Designer Focus: Irina Shabayeva

J’adore Irina:

Irina Shabayeva
In the topsy-turvy, super competitive world of fashion, it is always refreshing and new when a young, undiscovered talent gets the chance to establish a name, and in some instances, become a well-known and viable brand. One type of this kind of “proof is in the pudding” thinking is the Russian born, Brooklyn, NY-raised-designer and Parsons New School design graduate Irina Shabayeva, who first came to light as the powerhouse winner of Project Runway’s Sixth Season. An instant “star” to many in the fashion business, Shabayeva, went on to produce a spectacular, Fashion Week runway extravaganza, during the final season at Bryant Park.

The show, which was interestingly sponsored by Tupperware – every seated guest received a huge, black patent leather gift bag, emblazoned on the front with the designer’s signature white bird motif and her scripted name; filled with Tupperware products – was held in a huge, West Side loft space; filled to over-flowing capacity with editors, fashion glitterati and more than just a few retailers, all eager to see what Shabayeva was going to do next. A myriad of fantastical models, paraded down the catwalk, each looking like a dizzying array of big birds of paradise, in a mix of outrageous, body-hugging clothing and footwear, all featuring multi-colored feathers, glitz, glamour, et al.

Then, when the hoopla of the show ended, and after all of the press and all of the big buzz surrounding her name and her collection were over, it seemed that Shabayeva, who had showed such promise, and appeared to be poised to become one of the next fashion superstars of the season, simply vanished from the face of the earth. Fast forward to 2011, when the designer popped up out of the toaster, by way of an exclusive retail, partnership with Macy’s, I-N-C International Concepts, set to debut on February 19th, in 50 Macy’s stores, including Herald Square (NYC); Union Square (San Francisco); Aventura and Miami International (Miami); State Street (Chicago), and on

A very smart partnership this seems to be, notably because this is a win-win situation for Macy’s and Shabayeva. The retailer shows its customers something new, fresh, affordable, and hopefully, desirable for Spring, Summer 2011, especially at a time when these attributes are most important and most needed, considering how and where retail is right now. And, Shabayeva shows everybody that she and her designs still have good legs, albeit with a more toned down, more wearable and definitely, much more affordable version of the clothing and accessories collections which she had formerly done for Project Runway, along with her follow-up runway showing.

Case In Point: The current Spring, Summer 2011 capsule collection (13 full looks) of clothing and footwear – priced to sell at price-points from $49-$169 – definitely have the designer’s aura, as was apparent during the launch cocktail party, held in mid-January, at Trump Soho Hotel,. The fashion press and assorted glitterati got the chance to view the collection, shown on stylized models, posing on a raised stage. The most interesting models in this bunch seemed to be purposefully styled to look and act just like Chanel Iman, Twiggy, Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton, Lydia Hearst, et al, which further served to punch up and add more fun and pizaaz to the clothing and footwear that they were wearing. OK, well, you get the idea here.

Star looks include a terrific, stylish, and very comfy jacket; a very sexy and curvy little black dress, embellished all over with with sparkly studs and jewels (worn at the event by both a model and the designer); “Rubik’s Cube” dress, done in strong strokes of bubble-gum brights against a black ground; grooviest, little “Mod” dress, all done up in sunny yellow chiffon with encrusted yoke detail. The best accouterment to go with these kinds of clothing are Shabayeva’s sky-high, laced and ribboned “Mallorca” and “Mallory” platform shoes, rendered in shades of black, ecru, pink and gold.

What worked nearly across the board were Shabayeva’s multi-colorful, individualistic sportswear items, all centered around the idea of fit, proportion, movement, and the body beautiful. And, what came across and seemed important, especailly in a retail envionrment such as Macy’s, was the idea that this particular designer understands not only her own creative repertoire, but also the M.O. of the store and the customer for which she is designing. So, while it is clear that the collection takes its cue from the notion of movement and dance, and that many of the pieces here might be more well suited for women with those kinds of nubile figures, there are still enough choices that could work for the more traditional, and maybe not so well-toned, Macy’s customer, and all with price points that would not break anybody’s bank account. And, with retail being what it is these days, isn’t that really the point of the exercise?

— Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

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