In a bid for the spectacular, some fashion brands fill their front-row seats with bold-faced names. Others construct entire airline terminals in the Grand Palais -- as Chanel did Tuesday for its Paris ready-to-wear show. For L.A.-based designer Sue Wong, the twice-yearly runway shows have become her chance to stage multipart happenings that definitely put the spectacle in spectacular, including (but not limited to) musical performances, theatrical dancing, the bestowal of an award on the designer and lots and lots of her gloriously embellished gowns topped with towering headpieces.
The presentation of Wong's spring and summer 2016 Alchemy & Masquerade runway collection Monday night at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood, the opening show on the Art Hearts Fashion Week calendar (and the de facto kickoff of Los Angeles fashion week), was no exception, beginning with a glowing introduction by actor Max Ryan ("Sex and the City 2") and the presentation of a plaque and proclamation from the California Assembly congratulating her for a beautiful spring/summer 2016 collection and thanking her for showing her collection in Los Angeles.
That was followed by yet another honor -- this one bestowed by H.H. Prince Waldemar Schaumburg-Lippe (a great-grandson of Denmark's King Frederick VIII) on behalf of his family. "I have met many queens in Denmark and Europe," his highness said to Wong, "because I am related to them. But you are a fashion queen." Then Waldemar's son, actor/director/TV presenter Prince Mario-Max Schaumberg-Lippe, as a prelude to the show, donned a mask and cape and proceeded to leap, spin and swirl about the runway to Harajuku's techno-dance version of "Phantom of the Opera."
That's when the 79-look runway show got underway in earnest, a parade of intricately beaded gowns, glittery sheaths and embellished cocktail dresses, many looks accessorized with the kind of fantastical towering headdresses familiar from past seasons. The standout pieces of the collection were a handful of black-and-white dresses that riffed on Art Deco with sharp geometric designs playing off the soft fabrics and female form.
Wong has long turned to other designers to help provide the accessories, jewelry and headgear that complete her runway looks, and this season that collaborative effort seems to have broadened substantially to include kiss-me-deadly spiked shoulder armor, exoskeleton-like "space vests" and elaborate gold-colored constructions that resemble wearable Rococo picture frames, most credited to Rocky Gathercole with L.A.-based For the Stars Fashion House. The result was a range of over-the-top statement pieces that wouldn't be out of place at the MTV VMA's red carpet. (Though, in all honesty, who but Miley Cyrus could pull off an outfit that consisted of little more than a few yards of barely there tulle, a couple of coils of red plastic and a helmet-and-ski-goggles headpiece festooned with dozens of bright red spikes?)
After the last look had hit the catwalk -- a long, white gown topped off with a headdress so immense and precarious its wearer was forced to steady it with one hand for the duration -- a phantom-masked Michael Peer took to the catwalk to sing "Phantom of the Opera," after which the models filled the stage for the runway finale. As someone handed Wong an armload of congratulatory flowers the size of preschooler, we couldn't help but recall words she'd uttered earlier in the evening.
"I've been getting so many awards lately, you'd think my career is winding down," Wong said as she was being handed a framed plaque, "but I'm happy to announce it's just revving up!"
Based on the spring and summer 2016 runway collection she'd just sent down the runway, design-wise it's not so much revving up as it is hitting warp speed.