Zang Toi in Santorini – These days, any talk of Greece only conjures up two topics; the Greek Euro crisis and the impending Grexit. It was a refreshing departure then, that on September 11th, Zang Toi would pivot the current debate with his Spring/Summer 2016 collection and take us to Santorini; a place of serenity that has been, of late, been overshadowed by the current imbroglios.
The show took place at The Dock, Skylight at Moynihan Station; what was once the Farley Post Office. While the venue was a bit confined in comparison with the Salon at Lincoln Center, where Toi had shown his Fall/Winter 2015 collection (Mystique Beauty of Venice), the splendor of the current collection quickly transported the audience to the little volcanic archipelago.
What must be one of the most beautiful and breathtaking locations on this planet, it should come as no surprise that Santorini would, at some point in time, be the inspiration for a Zang Toi’s collection. Anyone with a modicum of familiarity with the Aegean and its Cycladic architecture would instantly recognize the spiritual roots of this collection.
The first looks of the show opened to Natalie Cole’s rendition of So Many Stars, with a collection of whites that served to anchor the collection, and immediately captured the essence of the whitewashed hues of traditional Santorini. It wasn’t just any white. This was a white that appeared to stand at the absolute center of the visible spectrum. With such visual purity, one could almost feel that breeze coming off the Aegean when the first looks made their entry.
The opener was a white blazer over a high-waisted trouser accentuated by the hand-beaded Santorini statement crystal necklace. The necklace seemed a little overwhelming at first, until one realized that the glistening of the crystals juxtaposed against the white suit was a perfect metaphor for the whitewashed abodes looking out over the sea with its reflections from the sun.
Cory Stearns, a Principal with the American Ballet Theater, then emerged with a men’s white single-breasted suit featuring Toi’s signature double peaked collar.
The pure whites then continued with a number of interesting pieces. Among them, a white/white gold platinum hand loomed color block cardigan wrap accompanied by a racer back mini, a Swiss cotton organdy and Santorini mini bordered with eyelet lace, and the Swiss cotton organdy blouson tunic bordered with Swiss eyelet lace, tucked into hip hugging trousers.
The collection then segued into the cocktail and evening set, which opened with a deep blue couture silk shantung sweeping coat bordered with white Swiss eyelet lace lining white cotton tunic and trouser. Of particular interest was Toi’s use of the granny crochet motif in azure, emerald, and midnight blue. The granny crochet, as one might know, was originally known as the Patchwork Square, and its origins go as far back as the Victorian era. Its purpose at that time was to make efficient use of leftover bits of yarn to make afghans, rugs, and baby blankets. In a creative reinterpretation, however, Toi applies the motif in the current collection, including an A-line mini and a sculpted coat and collar to create a contemporary look with period charm.
Several looks then followed that incorporated midnight blues with deep jade, including a silk sheath with hand-beaded sequined cap-sleeves, and a high square-neck cardigan with double cording, complementing a well executed bi-sectional sheath that showed in perfect proportion.
Toi’s characteristic long gowns dominated the latter part of the show, with several beautifully executed pieces. One was a midnight blue Maria Callas coat bordered with emerald colored sequins and crystals over a sleeveless A-line gown. Two elevated boat-neck column gowns then followed, with each boat neck extending over the sleeve cap, elegantly draping into a Watteau train.
Pleated tulles also made an appearance, with two empires encrusted with midnight blue glass beads, while a third, a halter, was encrusted with in opaque Santorini azure glass beads.
Stearns then made his second appearance in a midnight blue couture silk shantung cut-away blazer over a white Swiss cotton pique tuxedo shirt and trouser.
Elena then made her entrance in the grand finale, appearing as the splendor of Santorini bride with a crown of fresh white lilies. The strapless gown of midnight blue was edged in purest white at the top of the bodice with a straight line that took a gentle wave curve as it met the outer edge of the bodice. The slim fit and flare was a continuous fluid feeling of grace and refinement. The embroidery and lace accent began its multi-tiered entrance just below the lower hip and extended to the hem, converging to a deep V shape on the back seam of the gown. The gown was high-low with the front of the gown below the knee then falling to a full and gentle sweep train. The bottom of the gown was finished with a double layered white box pleated flounce gently undulating like the surface of the Aegean. Elena’s hair was adorned with fresh white lilies so this bride needed no bouquet for her walk down the aisle.
Toi readily recognizes how critical it is for a designer to have a good support team to help make his vision of beauty a reality. And he cited those who have consistently played a significant role in his shows, including: Rudy Miles of BeautybyRudy for Ubati for his makeup to accentuate and complement the deep blue of the Aegean, Eiji Salon and Macadamia Hair. Eiji has long been recognized by fans for his elaborate hairdos. And this year, he was the creative force behind the long sleek Santorini look. Zoya returned for a 6th season to create a special deep ocean blue nail polish for this collection.
From the use of the pure white to the azures, emeralds and midnight blues, Toi wonderfully integrated both fabric and embellishments to create, through this collection, that magical place we call Santorini. I am looking forward to seeing the products of his creative energy in the coming season.