Going into an Alice + Olivia by Stacey Bendet presentation always feels like heading into the latest and most hyped up club in far west Chelsea. This time, a line of dressed-for-the-party people snaked down the block; aggressive guests (and fashion writers who legitimately have to interview the designer) negotiated with headset-wearing PR people for early entry; and hulking bouncers lurked about near the velvet rope (yes, velvet rope). Once we were inside the club-like warehouse space (with deafeningly loud music spun by DJ Mia Moretti, of course), it was like another fashion Hunger Games to fight through the crush of people to get a good look at the upcoming spring 2014 collection.
So thankfully, at the start of the evening, the label’s designer Stacey Bendet was game to give me a rundown as I summoned up the courage to dive into the fray.
“The whole concept of this collection was to take preppy American sportswear—casual pieces: the short, the jacket, the shirt—and bring it into this fantasy Alice + Olivia world,” Bendet told me as the music blared out of the speakers. “It’s really about the juxtaposition of the prettiness and preppiness and each look is styled that way so it’s taking a really fancy white dress and pairing it with a preppy mint bag or taking a ball gown graphic skirt and wearing it with a really traditional preppy collared shirt. So it’s really playing with separates and sportswear in this romantic, pretty way.”
The collection and its styling definitely exuded a breezy-glam sportswear feel for the upcoming season. A billowing red, white and blue ballgown skirt paired with a crisp white polo shirt was definitely a hit with the crowd, as was a bejeweled collarless jacket layered over a heather sweater and pointy-collared button down and counterbalanced with a pair of distressed boyfriend jeans. But even the denim had glam details: Punky gold chains embellish the ripped up holes. Tennis whites (in seen on crop tops, tailored trousers and shorty-shorts form) and tweedy separates (hello, more crop tops) stuck to the preppy-meets-pretty theme.
I can definitely see a young Hollywood starlet wearing the aqua silk cropped tank and matching pleated tea length skirt—in leather—to a red carpet event. But did Bendet have a specific person in mind while designing this collection?
“It’s almost like a mixing of muses,” she said after thinking for a moment. “It was kind of like Gwyneth Paltrow in the '90s and Audrey Hepburn in the '60s and taking those two worlds and bringing them together so you create that casual romance.”
Bendet also added two new styles to her newly-launched handbag collection. The models were styled in pastel color-blocked mini-versions of the Olivia duffle, embellished fold over flap clutches and roomy top-handle totes.
Staying true to its club vibe, the Alice + Olivia presentation had a VIP guest list of haphazard celebrities, too. The paparazzi and presentation-goers went BANANAS when Taylor Momson posed on the red carpet with her TV stepmom Lily vander Woodsen Kelly Rutherford. People are really nostalgic for Gossip Girl, huh? Jessica Seinfeld and Paris Hilton also dropped in, but what really got me excited was seeing Fashion Week newbie Kristen Connolly (who House of Cards addicts know as Christina, Congressman Peter Russo’s long suffering girlfriend/staffer) gamely weathering the frenzied crowd with a mix of amusement and surprise.