By Lili Eros-Sarnyai
Removed from the chaos of the tents to a freezing, dark, cavernous space, Monica Byrne’s collection had the chance to establish itself as the purveyor of an alternative elegance. With models perched on birch trees in the center of the room, the BBC’s “Planet Earth” documentary (Byrne’s initial source of inspiration for the collection) being screened onto the walls as a backdrop, and a tranquil cacophony of natural sounds providing the soundtrack, this show was anything but your typical glitzy evening-wear exposition. Instead, it very clearly reflected the designer’s belief that our planet should be “explored” and “revered” as a thing of immense and intangible beauty.
The glamorous dresses themselves were unexpectedly yet obviously inspired by the natural world, with a palette of vibrant colors evoking the feathers of a tropical bird, silhouettes reflecting the ever-changing kingdom of glaciers where water constantly freezes and melts, with pieces created from silk moiré appearing at once delicate and hard and others reflecting the flow of water in cascades of silk chiffon. Fabric was rippled into shapes reminiscent of the desert dunes, and embellishments were as glassy and bright as a thousand droplets of water. At times the bejeweled ornamentation seemed to detract from the otherwise flawless elegance, but perhaps such moments of sparkle are obligatory for an eveningwear label.
In keeping with the eco-friendly theme, all cosmetics used were 100% cruelty-free, and even the invitation was printed on recycled paper. Make-up was kept minimal, with the focus being on evoking an elfin beauty with a flawless face, clear, polished skin, just a touch of foundation and sparkly eyes and cheeks (MAC Glimmershimmer being used for the latter). Hair was pulled back and up in sleek ballet chignons and knots and secured by a liberal use of Warren Tricomi hairspray.
The overall effect was one of random woodland elegance, an original idea slightly marred by the champagne flowing freely from the bars on either side of the tree installation. Nevertheless, the models looked like beautiful, ethereal ballerinas dresses to kill, and Monica Byrne herself was so sweet that erring slightly on the side of pleasing the fashion crowd can be forgiven.