Sophie Theallet's NYFW Show Was Beautiful, But Her Runway Casting Was Even More So

Eric Wilson is InStyle's fashion news director. For more real-time fashion week insights, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Tuesday at New York Fashion Week saw glam rockers from Rodarte, a Vera Wang version of minimalism, a garden party at Coach, a say-it-with-flowers collection from Peter Copping at Oscar de la Renta, and another satisfyingly rich show from Narciso Rodriguez, among many other highlights.

But I’d like to focus today’s diary post on Sophie Theallet, a designer born in France who moved to New York a decade ago. She has had several successful moments here, but not the kind that is overnight, which can be both a blessing and a curse for any designer. She has plotted her own steady course, standing up for the kind of designs and shows she believes in, culminating in this moment on the rooftop of a body shop in midtown that was one of the best of the season.

Theallet’s collection had an African theme, an influence used both lightly and literally, with a live drum performance and feathered trims on skirts and shoes that in fashion-speak are described as tribal. The underlying designs were beautiful, including tiered dresses that spliced together multiple fabrics and textures, a mechanic’s jumpsuit in a rough mint fabric, and a sexy black gowns that were see-through latticed lace, revealing the swimwear underneath (pictured above, L-R).

While the designs themselves were extremely strong, one of Theallet’s best shows, what made this extraordinary was Theallet’s embrace of diversity in her casting, beginning with her friend Veronica Webb, whom she met during her earlier days working for Azzedine Alaïa in Paris. Both are strong advocates for a more inclusive representation of beauty in fashion, an issue that remains a serious problem on global runways. The richly diverse casting of Theallet’s show, which included multiple races and one plus-size model, should be an example, if not a wake-up call, for the rest of the industry.

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Rodarte’s show, meanwhile, was a hit for including a mellower version of their signature lace collage dresses – these were still hyper-styled, but will look terrific on the red carpet when the looks are taken apart. And the Coach show, with mixed-up floral prints and a bohemian Americana spirit, which looked perfect for their setting – a runway on the High Line park on a very sunny day (pictured below, from left).

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At de la Renta, Copping, too, had flowers in mind – specifically the red carnations that were de la Renta’s favorite (one was placed on the seat of each guest). After appearing as a print on his delicious dresses, the flower theme then faded into a look more in keeping with Copping’s own history of dresses made of light, spiraling lace, or voluminous silk gowns laced with thick black ribbons (pictured above, second from right).

Rodriguez’s collection offered more variety than usual, with loose melon-colored slacks topped with a tight sweater (pictured above, right) or slouchy coat, a giant white shirt-dress or a breezy T-and-trousers combo painted with a red ring, all of it reflecting his precise eye for clothes that look just right.

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