It's got to be a surreal experience dressing Oprah Winfrey for an awards show, but Elizabeth Kennedy was already venturing into phantasmagorical territory before she got the call to design the custom ivory pantsuit with black satin trimming and a strapless crepe satin bustier that Winfrey wore when announcing The Handmaid's Tale as Outstanding Drama Series.
A week before the Emmys, Kennedy was in her atelier in Midtown Manhattan to unveil her spring/summer 2018 collection, which she explained was inspired by several Surrealist artists, including Rene Magritte and Man Ray, as well as her husband, Igor Bogojevic, a contemporary artist whose work explores equestrian themes.
"Horses are my primary subject," Bogojevic explained. "Although I like painting in oil, I liked doing the drawings in ink or paper. In that way I was able to create more expression and freedom of that wild moment. I'm very happy with the final result."
The duo transferred his scrawled horse drawings onto the fabric of a variety of gowns (in black on white and silver on black) and evening jackets designed by Kennedy.
"We have never collaborated before so it was an interesting learning curve for both of us," Kennedy said. "He had never done fashion before. As I was sketching, he was sketching and drawing the artwork to be placed on the piece. And we would place it together on the body. It was really fun."
Kennedy adorned some looks with a string of three-dimensional silk flowers and, in tribute to Magritte, the phrase “This Is Not a Dress” tumbled down the ruffle of a strapless cocktail dress while "This is Not a Jacket" was scribble in sequined script along the arm of a V-neck dinner jacket. I can image someone snapping up one of the designs to wear to the Menil Collection's 30th Anniversary Ball in Houston in December.
She also experimented with some brighter colors for spring. "The marigold is a new color for us," she said, referring to some striking column gowns in the collection. "It's a little more youthful. And this mahogany rose — almost a makeup nude color — is really elegant and classic. This sterling blue had been well received thus far. It's an easy color to wear."
While Kennedy continues to specialize in evening gowns, she introduced some separates into the collection last season that proved to be popular. For spring/summer, she offers a variety of jackets and slacks that can serve as transition items from day to evening wear.
"You can wear the pieces again, even with things you have in your own closet, so they're really versatile." she said.
While an associate told CultureMap he was hopeful that a major star would be wearing an Elizabeth Kennedy design to the Emmys, he wouldn't reveal the name because he explained the designer is never sure until the star walks onto the red carpet. But the team was ecstatic when Winfrey appeared at the Emmys in the custom EK tuxedo.
"I had the pleasure of meeting (Oprah) to work with her team on this ensemble, and let me say, she is one of the kindest, most gracious and respectable people I have ever met. The world is a better place following her example," Kennedy wrote afterwards on Instagram.
The Elizabeth Kennedy collection is available in Houston at Elizabeth Anthony.