RVNG brings a fairytale to New York Fashion Week

A year and a half into the pandemic, has escapism finally expired?

By Victoria Maung, Contributing Writer

Jordan Stewart wants to curate a fantastical alternative universe for you. The Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards-nominated designer of RVNG Couture presented her runway collection in a virtual format this season — her third virtual collection with NYFW. Stewart’s penchant for fantasy manifests itself again in the Bisous Collection, which takes you to the woodlands of Cranberry Creek Gardens, a wedding venue in Ontario, Canada. The collection evoked the brand’s trademark themes of escapism, as models strutted down the woodchip runway to the lyrics of Canadian R&B singer Deborah Cox. 

Stewart’s woodland fairy-inspired narrative offers a kiss of spring pastels and gentle fabrics, ranging from satin to ruffled ball gowns. There were looks that cut through the reverie, too; gesturing at contemporary suit culture, they included a pastel purple suited shorts set, black-and-white blazer minidresses and riotous neon ball gowns that highlight Stewart’s ability to balance the aesthetics of the boardroom and the ballroom.

A pearl-beaded minidress nodding to flapper fashion and an iridescent maxi dress with pearl detailing both gestured to the return of the Roaring ’20s. Singular to the collection this season was a lilac and orange flower maxi wrap dress — dubbed the HOPE dress — which was created in partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto to help raise awareness for breast health.

Jewelry was woven into nearly all the looks: chokers, earrings and rainbow-bejeweled butterfly bangles. Models donned blue, pink and electric yellow eyeshadow in smoky patterns that transformed them into contemporary Cinderellas. 

Although billowy silhouettes are a trademark of Stewart’s brand, some mini and maxi dresses erred on the side of frumpiness, engulfing models in seas of fabric. Sequins have long been a hallmark of Stewart’s designs, but in this collection they looked tired, especially at a time when maximalism is on its way out. The combination of loud patterns and clashing colors distracted from otherwise well-executed looks. Meanwhile, one wonders whether using ostrich feathers was an ethical choice — especially in an industry where sustainability has become a prerequisite. 

Ultimately, the collection makes one question the necessity of pandemic fashion’s escapist mindset. It wonders aloud whether escapism has ever truly been generative of optimism — or if it has been operating under the guise of complacency. Stewart’s whimsical yet luxurious textures exhibited the longstanding craftsmanship that has brought her brand to the Oscars and the Grammys. But the function of runway shows and presentations has pivoted towards serving as spaces to elevate clothes beyond aesthetic appreciation. They now explore how the pandemic has exposed the underlying systemic issues plaguing fashion and society at large.

Contact Victoria Maung at [email protected]