Send some tulle: New York City Ballet will mark 10 years of Fall Fashion Galas this fall with a new set of costumes from world-renowned designers.
On September 28, the company will mark the milestone anniversary of the event with costume suits designed by Raf Simons, Palomo Spain by Alejandro Gómez Palomo and Giles Deacon. As in previous years, designers will work in tandem with choreographers to present an original new ballet that aims to challenge traditions of movement and aesthetics.
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Deacon is the gala’s first creator, while Palomo and Simons will join former collaborators including Thom Browne, Dries Van Noten, Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton and Iris Van Herpen.
Originally conceived by Sarah Jessica Parker in 2012, the fashion institution at City Ballet has proven lucrative for the company, while at times clashing with dance purists. Over its decade, the Fall Fashion Gala has proven to be financially significant, raising more than $24 million in donations. But looking at the larger ensemble, the ballets that emerged from the gala debuted with questionable success – a few have become repertoire classics, while others have been consigned to the archives.
City Ballet costume director Marc Happel said it fit the course. “There will always be those two sides – the side that doesn’t like over-designed dance because it distracts from the dancers and the choreography, and I understand that. But coming from a theatrical background myself, I think costume really lends itself to ballet and can create a mood and a sense of place.
Happel sees himself as a main enabler of the vision of the choreographer and designer. “I think most of the time I find myself in a situation where costumes can be over-designed or over-embellished and it can be distracting, but we hope not. [This gala] really pushed the boundaries of foreground costumes,” he said.
Happel is now responsible for leading his team to build costumes for all three ballets over the next eight weeks – adjusting the designs to make them accessible for movement and viewing on stage.
Simons will design a unique costume for Justin Peck’s ‘Solo’ – a work by lead dancer Anthony Huxley which was filmed by Sofia Coppola during lockdown. The fall gala will mark Solo’s first live performance, with the work subsequently staged five times – performed by Huxley or, on select nights, veteran ballerina Sara Mearns.
Palomo Spain will work with Gianna Reisen on her third ballet for the company. Reisen’s debut piece, “Composer’s Holiday,” was well-received for its high-octane energy when it premiered at the 2017 Fall Fashion Gala with a costume suite by the late Virgil Abloh.
Happel said Reisen and Palomo have already settled on a scheme of 10 different color suits, each with Swarovski crystal stripes.
Due to supply chain constraints, the costume shop has already placed orders for the custom color crystals to meet deadlines — something Happel has had to adapt to in a post-pandemic world.
“It definitely made it harder for us in the store,” Happel said of the post-COVID-19 changes. “Many of our suppliers are no longer there and the shipping time is no longer the same. I think that’s how it is now, it won’t change.
Deacon, one of the fall fashion gala’s biggest success stories, is also its first repeat designer. In 2018, he and choreographer Kyle Abraham were the hitmakers with a Kanye West and Nico Muhly piece “The Runaway,” which has performed most seasons since.
Deacon and Abraham’s partnership grew beyond the walls of City Ballet; They have since teamed up on two plays for Abraham’s own company, AIM by Kyle Abraham, which have been staged at institutions including The Joyce Theater and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Deacon said the creative bond between him and Abraham only grew stronger over time. “I hope the creative dialogue we’ve developed over this time really brings something unique and exciting to the fall event,” he said.
“I learned a lot last time working with Marc and his team on the construction and development of the pieces to get my designs ‘ballet ready’ and I hope to build on that this season with details and insights from specialists from my studio in London that can be done in NYC. Working in this way with Kyle, Marc and the New York City Ballet is a creative privilege.
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