Sue Wong Fall-Winter 2018-19 Los Angeles. How many times can it be said that one was moved to tears by a fashion show? I can say so and still am in the thrall. I am not speaking about just any fashion show, I am speaking about the memorable one I witnessed on March 16, 2018 at the MacArthur in Los Angeles to culminate Art Hearts Los Angeles Fashion Week: the magnificently momentous and daringly dramatic Sue Wong Retrospective Fashion Show celebrating the legendary designer’s half century career, a highly theatrical tour de force extravaganza with a seemingly unceasing outpouring of creative energy. In 55 thrilling minutes, an astounding 67 designs from the Sue Wong oeuvre of the last two decades were presented in a breath-taking staging, and it could have gone on another hour – it was that fascinating! One was simply overcome by the non-stop elegance of the gowns and the eloquence of the Sue Wong mantra they embody: beauty, magic, and transformation is an attainable goal for every woman. At the end of the performance, and indeed it was one, the designer received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Eric Rosete of Art Hearts Fashion, a fitting accolade for the countless spiritually emboldening gowns she has created in her long and illustrious pursuit of the feminine divine in fashion.
Sue Wong is the personification of the Greek word “arete,”which signifies excellence in the fulfillment of purpose or the act of living up to one’s full potential. The mind, the body, and the soul have to be prepared in order for an individual to live a life of arete, and certainly this is true of the designer, who has traversed to life’s heights and on the way seen a few of its depths. She said at the conclusion of the presentation “This is my third Phoenix rising. For me this was THE fashion show, my best to date and the most fully realized after so many years in the business.” No one who was present could deny that statement!
The music selected for the show was a perfect fit for the unfolding pageantry, the booming chanting of Dominus, Dominus echoing and re-echoing throughout the venue as three models suddenly appeared on the runway in ornate outfits that were actually inspired by the drapery in Wong’s palatial estate, The Cedars. How extraordinary a beginning to her glorious show!
The pulsating rhythms provided propulsion for the models and aural stimulation to the audience to complement the visual feast of the designs displayed. The show was actually a symphony orchestrated by the deft conducting of Wong, who oversaw every detail, down to the way the models walked down the runway – Wong calls it “teaching the goddess walk.”
The show simply exploded off the runway, stunning the audience with its dramatic pairing of kimonos and elaborate headdresses, and continued unabated as it explored varying themes from the exotic Asian to the Goth. To our mind, five designs were stand-outs amongst a show of stand-outs: a black ensemble with a high collar of feathers and a coat of faux Chinchilla with a train; another black ensemble with a velvet lined coat with ornamentation and a matching gown with black and silver beads and crystals; a black and red burnout velvet gown with one of Wong’s signature silk shawls accented with her signature beads; a brown gown with beads in all the right places; and a white ensemble of lace and beads with classic Wong passementerie and soutache embellishments.
Sue Wong has long been known as the everywoman’s couturier, the designer’s goal being to make high class fashion affordable. This night showed that Wong’s designs are truly timeless and thus a worthy investment for a woman who wants to imbue herself with the magic of the goddesses.
Wong incorporates Jungian archetypes into her fashion shows, venturing from the dark to the light. “Yes,” she says, “my shows are always Jungian: look at tonight’s display of the dark female in the Goth sequence and then the transitioning into angels of light.” Wong always provides a presentation which is contemplative and exhilarating at the same time; she is a long-time wide-ranging reader who is artistically, philosophically, and spiritually diversified and well known for her intellectual acumen.
Wong is definitely not retiring or resting on her laurels. A vortex of alchemy, a true sorcerer of creativity, she has reinvented herself numerous times in her career. The last iteration saw her foray into evening wear for the goddess that is in every woman, as she would say. Her next venture will be in the arenas of home, lifestyle, architecture, and interiors. Sue Wong boutique hotels and designer homes will be like no others, for they will be “multi-dimensional living temples of art,” as she puts it. In the beau monde Sue Wong inhabits, only beau ideals exist and her pursuit of beauty is omnipresent in all aspects of her life, whether she is designing gowns or homes or hotels. She is a master in all these fields.
The Sue Wong celebrity models for this evening were Eugenia Kuzmina and Dustin Quick, who both possess a je ne sais quoi style, and, along with the twenty two other models, embody the Wong vision of goddesses. Wong’s favourite goddesses are Artemis, protector of young women; Athena, goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, and the arts; and Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.
Kudos to Wong for using transgender model Claudia Charriez, another statement Wong made on this special night.
The scintillating gowns and ensembles were augmented with utterly fabulous headdresses by Maritza Regalado for Atzi Designs, Bobby Love, Kicka Designs, and What a Betty.
The models were bedecked with the exquisite vintage and modern jewelry of PK Bijoux, who also provided Ms. Wong with a beautiful green necklace and earrings set for the evening. Wong wore a designer Junya Watanabe top and a long organza feathered skirt of her own creation.
Sue Wong’s styling and production assistants were Gemini, Bobby Love, Courtney Tyne, and Amanda Gwen Crawford.
Numerous celebrities were in attendance, including: Billy Zane, actor; Jacqueline Murphy, actor; Mick Davis, screenwriter/director; Chris Pitman, musician with Guns N’ Roses; Steve Cooke, singer and musician; Larry Namer, creator and founder of E Network; and Jo Hilton, socialite, & Dr. Mac Moretz.
After the event, Sue Wong’s friends and collaborators were summoned back to her palatial estate, The Cedars, for an evening of celebration. For that affair, the tireless Wong decorated her mansion herself, to the delight of her guests who were treated to refreshments and comestibles worthy of the gods. We danced and sang until the wee hours of the morning in a blissful Dionysian revelry, in tribute to the remarkable evening which had just transpired.
Wong’s gowns can be seen on many red carpets, as attire for the likes of Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Biel, and Minnie Driver, to name just a few.
“Fifty years is a landmark of endurance for anyone’s art,” says Wong. “I survived because of my unwavering commitment to beauty and to excellence. I once established that in the course of my lifetime I have created more than 345,000 designs. After all these decades of practicing my art I have become a master at my game. Thank you, Eric Rosete, for the great recognition and honour. It means the world to me.”
Indeed, with this truly colossal retrospective fashion show, Ms. Wong has once again displayed her “arete” as she brought to fruition her mantra of “Beauty, Magic, and Transformation, and, in so doing, earned her place in the pantheon of the gods and goddesses.
By Faith Boutin and Murray Rosen
Photographer Joe Garcia