If Madonna, Ellen DeGeneres, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Dorothy Dandridge, were invited to The Met, on the condition that they all had to wear the same designer, who would be the fashion master to dress this famous fivesome? Zang Toi! His Spring 2014 collection of chic, sophisticated, sexy, and urbane ensembles, built a fashion bridge for women spanning numerous decades and body types. Inspired by dance Zang Toi designed his spring collection for divas who dance in clubs, on shows, in the movies or who simply keep a beat while walking down the street. And of course for the ladies who simply want to look lovely.
Zang Toi is a storyteller. His tale on Day Six of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was woven in the world of ballet. He is a master of setting the stage for each fashion season's adventure. But this time his inspiration was not in some far off exotic setting, but right at Lincoln Center, where Cory Stearns, a principal dancer for the America Ballet Theatre, opened Zang Toi's show.
When the house lights went down, Mr. Stearns emerged from the shadows, bare-chested, wearing tights and ballet shoes. I was not the only one in the audience to let out a loud ooouuuu. The lights came up and the dance began with Mr. Stearns executing a of series of plies, pirouettes and pas de bourees, then stretching effortlessly into a mesmerizing arabesque to perfection.
The first dress hit the runway to spontaneous applause -- a navy silk jersey dress with black pleated tulle ruffles. The fashion dance was on! Working with a silk and wool blend fabrics, Zang Toi created foundations as straight as a ballerina's back with jersey, cotton twill, silk tweed trousers and created the magic of movement with tulle ruffles under dresses, long trains of flowing organza on ball gowns, voluminous full length coats lined with what he called a "ballet scenic backdrop" which flashed luminous blues in contrast to the black and navy. There was a plethora of strategically placed pleats, adding a sense of weightlessness as the women walked the runway.
Of course the detailing was divine; top stitching on jackets, sprinklings of beads and sequins on the dresses and even on the hems. Fabric spring blossoms were bursting open on both full gowns and short sheaths. He placed a signature beaded platinum ballet bow on several dresses, which sparkled with simplicity and style.
There were tons of tunics for the modern Madonna -- pinks and blues -- coupled with black "ballet babe" leggings. There were tailored doubled-breasted pants suits with pops of blue for Ellen DeGeneres, in case she wanted to wear blue suede shoes and do some dancing. Hourglass black silk evening gowns made to fit the Marilyn Monroe figures among us, were stunning. Think "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and that beautiful ballet pink gown Ms. Monroe wore.
Model Georgie Badiel was a stunner in a powder blue slinky spring blue silk "gazar" gala gown with a pleated tulle train that flowed from an empire waist. Audrey Hepburn would have looked fabulous in that dress if she had worn it in “Sabrina” in 1954. Watch Zang Toi Spring 2014 video and see her almost take flight into the ether twirling that unearthly fabric vision. "We practiced for over an hour in that dress," Zang Toi told Examiner.com in an exclusive interview, at the opening of his new showroom. "I call her Gei-Gei -- that's g-e-i,g-e-i. She stole the show," he said chuckling with delight. What a wonder of work from Zang Toi -- but we aren't really surprised, are we? "Just to show clothes is not special," he said. That's why every season we can count on the master for adventure.
Dorothy Dandridge emerged from my imagination, when a navy silk jersey number with a short front filled with a cascade of spring blue pleated tulle ruffles underneath ruffled out. It was truly worthy to be worn by Dorothy Dandridge or any "Carmen Jones" and I almost expected Harry Belafonte to come out of hiding and start singing.
And of course Mr. Stearn's masculine frame was highlighted in a black silk lapel suit, featuring a sculpted coat lined with that beautiful blue "ballet scenic backdrop" and a cloud of spring blue floating around his neck as a silk scarf. He always takes me back to the 18th century and makes me wish he and I were stepping out to the ballet --him in his top hat and me in one of Zang Toi's gowns! Spending time watching rehearsals of the ballet company and studying the dancers forms paid off for Zang Toi, for he captured the dance movements in his imagination and transformed them into fabrics designed to dance in our fashion memories. Bravo Zang Toi! Bravo!