintessential American designer Tommy Hilfiger says his fall collection will be all about “global prep.” Think of it as Old Glory picking up a few more stripes. “Our heritage has always been red, white, and blue,” Hilfiger explains. “This fall, our new red is burgundy, our new blue is Air Force blue, and we’re using yellow and bottle green as pops of color.” The new palette can be seen in this sketch from his collection.
“The collection is all about real clothes for women with a touch of the unexpected,” says designer Peter Som, who counts Rachel Bilson, Eva Mendes, and Anne Hathaway as clients. His sketch proves that saturated hues aren’t just a spring thing. “Cerise is the dominant bright color of the collection,” Som tells us. “It’s tempered by matching it with classic menswear-inspired neutrals like navy, flannel gray, and black.”
For Max Azria’s namesake collection, he focused on “timeless tailoring and rich textures.” His sketch, shown, proves his point, teasing us with a sleek blazer layered over a black draped dress.
BCBG MAX AZRIA
BCBG Max Azria will be all about density and proportion. “It’s a play on layering and volume,” says designer Max Azria of his fall line, “and finding a balance between the functional and the visionary.”
Red carpet staple Herve Leger by Max Azria, a label known for its flattering bandage dresses beloved by Kerry Washington, Hilary Swank, and Jennifer Lopez, is getting a fresh fall makeover. “We are blurring the line between luxury and utility,” Azria says of the brand’s new look and feel. Shades of mustard, seen in this sketch, are also on the horizon.
If Rachel Roy’s sketch (at left) is to be believed, Roy will be featuring a multitude of fabrics and textures for her fall runway show. She also says to expect “vibrant new saturations of color.”
Christian Siriano found his inspiration while researching images of plant life. “I read about these dark plants that only survive out of sunlight, beautiful leaves and blossoms that come up black and thrive in the dark,” the Project Runway winner tells us. “I have had my dark moments in past collections, but this time I let the dark thrive in the same way. I wanted some of the folds and sculptures of this collection to mimic the qualities of these plants.” As for color, he’s using greens, mauve, and shades of black and gray. “The color green is a pesto, olive, almost military green,” he says. “It comes from the plants that will be shown on beautiful cocktail dresses and evening gowns.”
ADAM designer Adam Lippes is looking to “the mystic warriors of the plains,” for fodder for his fall collection. As for colors, expect natural hues, like those in the sketch shown. “We have focused on camels, grays, alabaster,and pale pink with shots of deep purple and strong fuchsia—all very earth-inspired.”
“Delicate lace, richly embroidered leather, luxurious furs with a play on movement and the feminine form of a dancer,” Elie Tahari says, citing his touchstones for the fall line. His sketch shows off flowing grays and floral patterns offset with a lighter blouse with loose sleeves.
Chris Benz, whose signature colorful designs were recently spotted on First Daughter Malia Obama for the White House State Dinner, is planning to show off darker colors this fall, as seen in his sketch. “We are enamored with shocking neutrals, layers of dusty pallid hues like moss, ochre, greige, and pewter, tempered with inky black and blues, and slices of turquoise and magenta,” he explains. “Our muse is a much darker one for the fall 2011 collection—chock full of mystery, melancholy, and southern charm.”
Rebecca Minkoff, whose handbags have been snapped up by Halle Berry, Vanessa Hudgens, and Reese Witherspoon, is continuing her ready-to-wear line this season. “Charlotte Kemp Muhl and my own eclectic style inspired the fall 2011 collection,” Minkoff tells us. (Muhl, an actress and model, is also the current girlfriend of Sean Lennon.) “I’ve combined the practicality of being a modern woman with my inner free spirit. This all can be seen in the mix in textures and prints, a blend of luxury and a down to earth sensibility.”
British designer Alice Temperley, whose clothes have been worn by Princess-to-be Kate Middleton, is infusing her fall collection with a shot of Catalan. “My muse is a film siren who’s travelled through Spain—elegant, rich, demure, and polished,” Temperley tells us. Expect light shades of flattering brown. “Cinnamon is the color of our season, a neutral with a touch of spice—elegant and rich and refreshingly new.”
Catherine Malandrino, a favorite of Kim Kardashian, Mary J. Blige, and Drew Barrymore, built her brand by bringing a whimsically French take on dressing to the market. For her fall 2011 collection, her inspiration questions her foundation by asking, “What is a Parisian?” Her sketch (shown) gives us a taste of her answer.
Tibi designer Amy Smilovic says American photographer Stephen Shore is the inspiration for her fall collection. “Stephen Shore’s photography compiled in (his book) Uncommon Places really spoke to the American vernacular—in rich colors with just really unexpected moments,” Smilovic tells us. “And that’s what we were striving for in the line, American classics with an edge of modernism.” Look for shades of oatmeal, browns, and pinks, shown here in her sketches.
Bibhu Mohapatra, one of the winners of this year’s Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation $25,000 grant for rising designers, says his muses this season are “Leigh Lezark and Tilda Swinton living in Salem, Massachusetts, in 2030.” What that translates into is “a collection of complementary extremes—good versus evil, darkness versus light and voodoo versus virtue,” the Indian designer explains. Expect colors like dusk, royal blue, stone, and black.
A go-to designer for Michelle Obama, Tracy Reese plans to send a mix of technicolor and neutral looks down her fall runway. “I’m working with bold, vibrant colors, like shots of jade and raspberry,” she said of her fall hues, shown here.
Lisbeth Salander, the dark, tattooed heroine of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, inspired Kimberly Ovitz’s fall 2011 collection. What that translates into for Ovitz, whose looks have been worn by Hilary Swank and Anne Hathaway, is a neutral color palette. “I love the pure, clean colors of modern minimalism,” she says. You can see what she means with her sketch, shown, which she describes as a “soft armor hooded jacket.”
Israeli-born designer Yigal Azrouël will show off a variety of colors, including “pomegranate, royal, bone, smoke, jet, loden, curry, and nut,” he tells us, sounding as much like a chef as an aesthete. His sketch, seen here, offers just a glimpse of what to expect.
“The photographs of Mario Cravo Neto, a Brazilian master at softening surfaces, inspired me this season,” Brazilian designer Carlos Miele says. “He was a sculptor and photographer whose work reflects the deep identification he had with the Brazilian people.” In practical terms, expect a more subdued show. “Vibrant colors are always part of my designs, but this season in particular, the purity of the black and white combination plays an important role and is used as a single color throughout the collection,” he says.
The lightfooted Ginger Rogers is the muse behind Ruffian’s next collection, or rather, one particular walk in her shoes: “Ginger Rogers’ walk of shame home from Fred Astaire’s apartment—that’s what we were thinking of,” Ruffian designers Brian Wolk and Claude Morais tell us. Picture scalloped lace, high hemlines, and fun accessories.
With fans including Blake Lively, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and Tina Fey, designer Christian Cota is getting inspired by nature for fall. “Women in the mountains,” he says, describing his latest imaginary muse, “East meets West on a mountain trek.” Expect to see lots of crimson, like the sketch seen here, a color Cota describes as “auspicious and powerful.”
German artist Gerhard Richter inspired Lela Rose’s fall collection, in particular his photo painting Women Descending the Staircase. While that painting has blue tones, Rose plans to use sea green in her collection. “I tend to show a lot of color, and one of the standout colors is a sea green that is used in fluid gowns, fitted tops and fitted dresses,” Rose tells us. “This color is saturated and soft at the same time. It blends with many other colors in the collection such as mustard, caramel and bronze.”
Eveningwear favorite Douglas Hannant, who recently dressed Carla Gugino and Katey Sagal for the Golden Globes, is looking to history for material. “The essence of the late ’20s and early ’30's,” Hannant says, pointing to the mood he hopes to create. “I want to evoke the Jazz Age, speakeasy era, interpreted in a modern way that is never retro.” Midnight blue will be a prevalent color in his collection, as seen here on his sketch of a satin dress with sapphire bustier. “Blue is the color of the Jazz Age,” he says.
“East meets blond!” is the inspiration for The Blonds fall collection, designers Phillipe and David Blond tell us. The label, a favorite of performers like Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Kylie Minogue, is planning to serve up another jewel box of colors for fall. “Turquoise, amethyst, emerald, onyx, ruby, and gold,” the Blonds say, revealing their colorways. “It’s all about strong colors for strong women. And we’re obsessed with jewelry, so naturally we chose those tones.”
CHADO RALPH RUCCI
“Beauty and grace,” is the inspiration for the Chado Ralph Rucci fall collection, with Italian actress Silvana Mangano serving as designer Ralph Rucci’s main muse (his inspirational photo of the actress is shown). Martha Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg are longtime fans of the Philadelphia-born designer, and Gwyneth Paltrow recently wore one of his designs to the Nashville premiere of Country Strong.
DIESEL BLACK GOLD
What does Diesel Black Gold have in store for fall? A collection that is “romantic regimental,” designer Sophia Kokosalaki explains. See the sketch for a sneak peek.
After launching a dance-inspired spring collection for Macy’s, Project Runway season six winner Irina Shabayeva has her mind on more tactile matter. “This collection is about a new kind of sensuality for me,” says Shabayeva, who’s dressed stars such as Selena Gomez. “It is also about the fragility and empowerment of existence.”
Vena Cava’s Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock, who recently dressed Natalie Portman for the Los Angeles premiere of No Strings Attached, hinted that their upcoming collection will borrow a peacock’s palette. “The main colors we’re using are black, navy and gray,” the design duo tells us. “But the most important one is teal—it’s a great pop used sparingly against all those moody neutrals.”
Cynthia Rowley’s muse for fall: Maggie Gyllenhaal. “Though we always draw from a wide range of cultural and artistic inspirations, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character Lee Holloway in Secretary is our central muse this season,” the designer tells us. “Her clothes are ladylike, but underscored with raw, sexy, edgy qualities.” Expect colors like mustard yellow, dark emerald, and wine paired with basic ecru and white tones. “This juxtaposition of heaviness and lightness creates a liveliness that’s present in every design.”
Rebecca Taylor is “inspired by dreamy, illusive paintings, blurred images and sparkling lights” for fall. She says to expect “dresses in luscious prints revealed beneath rich, smoke-colored shearling; beading and lace patched over delicate printed dresses; and lace applique on silk tees under shimmering lurex sweaters.” The main color she’ll put forth for fall is electric blue because “it feels modern and urban.”
No matter the season, Reem Acra always delivers timeless glamour, and this sneak peak seems show no different, with a bold crimson gown and sexy thigh-high slit.
Twentieth-century architect and designer Carlo Mollino is the inspiration behind Moncler’s fall collection for men and women—specifically, Mollino’s book Introduction to Downhill Skiing—the design team behind the label tells us. By the looks of the sketches, expect ski-chic layers and warm winter-wear perfect for weekends on the slopes.
Rising designer Gary Graham—who has dressed Marisa Tomei for the red carpet—says his fall 2011 collection is inspired by the story of Oedipus… interpreted as a woman. The dominant color reflecting his Greek inspiration? Faded red. “It seemed to work in with our prints and other colors,” Graham said of the hue. “It felt like something that was once bright and daring has settled into another life.”
-Sharon Clott and Caitlin Donovan