NY Fashion Week Spring 2017 Houston
Next Great Evening Gown Designer

Elizabeth Kennedy stakes her claim as America's next great evening gown designer

Elizabeth Kennedy stakes her claim as next great evening gown designer

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Elizabeth Kennedy's spring 2017 collection features evening gowns with a French Riveria theme. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kennedy
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Kennedy's collection was inspired by one of her all-time favorite movies, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,which is set in a fictional town in the French Riviera in the 1980s. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kennedy
Joe Zee, Elizabeth Kennedy, Rob Younkers at Plaza Palm Court
From left, Joe Zee, Elizabeth Kennedy and Rob Younkers pose for a photo at the presentation of her spring 2017 collection at the Plaza. Photo by BFA
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"I found the pairing of such a classically beautiful setting with the playfulness and dynamics of 1980s fashion to be such an amazing place in time," Kennedy says. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kennedy
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Many of the details are inspired by vintage swimwear — for instance brightly colored trimming, cutouts, and lace up backs, but reimagined for evening. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kennedy
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Elizabeth Kennedy's collection is based on bold colors against the backdrop of palm trees and the Cote d'Azur.  Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kennedy
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The Elizabeth Kennedy evening gown collection exudes glamour. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kennedy
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A showstopper evening gown from Elizabeth Kennedy's spring 2017 collection. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kennedy
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Though based on the '80s movie, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the Elizabeth Kennedy evening gown collection looks modern. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kennedy
Elizabeth Kennedy spring 2017 look 16
Elizabeth Kennedy spring 2017 look 4
Joe Zee, Elizabeth Kennedy, Rob Younkers at Plaza Palm Court
Elizabeth Kennedy spring 2017 look 3
Elizabeth Kennedy spring 2017 look 28
Elizabeth Kennedy spring 2017 look 8
Elizabeth Kennedy spring 2017 look 29
Elizabeth Kennedy spring 2017 look 21
Elizabeth Kennedy spring 2017 look 24

Elizabeth Kennedy chose the chic Palm Court at the Plaza to present her spring/summer 2017 collection during New York Fashion Week. The lush surroundings seemed the perfect location for her elegant evening gowns as sophisticated models looked like they were enjoying themselves at a high society ball like debs in the classic movie, Metropolitan.

Though only in business on her own for a couple of years, Kennedy is quickly becoming a red carpet favorite. Emmy winner Regina King wore a coral strapless gown with a draped waist and train detail in the back to the awards show last month, Mindy Kaling appeared at the Oscars in a black and blue off-the-shoulder gown featuring a voluminous train, and Laverne Cox wore a high-neckline white gown with a plunging back and flowing train — all designed by Kennedy.

Kennedy, who will appear at a trunk show at Elizabeth Anthony Thursday and Friday (October 6 and 7), specializes in gowns with clean, architectural lines that manage to recall the past (sculpted bodices, flowing trains) and look modern at the same time.

Though she's new to having her own brand, Kennedy is a gown veteran, having previously worked as head designer of Isaac Mizrahi for the runway and couture collections, at J. Mendel and helping to launch Donna Karan Atelier, where she created one-of-a-kind red carpet gowns.

Just about all of the gowns in her spring collection are red carpet ready, with looks ranging from a slinky silver sequined gown with cutouts to a princess gown with a billowy taffeta skit and satin bodice and overlay.

"The inspiration for my SS17 collection stems from the vibrant backdrop of the 1980's French Riviera," Kennedy said by email. "I was inspired by one of my all time favorite movies, Dirty Rotten Scoundrelswhich is set in a fictional town in the French Riviera in the 1980s.  In particular, I found the pairing of such a classically beautiful setting with the playfulness and dynamics of 1980s fashion to be such an amazing place in time — the '80s were so glamorous and dramatic, and I loved the bold colors against the backdrop of palm trees and the Cote d'Azur. 

"I imagined an American woman vacationing in the south of France, at the beach by day, and at a black tie ball or casino by night.  Many of the details are inspired by vintage swimwear — for instance brightly colored trimming, cutouts, and lace up backs, but reimagined for evening."

CultureMap: What are women looking for in evening wear now? 

Elizabeth Kennedy: My clients are looking for something unique and new. They want to look youthful and modern, but still incredibly glamorous.

CM: What makes your evening wear special?

EK: My pieces are classically hand-crafted in New York City — the fit, form and dramatic flare of each gown resonates with both young and mature customers.

CM: You did a trunk show in San Antonio and have other Texas customers. How does the Texas woman differ in her search for the perfect evening gown? Is she more daring or more traditional in what she chooses?

EK: The women I have met in Texas are incredibly social.  Their calendars are full with events and parties, and they want something special and unique for each event. San Antonio, for example, has the tradition of Fiesta, which is an important tradition to the city.  Since they are so social and have so many occasions for which they need to buy evening wear, I feel they are pretty fearless!

CM: How do you think buying habits have changed for special occasion evening wear?

EK: Generally I am noticing that my clients are not shopping so far in advance, which is affecting how I approach designing for each season. (It's) buy now wear now.

CM: Is there anything you hope to do while in Houston other than the trunk show?

EK:  I am absolutely looking forward to exploring Houston! Hoping to have time to see the Menil Collection and the Museum District!