NEW YORK (AP) — With Katie Holmes and Lil' Kim on his front row and singer Marina on the mic high above his runway, Christian Siriano helped kicked off New York Fashion Week's first big pandemic round of in-person shows Tuesday with a flurry of neon and lace inspired in part by all the Italian women in his life.
From ornate Gotham Hall, beneath a stained glass skylight 70 feet up, Siriano's commitment to size inclusivity was never stronger as he opened and closed the show with plus-size breakout model Precious Lee. She first walked in a stunning yellow trouser suit with wide loose pants and an asymmetrical jacket, a matching crossover bralette underneath.
His crowd pared down to 300 from his usual 800 guests due to the pandemic, Siriano told The Associated Press he wanted to bring the glamour in today's dark times. He harkened back in some looks to old photographs of his paternal grandmother on vacation in Positano on Italy's Amalfi Coast during the 1960s and '70s. He put vintage sunglasses on some of his models as they strutted in bright yellows, sunset oranges and emerald green gowns and dresses with huge ruffles for sleeves and bulbous skirts.
"Fashion Week is back. It's such a good feeling. New York is feeling great," Siriano said, with Kristin Chenoweth, Alicia Silverstone and muse Coco Rocha also on his front row.
Photos: Christian Siriano kicks off New York Fashion Week in color
The pandemic, he said, has brought on bouts of nostalgia for many, including himself. He recalled an apricot dress with polkadots among his grandmother's favorites.
"She's still alive at 101," Siriano said. "I was just feeling that and it has the glamour that I love. I was surrounded by women who got dressed every day. It was lipstick. It was hair and makeup every day."
He wanted this spring-summer collection to be "very strong and powerful," but sexy, too.
There were looks in barely there black lace, tiny bra tops paired with trousers and full skirts, and body hugging slinky dresses with cut outs from neck to calf. As Marina sang from a platform at the end of the runway, models of all sizes also walked in classic evening looks in black and white, including one-shoulder dresses with a single long sleeve and a slice of bared midriff. Other looks were adorned with vertical rows of feathers.
"I love that. I miss that," he said of his touch of drama and old-world glam. "I think that's what people miss about fashion, too. We have friends that are going to, like, a birthday party and they want a gown. It's so interesting to see what we were missing."
Fashion, Siriano said, "is in a really hard place" at the moment.
"Business is really struggling everywhere. It's nowhere near what people used to shop. But luckily, for our world, people really are looking for that aspirational piece. They're spending more than ever on that. My best friend just got married. She canceled her wedding three times. I made her the biggest dress I could possibly make her. She wanted it. She's a curvy girl, and pregnant, and she was like, I don't care."
Associated Press video producer Gina Abdy in New York contributed to this story.