La Perla is known for luxe intimate underwear. But in recent seasons, the Italian brand has expanded into daytime clothing, sparkling evening gowns, shoes and handbags in its bid to become an international lifestyle fashion house.
In order to raise its profile in the USA (La Perla has a stand-alone boutique in Houston's Galleria), the company opened New York Fashion Week with a high profile, over-the top fashion show that is rare nowadays as most designers are pulling back in uncertain times as shoppers switch buying habits to online sales.
For the show, organizers created a lavish two-story faux stone Italian palazzo (the words "La Perla Manor" were etched in on the front) with a second floor terrace overflowing with fuchsia bougainvillea as real grass lined the floor under the seats facing the set. Birds chirped incessantly in a soundtrack as guests waited for the show to start. When it began, the exterior disappeared, revealing six lavish rooms with a tableau of famous models in each one.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell led off in more traditional La Perla attire, a silk navy slip dress with lace cutouts, stretch tweed overcoat with floral design, and mink booties. While Campbell can still rock the runway better than any model in the world, some of the other looks amid the 220 pieces in the collection showed how far the brand has expanded.
Another supermodel, Sasha Pivovarova, appeared in a smart tartan blazer and skirt that is perfect for the lady who lunches, while another model in a tomato red embroidered stretch wool jacket and slacks emitted a power woman vibe.
La Perla creative director Julia Haart also created a striking series of floral and lace designs, with rose clusters on blazer lapels, cropped camisoles with floral crystal detail, and slip dresses and gowns with floral coral embroidery.
For evening, La Perla showcases a number of red carpet gowns — Kendall Jenner stands out in a barely-there metallic gold embroidered number — that are likely to show up on starlets in this awards season.
Each look is form-fitting, in part because Haart incorporates La Perla's history of expert corsetry into the design. Last season she introduced built-in lingerie in a corset jacket that can be worn without undergarments. For this collection, the technique shows up in T-shirts, dresses, sweaters, tank tops and gowns with built-in bras that sometimes peek out from under an outer layer.
As the models finished their runway walk, a tall blonde tiptoed down the runway with a security guard and slipped out the side, which is highly unusual as stars usually wait until the end of the show to leave. We're guessing Gwyneth Paltrow had someplace else to go on this frigid New York evening.