Hot off designing three looks worn at the Oscars, Mark Zunino presented his Spring/Summer 2020 collection at Bridal Reflections on Fifth Avenue with a press brunch yesterday. This event was to kick off a week of his trunk show at the salon (through March 3), which in 2018 became the exclusive retailer for Mark Zunino Atelier bridal and evening wear in the tri-state area. Of note: I spied famed “Say Yes to the Dress” seamstress Vera Skenderis (also formerly a fixture at Kleinfeld’s) who currently works her magic at this beautiful salon located across the street from the now shuttered Lord & Taylor.
Zunino looked none the worse for wear although he and his assistant/ right hand Breanna Rae had just flown in on the red-eye from L.A. “We had to wait to get the dresses back. Actor Sam Elliott brought the gown and very expensive earrings ($88,000) that his wife (Katharine Ross) had worn in himself!” said Rae who was also responsible for packing and shipping the many sample gowns for this trunk show. While we mere mortals have to pay for our dresses those who can well afford to buy whatever they want get a custom made dress completely free on loan (not like they’re ever going to wear it again anyway but it may turn up on someone else).
Other Oscar attendees dressed by Zunino included model and Tommy niece Audrey Hilfiger who wore a silver fringed and beaded “flapper” number to the Elton John party (it previously made a turn on Ming-Na Wen at the 2018 premiere of “Crazy Rich Asians”) and ET’s Nischelle Turner whose blush beaded column gown attracted immediate attention by a would-be bride. “I got a phone call about two hours into the Oscars asking me if I could do that dress in white as a wedding gown,” said Zunino who was watching the show at home.
This sort of thing is far from unusual according to Zunino, who I knew of as a young protégé of the late, great Nolan Miller of Dynasty fame (more on that shortly). “The red carpet is the most accessible influence — it informs bridal – many brides are following red carpet trends,” he remarked. As seemingly 8-foot tall gorgeous blonde model Marla made her entrance on the salon red carpet I gasped! The bedazzled bridal jumpsuit with beaded shoulder strands (Elvis meets Cher?) will (most likely) be worn in gunmetal by the host of the Country Music Awards (that would be Reba McEntire though the designer refused to name drop lest it create some bad juju). Of course, you never know for sure until you see it on the celeb at the event, as many a designer has come to realize the hard way. Since winning an Emmy in 1983 under the Nolan Miller label for the hit television show “Dynasty” (Miller handed it over to him saying “This is for you kid. You did the work”) he has designed for many A-listers including Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara, Serena Williams, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Scarlett Johansson and Beyoncé.
Who’s next on his wish list? “Rihanna” he quickly answered, “I love her unapologetic style.” Indeed he’s putting that out there in the universe as he once did to dress Queen B. “I was in New York and did an interview mentioning that I’d love to dress Beyoncé. When I arrived back in L.A. she showed up in my atelier.” When a CW channel remake of “Dynasty” became a reality, who do you think they called? Mark Zunino dressed Nicollete Sheridan as Alexis (she’s now leaving the show and the role may be recast), a blast from the past of my other favorite ‘80s nighttime soap “Knots Landing.”
It seems that the jump from celebrity evening wear to dressing a bride is not really even a hop. Being a bride is like being a celebrity – “it’s her day and her time to shine. Brides are the driving force behind my collection.” Any tips for wedding gown shopping? “Stay true to yourself,” he advises. “I can always tell on the bride’s face when friends or maybe an overzealous mother has taken over. When the bride’s happy, everyone’s happy.”
Are there perhaps styles that certain figure types should stay clear of? “Any girl can wear anything as long as it’s proportioned right to their body. You can be sexy at any size. I’ve had very curvy girls who are all apologetic saying ‘I know it’s not easy to dress me’ but that’s not true.” Another interesting factoid: Zunino says he dresses 65% to 70% of the mothers-of-the-bride as well – one stop shopping is never a bad thing although it helps to have deep pockets. Bridal gowns start at $8k; evening wear at $6k, however most seemed priced well in the double digits at around $13k.
Model Daphne appeared in a white satin racer back gown with an A-line princess skirt embellished with a panel of large clear crystals – a very sleek, sophisticated “high fashion” silhouette. Marla accompanied her in a stunning scarlet red gown which Nischelle Turner wore to Elton John’s Oscar party last year while Ming-Na Wen wore it to the Tony’s. The gown will also be made in white for bridal wear. “It’s so comfortable, you could wear it anywhere,” says Marla. “Okay, let’s go to Starbucks,” quipped the designer.
Commenting on what he calls this year’s Oscars propensity for the “Rose Bowl float” dresses ( big poufy loofah lookalikes), – he’s not a fan. “Don’t get lost in what you’re wearing – the dress should compliment you.” Since there are three celebs who have recently gotten engaged Zunino presented sketches for possible wedding attire. “I used their essence and tried to take it to the next level,” he remarked. There’s Katy Perry, who he sees as dramatic, feminine, pink and princess-like, Heidi Klum — also dramatic and “very head-to-toe with her look” who he sees as a Grecian goddess complete with a head turban, and Jennifer Lawrence, the elevated girl-next –door in a slenderizing column with ball gown sides and lilies of the valley in her hair.
Lastly, Bridal Reflections fashion director Cristina DeMarco and Zunino spoke of their successful partnership. Since both share an attention to detail, a no-rush-sit-and-listen to the client demeanor and a wish to provide excellent service, they seem truly in synch. Both agreed they could work together forever. I raised my mimosa to that!