Well, let me tell you about the way she looked
The way she acted and the color of her hair
Her voice was soft and cool, her eyes were clear and bright
But she’s not there
—The Zombies, “She’s Not There”
One of the best things about getting to see one of Vera’s new collections is that, art and culture fiend that I am, I always know we’re going to get something quite unlike any other designer when it comes to inspiration. And without fail, I always learn about something new from Vera Wang. There’s something about the way Vera, as a designer, absorbs a painting, or a book, or a film and then deftly translates it into the most exquisite looking clothes that never fails to impress and inspire me.
When I heard that her latest ready-to-wear collection, for Spring 2011, used the movie “Kill Bill” as her starting point, I was excited. I love Quentin Taratino’s stylish mashups of old gangster films, French New Wave cinema and his darkly absurdist sense of humor. He masterfully edits these elements together in the same way that Vera works her magic with color, texture and draping. Designing a fashion collection is not so different from directing a film—in both, you’re creating a particular mise-en-scène.
Well, for this collection, that mise-en-scène, or carefully composed visual theme, was a story of a strong, East-meets-West warrior woman who is not only an able fighter—she’s a femme fatale.
“We had all different kinds of women, within a Japanese context,” Vera explained to me backstage after the show. “We had geisha, and we had samurai, and we had assassins. It’s about the complexity of women. It always is. And a woman isn’t just on one level, she’s in so many others. So it meant a great deal for me to be able to express myself.”
“It was the mystery of the Far East,” Vera continued. “When, you know, Western people think of the Far East, there’s always an aura of mystery. The Japanese are very mysterious to our culture… That a woman can be powerful and more athletic, but also extremely seductive and soft. So it’s that tension I was trying to create in the collection.”
Vera gave us all her signatures, those grand, sweeping gestures we’ve come to love: twisted pleats of tulle and voluminous origami folds on a short jacket, a silk blouse, or on a double obi around the waist, giving the effect of an elegant geisha all wrapped up like a powerfully seductive present. Gorgeous sprays of sequins—a chrysanthemum bolero, a black and silver “blizzard” of paillettes—were like samurai armor.
But there were lots of athletic touches, too—the better to wield those weapons with, right?—like delicately crinkled grey cupro jersey shorts and paper thin tees layered underneath tough looking quilted harnesses. An ivory kimono blouse with unfurling sleeves was another key item, as were paper bag waisted pinstriped “peasant” trousers, one place where Vera is really pushing and evolving her tailoring.
“The pants are side-draped, wrapped, torn, wrapped down below, wrapped at the ankle,” she told me. “It was my way of sort of finding a new definition for a legging, for a bottom, that it could be something that’s elongating, but also quiet, because so much of what’s going on at the top of some of the clothing is more complex.”
And as always, Vera beautifully revealed as she concealed. A high-necked, hand-ruched dress in red silk veils and unveiled just a sliver—really, that’s all you need—of a nude stretched bustier. Her friend Evan Lysacek happened to love that dress in particular.
“It’s everything that I love…the backs were showing, and it’s what I find sexy in a woman,” Evan said. “She did a wonderful job!”