Designers from "Project Runway" have come and gone, sadly, mostly gone. But Christian Siriano has shown he plans to stay.
Siriano's spring 2010 collection shown Saturday was his third at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week following his stint on the reality show, and in that time he's made his way to the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue and to the shoe aisles of Payless.
The collection was a lush take on Mediterranean travel, concluding with three intricate ball gowns that elicited spontaneous applause from a crowd that included actresses Mena Suvari and Tori Spelling and model Alessandra Ambrosio. A satin-faced organza strapless gown in blush, elegantly draped and with a beaded bodice, cried out for a red carpet.
"I feel like a proud dad," said Tim Gunn, the "Project Runway" mentor. He said he knew Siriano would be a standout from the competition, and thinks he's evolved into something more: "I believe he's this generation's Marc Jacobs. I do."
Some of Siriano's most striking pieces were made from a fabric print created using an aerial photograph of the Italian coast line — "flipped, modified, repeated and saturated with Volcanic and Oceanic colors," as Siriano described in his notes. The result was a richly intricate pattern that looked almost animalistic rendered in reds and orange and like a deep ocean cartography in blues.
Siriano is a natural showman, so wearability seems beside the point. But his weakest moments came when he strived for it — as in a fitted khaki funnel neck dress with blue piping — and when he totally ignored it, as in an ocean print body suit that was unflattering on the model, who looked famished even by model standards.
But he showed a capacity to wow with some of his tamer pieces in shades of blush, nude and khaki — there was elegant draping, delicate pleating and gathered flounces at the shoulders and hips, two body parts getting a lot of attention at Fashion Week.
Also meant to be wearable: the sky-high shoes for his third Payless line with a curved, pointed heel and sometimes upturned toe. Just don't try walking too far. It wouldn't be fierce.
Nina Garcia, a "Project Runway" judge and fashion director of Marie Claire, said she agreed with Gunn's assessment of the designer, calling Siriano "pretty amazing."
"Go to the Saks Fifth Avenue third floor and you'll see him among all the big designers. So clearly it's not just us who think that way but I think also the retailers," she said. "Christian had just fearlessness about him, he just kept pushing the envelope. At the end of the day you have to have that to make it."