That '70s Studio 54 vibe was back and in full swing last night as fashion’s old and new guard feted the opening of groundbreaking designer Stephen Burrows’s retrospective exhibit at the City Museum. Though some may not know of Burrows’s inarguable contributions to the energy of 1970s New York fashion, those in attendance were there to celebrate the man who brought the disco right into the design studio.
A hardworking upstart, the Newark, New Jersey native’s ultra-modern, free-and-easy designs put him on legendary 7th Avenue publicist Eleanor Lambert's radar. It was she, many agree, who insisted Burrows be added to the roster of comparatively more established designers being flown to Versailles in the fall of 1973 to compete against France’s design elite. Many know of Halston’s coterie of favored models, cheekily referred to as the “Halstonettes.” But some don’t know that Burrows enjoyed a “cabine” of model/muses as well (many shared with Halston).
Last night, many shining stars from that “cabine” came out to toast not only the show’s opening, but the release of a comprehensive coffee table book, When Fashion Danced, which visually chronicles the evolution of the Burrows look. Glancing to the left, you couldn’t miss Iman strutting by in a pink marabou chubby giving Guy Bourdin sizzle; glancing to the right, one was equally awe-struck by the sight of Pat Cleveland whipping up the chicest whirlwind, twirling effortlessly as she did in her runway heyday.
Like Burrows’s designs, Cleveland at once seems a romantic throwback to the hedonism of days gone by, and simultaneously timeless--the lady does not age! Her radiant complexion and sample-sized frame haven’t changed a bit since she walked for Burrows, Halston, Anne Klein, Bill Blass, and Oscar de la Renta as they faced off against Paris’s design all-stars at Versailles. “My favorite Stephen piece is the one I’m wearing” she demurred coyly, adding “tonight it’s rainbow and ‘fit’n flare’!”
Her enthusiasm for Burrows's work was matched all throughout the room, with designers like Anna Sui and Douglas Says snapping pics of the display’s lettuce-hemmed frocks, psychedelic patchwork knits, and chainmail halters.
“This show is fabulous!” decreed Diane Von Furstenburg, and if the never ending tableaux of emptied champagne glasses at the bar was any measure of the fun being had, she couldn’t have been any more correct.
Click through for photos of the event and exhibit.