Los Angeles-based designer Sue Wong, known for her highly detailed and embellished gowns that appear with equal frequency on red carpets and at cocktail parties, jetted to New York to present her Spring 2011 collection on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Citing the “goddesses of the pre-code silver screen” as her muse, Wong paid homage to actresses like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Jean Harlow who scandalized audiences in the early part of the 20th century as Hollywood challenged the rigid moral code of the Victorian-era.
“I like these really strong, slightly challenging women who remain really undaunted and undeterred,” said Wong. “They were uncut, uncensored and brash?and brazen. To me, they were the first modern women.”
With elaborate embroidery, hand-beading in Art Deco patterns and lots of lace, Wong created a bevy of glamorous gowns and cocktail dresses that referenced flappers, French photographer Brassai’s provocative portraits, Greek goddesses and the exoticism of Morocco.
“She looks like she’s stepped out of 1928,” Wong said as a modeled walked out in a platinum lace gown with an accordion pleated godet.
Though she frequently dresses Hollywood’s young starlets, Wong’s dresses are affordably priced, and not out of reach for the average consumer, unlike most red carpet fare.
“I like to think of myself as the ‘everywoman’s couturier,’ because I offer couture looks at really amazing prices,” said Wong.
“That gown is probably no more than $550,” she said as she pointed to an elaborately hand-embroidered and hand-beaded gown. “That’s all they are! Maybe a young girl doesn’t have $5,000 to $10,000 to spend on a wedding dress because of this dreadful economy out there, but for $500 or $600 she can really still feel beautiful and special.”
Wong does the designing and fitting in L.A., but all the samples and manufacturing are done in China, the reality for most high-end designers today.
“There’s no way I could get them done here at these prices,” she said.
But inexpensive production done in China may also soon be a thing of the past, said Wong.
“I’m told because China is modernizing itself so rapidly, especially in the last decade, that all this hand work is really going to be obsolete one of these days,” she said. “The machine age will take over in China as well. I’m told my gowns are really future collectibles because in 20 years none of this hand work will be available anymore.”
So in other words, get it now while the party lasts.