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Fe Noel's Spring 2023 Show Was an Emotional Ode to Grief

The Brooklyn-based designer's collection embodied true elegance and allure.
fe noel head img

Somewhere near Spring Street, the artery of SoHo, lights lowered to a deep red on a loft's eleventh floor. A hush came over the stylish crowd whose members were draped in smooth silks and pleated leathers. As the lights eased back to their soft yellow, Fe Noel's Spring 2023 runway opened. A flowy and flounced baby-pink slip dress emerged.

Fe Noel is a Brooklyn-based womenswear brand (and 2022 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist) that describes itself as inspired by the multifaceted woman who loves travel and embodies style. Led by Felisha Noel, the brand launched in 2011 and is often influenced by the designer's Caribbean heritage, pride in femininity and the love of her close-knit family. 

Fe Noel's latest collection is one of true allure and elegance. The 25 looks incorporate themes of previous outings: creatively puffed sleeves, structured tailoring combined with flow, brilliant asymmetry and a fearlessness towards volume. They're imbued with philosophies of romance, beauty and grief. On the runway sat three mounds representing these themes: one of sand, one of pebbles with a rose coming up and one with tufts of green.

Foreheads plastered with wave-mimicking hair designs and heavy black makeup to invoke a sense of grief.

Foreheads plastered with wave-mimicking hair designs and heavy black makeup to invoke a sense of grief.

Flowing gently, softly hued blouses create a feeling of the weightlessness romance brings. Hand-dyed silks, which take inspiration from geodes, mesmerized with a deep sense of beauty. Heavy black eyeliner worn with black ensembles invoked symbols of grief — a topic personal to Noel, who's grieving herself and dedicated the show (titled "Wish You Were Here") to a loved one who passed. 

Mint-colored ostrich feather cuffs. Regal trains on dresses. Foreheads plastered with hair designs styled to mimic the movement of waves. Sensual ruching. Light-catching fabrics for two-piece sets. Long and elegant gloves in unexpected fabrics and colors. All while songs like Grace Jones' "La Vie En Rose" played. 

Look 24.

Look 24.

Crowd members were fixated on every model that appeared, and some garments drew louder gasps. With a long and flowy train and bombastic hips thanks to something like a mini hoop skirt, the blue-green dress on Look 24 captured the crowd. But it was hardly a match to the closing number.

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"The DRE$$," as it's called, turned heads before anyone could see it. Softly scraping the floor, the 16-foot, mermaid-silhouette dress features hand-sewn bills meant to represent the $1.6 million gender retirement income gap, according to a press release. It was created in partnership with financial services company TIAA.

"It's a structured gown with a solid foundation; the direction of the dollar bills is purposeful; the finishings and corset are all designed to convey strength and structure – something women exhibit," Noel said in a press release. "This dress… represents women's strength while also highlighting a very real problem in society – the 30% retirement income gap between women and men." 

"The DRE$$"

"The DRE$$"

The collection also welcomes duality, which is detailed in the show notes, which are designed as a mockup newspaper, with headlines that read "Wish You Were Here" and "U.S. Invades Grenada."

"It's found not just in the peaks, but in the turns, the shifts, the dips, and the unexpected surprises. In short, it's that duality of our experiences that makes us stronger, and powers us through," the notes read. "We've explored the spectrum of emotion this season. Capturing the feelings of being both carefree and buttoned up, fearless and cautious, knowing there's space for both."

Felisha Noel appears to close Spring 2023.

Felisha Noel appears to close Spring 2023.

Wearing a black tracksuit, Noel came out to take her bow at the end of the show. Layered over her bright smile were tears as she warmly hugged special guests and family. Before exiting, she planted a kiss on the mound of pebbles with a rose sprouting. 

See the full Fe Noel Spring 2023 collection in the gallery below.

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