A 'Project Runway' cameo in New Canaan
Fashion designer Christian Siriano lowered his elfin frame to the floor to pull at the pleat of a beige Alpaca overcoat zipped on a female customer at his trunk show yesterday at L'Armoire boutique in New Canaan.
"No, that size is perfect," he said, before rising to grant the Siriano seal of approval: "I think so."
Pleased with the fit of the coat and Siriano's favor, the woman shimmied the $1,392 garment off her back and retreated to the dressing room.
"This winter, it's all about the coat -- whether it's long, short, cropped, motorcycle, cashmere, leather, whatever," Siriano said. "If [women] are splurging on one piece this year because of the economy, it's going to be a jacket."
Detailed, feminine and flirty, the coats represented in Siriano's autumn-winter 2009 collection are anything but a cover-up.
"We designed them in a way that you almost feel like you're wearing a dress," Siriano said.
Chocolate and camel hues stain the threads and furs of Siriano's current collection. Among the items hanging at L'Armoire is a knee-length cashmere coat stitched with wide, sculptural pyramid sleeves and a teal-green charmeuse shirt-dress.
The eponymous mastermind behind the two seasonal collections featured at yesterday's trunk show -- which included a signing of his new book, "Fierce Style" -- has dabbled in design since he was 13.
"I did the funniest things," he said, adjusting the knit cap tucked over his brown, angular hairdo. "I was really into costumes and I liked to play dress-up all the time. And I was really into Halloween. I would put on shows. And I was really into the `Wizard of Oz' because it was like a fantasy."
With his sister, Siriano would pair together scraps of his mother's clothing, old dance costumes and whatever other appealing odds and ends he found about the house with paperclips and tape. Later, his mother taught him how to sew, but from then on, Siriano said, he was a self-taught seamster.
Svelte, sassy and only 24 years old, Siriano now reigns over a fashion empire as diverse as the women who sport it. As to be expected with a designer whose claim to fame was his season four triumph on the Heidi Klum-hosted Bravo reality television series, "Project Runway," many in Siriano's fan base are fashion-forward teens and tweens with deep loyalties and low budgets. For them, Siriano created a line of lower-priced threads sold exclusively at his online store and an affordable footwear collection sold at Payless ShoeSource. For the pregnant and bra-loathing, Siriano created Fierce Mamas, a maternity collection tailored for "Moody Mamas." And, of course, Siriano boasts a high-end collection, which he says sells in 35 select stores across the country.
Though disparate in pricing, Siriano says all his projects are cohesive in their appeal to the "real woman."
Siriano's upscale collection launched less than one year ago, he said, and selections from the line have been hanging at L'Armoire since July.
L'Armoire owner Diane Roth, who boasts scoring designer Tulle's second account and one of Donna Karan's first 20 accounts, said she snagged Siriano's collection for her shop because she saw longevity in the practicality of his designs.
"Like makeup, clothing should accentuate your good features and hide your flaws. Most young designers forget that because they are designing for models -- and these are people without many flaws," she said, adding, "People want to look like they are fashionable, not silly. [Siriano] makes women look better because he's in touch with what real women look like."
His New Canaan customers consider his clothing unique from other designer lines sold in town, Siriano said. Women, he said, "want more than just to buy an item off the rack," which is how events like yesterday's trunk show come into play. Siriano says he tries to share the inspirations behind his pieces with customers and learn more about what designs and styles they want.
"A boutique like this is like a greenhouse for designers," Roth explained. "There's a conversation between them and the client."