“We dress a very social lady—we’ve got a swan!” Lela Rose said, laughing, in her Midtown showroom. It was a gray and gritty February day outside, but in there was an explosion of rich, opulent colors: citrine, magenta, bronze. There were ballgowns woven with shimmering sunflower motifs, sparkly knits and metallic-fringed tunics. A bolero came in black tinsel. All of it was dream fashion fodder for those who regularly attend charity galas at The Pierre and weddings at The Plaza… then gossip about them at Sant Ambroeus on Madison Avenue afterwards. (Fittingly, nearly every outfit here would also have passed the strict dress code at La Côte Basque, the famed restaurant frequented by Babe Paley, Lee Radziwill, and CZ Guest.)
That’s not to say Rose’s work reads as outdated. There were A-line skirts, sure, but also an off-the shoulder waffle knit dress which she envisions pairing with a big turquoise belt. Rose’s client “loves color and she wants to be comfortable,” said the designer. “I think she’s very similar to me—I want to be in something special, but I don’t want to have to think about it all the time.” Sets showed a flattering sliver of midriff when styled a certain way, whereas a minidress with a bubble skirt had a sky-high hemline. (Rose, by the way, revolts against a knee-length: “You either go long or you go short—I don’t find 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 technique of murano glass. (Santillana, who passed away in 2019, was known for her “standing glass” series of colorful, minimalist geometric sculptures.) “She made these different kinds of glass colored lenses—I think that they’re just so beautiful. They’re like prisms of light,” Rose said.
The overall ethos of her line aims to be one of elevated yet enthusiastic energy. It’s not a concept that feels necessarily novel, but it does feel, well, a little different in the age where The Row’s stealth-wealth wallflowers dot the Upper East Side. Lela Rose is certainly its own brighter bloom.