Venice may be sinking, but Lela Rose isn’t going down with it. Miring in historical references simply isn’t her way, so she lifted things up for fall with one eye on the city’s baroque style and the other on one of its contemporary glassmakers: Laura de Santillana.
During a preview, Rose said she encountered de Santillana’s work secondhand from her mother. In fact, It’s been roughly a decade since the designer herself actually visited Venice. “I think I better get back there soon before it’s gone,” she quipped. But her distance from both is what fed an unstudied approach, rooted in new textile developments.
“It feels very opulent, but very comfort-focused,” Rose explained. “And that’s something that I’ve been really working on is trying to keep fabrics light, but really interesting with texture.”
Calling on de Santillana’s elongated cylinders, there was a big push for curve-hugging knits. An off-the-shoulder pointelle midi with a draped waist looked cozy, but it lacked the same zest of, say, a citrine gown dotted with micro-sequins or a skirt set woven through with pink tinsel. Even more fun were the billowy tent dresses in stripe print reminiscent of the artist’s polychrome cane technique.
Rose’s evening-oriented faire was equally light. Aside from a few sunflowers bunched up on bodices, she kept embellishment to a minimum. Chevron fringe and brocades on chiffon backing were used instead for spry-looking outfits with puff-sleeves, bow-backs and bubble hems, nodding to the ‘50s and ‘60s. At the behest of customers, Rose added caplets, too, because “they’re always looking for a sleeve, so we’re always trying to figure out ways to give her a new one,” she said.
Colors picked up on the way light filters through glass at sunset, ranging from smoky to jewel-like, often with the metallic finishes of Venetian masquerade costumes. But Rose is a Midwestern girl at heart with Southern roots, which revealed themselves in the most endearing way. Pointing to an unmistakably all-American shirt-waist in “bronzy brown” fil coupé, she likened the color to old leather saddles, adding, “I live half my time on a ranch, so I have to be inspired by it.”