“We are dressing a very sociable woman: we have a swan! » Lela Rose said with a laugh in her Midtown showroom. It was a gray, grainy February day outside, but inside there was an explosion of rich, opulent colors: citrine, magenta, bronze. There were ball gowns woven with shimmering sunflower patterns, shimmering knits, and tunics with metallic fringe. A bolero came in black garland. All this was a dream for those who regularly attend charity galas at the Pierre and weddings at the Plaza… then talk about it at Sant Ambroeus on Madison Avenue. (Fittingly, almost any outfit here would also have adhered to the strict dress code of La Côte Basque, the famous restaurant frequented by Babe Paley, Lee Radziwill and CZ Guest.)
This is not to say that Rose's work is outdated. There were A-line skirts, of course, but also an off-the-shoulder waffle knit dress that she plans to pair with a big turquoise belt. Rose's client “loves color and she wants to be comfortable,” the designer said. “I think she's a lot like me: I want to be a part of something special, but I don't want to have to think about it all the time.” The ensembles showed off a flattering midriff glow when styled a certain way, while a mini dress with a bubble skirt had a sky-high hemline. (Rose, incidentally, rebels against knee-length: “Either you go long or you go short, I don’t think there’s much in between.”)
The designer found influence this season from Italian artist Laura de Santillana, known for her contemporary interpretation of the centuries-old Murano glass technique. (Santillana, who died in 2019, was known for her “standing glass” series of colorful, minimalist geometric sculptures.) “She made these different types of colored lenses out of glass — I think they're just so beautiful. They are like prisms of light,” Rose said.
The general philosophy of his line is one of high but enthusiastic energy. It's not a concept that necessarily seems new, but it does seem a little different in the days when The Row's furtive wallflowers dot the Upper East Side. Lela Rose is definitely her own brighter bloom.