By Adaeze Ibechukwu
Tadashi Shoji is a male designer who’s made his name dressing strong ladies for power appearances, and this collection is another one you can expect to see glittering on tabloid pages very soon. Backstage at Lincoln Center, the soft-spoken designer pointed out the details of his pastel-infused collection, like the five types of lace layered over sequins applied to a neoprene fabric base that created a multidimensional yellow and black cocktail dress.
It was all the more exciting to imagine our fantasy red-carpet appearances in such beautifully constructed, romantic dresses when there’s such a strong point of view behind them. The designer weighs in on the politics of modern power dressing and why he’s not afraid of designing for plus sizes.
Tell us about how this collection was created.
The theme is sweet liberation. It’s not the women’s liberation of the 80s’ power suits. I think women have become so confident in themselves, they can show femininity and sweetness in their clothes. I think if I can bring out that natural sweetness, that feminine side of women, through my dresses, then I am happy. I did everything colored with pastels, but the pastel is not the usual soft pastel. Everything is stronger, frosted white, white tulle, white sequins, white lace, on cool pinks and mint, and all of these stronger colors.
So do clothes make the woman, or do women make the clothes?
Look it at this way. It used to be so corporate – this look, I am 5’9”, I am going against the men, and you couldn’t wear a feminine dress, that’s no-no. But now, feminine dresses in the corporate world, I think it’s really okay. If you look at all the TV dramas, through the 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s, I think, every woman playing a businesswoman was wearing a suit. And now you don’t need to.
Who are some powerful women who you admire?
I think someday soon there will be a woman in the White House.
You think so?
I think so!
I think it’s time!
Yeah, it’s time, isn’t it? America has a black president, the next time I think it will be a woman president.
You’ve also dressed a lot of powerful women in Hollywood. Who have been some of your favorite collaborations?
Definitely Octavia Spencer. She helped me, I think, you know. She is so sweet, and we’ve become friends. She is so well-known and we love working together, and I think it has helped my business. It’s a mutual feeling.
Why do you think more designers don’t get into plus-size clothing?
I don’t know. Maybe they aren’t confident about the clothing, or confident that big women make it beautiful. I can make any kind of woman look beautiful, I think. Cut and fit is magic – an illusion. If a dress is fitted in the right places, it makes a nice shape, and the waistline looks smaller. If they want to hide a big hip, we can create an illusion. It’s just about having everything in proportion. With the right fit in the right place, I think that any kind of figure can become proportionate and beautiful.
So it’s not the kind of challenge that should keep anyone from trying it?
I have confidence, so I can do it. But other people, I don’t know! Maybe they don’t want to, or they can’t. I don’t know why they wouldn’t.
How does this collection evolve your designs?
I think that this is a bit of a challenge. This kind of femininity, and soft pastels, are they going to see it the way I see it? But I think I can feel that women are ready for it – I can smell it in the air. So I have to take a shot, a risk. I think–I hope!–we’ll be seeing more of colors like these.
Culled from the ELLE DISPATCH FASHION
By Adaeze Ibechukwu