When I arrived for a private viewing of Monica Byrne's 'The Wild Prairie' Collection at The Bryant Park Hotel this past Monday, I was warmly greeted by the diminutive designer and her team of publicists, assistants, and supporters. Rumor has it that pretty is back in, at least that's been the trend for the past few seasons. And thank goodness, as a bonafide girlie girl, I am thrilled at this resurgence of ladylike dressing and all the accoutrements that accompany it. Ms. Byrne has done a lovely job of infusing this femininity into her Spring 2006 Collection. The presentation of her eponymous line is a beautiful, well-edited collection of 34 pieces.
The Nebraska native cites the rich picturesque landscapes of her home state as a source for the warm color palette. The designer makes a nice transition from her Fall 2005 Collection, bridging the serenity of marine life and natural elements with an earthier emphasis for the new line. Drawing inspiration from William Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', with gypsy and bohemian accents, romanticism and exoticism serve as prevalent themes. It's as if the colors in this collection were pulled directly from transitions and variations in the sky- sunrise, sunset, twilight from dusk 'til dawn and back. Ms. Byrne's palette mirrors these images and is imbued with layers of rich earth tones: dusty rose, persimmon, mahogany, amber, sky blue, twilight, malachite, evergreen, sandstone, and of course the summer staple, white. They all blend together in an ethereal potpourri of textures and hues lustrously punctuated with gilded accents.
As I admired the elegantly embellished separates, two models appeared from the adjoining room; the first an auburn redhead wearing a lace dress with a scalloped neckline in the purest shade of malachite, the second a tan blonde wearing an exquisitely softened coral champagne-blush halter chiffon prairie dress, with a beaded waistband in a contrasting lush evergreen. Even the basic pieces are anything but-signature items include the perfect summer wrap dress in white with lace detailing along the collar and cuffs; a persimmon chiffon top with a malachite lace trim and sleeves; a chartreuse tank with an armored neckpiece and band; a mahogany crochet skirt with loose pleats; and a floral brocade jacket with a ribbon belt and double flounce hem.
It's all in the details for this young designer with a painter's eye. Ms. Byrne works with the finest fabrics-silk, chiffon, and lace weaving them together and maximizing materials and treatments to create a fluid movement. She has a gift for creating complementary schemes, with her juxtapositions of light and dark, where earth and sky meet, it's the horizon personified. There's a true craftsmanship in these pieces, from the vintage lace integrated into her designs (often along the bodice), to the amber glass buttons, hardware, beading, and silk ribbons that adorn the ensembles, all reflecting her precise attention to detail. There's an almost luminescent quality to the line. Ms. Byrne's use of fabrics, design, and embellishments yields a collection that is sophisticated, elegant, and transcendent.
The young designer earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Textile Design from the University of Kansas. She also studied abroad at the Studio Art Centers International (SACI) in Florence, where her emphasis was on fashion and fiber. Oddly enough, Ms. Byrne got her big break while interviewing with the New York-based bridal salon, Thread. After reviewing her portfolio, they referred her to Scottish designer Lucy Barnes, with whom they shared space at the time. The pairing was natural because of their similarity in design aesthetic and approach. What began as an internship, quickly grew into a more permanent and challenging role as assistant designer. In 2003, after two years with Lucy Barnes, Ms. Byrne launched her signature line.
Monica Byrne isn't just for the New York socialite set, although I'm sure they would love these pieces! The designer identifies her customer as 'someone who loves to dress up', she's 'social, independent, fun, and funky'. These dresses are for anyone who simply wants to feel pretty. And how could you not in one of her delicate custom-made creations? So when I asked her the painfully unfair question 'Do you have a favorite?' She chose the coral chiffon halter, admittedly one of mine as well. My other favorite is an evergreen v-neck gown with a lace bodice and three-foot train. Ms. Byrne, an avid vintage lover, found the lace at a flea market back home and worked with a plant in India to reproduce it for use in her collection. While most of the fancy frocks are worthy of a night out on the town, there are several separates that can be paired with jeans or a t-shirt for that understated look of elegance. I've never been to Nebraska, but after viewing this collection, I wonder if I haven't been missing out on something special. Don't you dare miss out!
Monica Byrne's Spring 2006 Collection will be available in mid January at Michael Atchison and hopefully soon at a boutique near you, until then you can reach the downtown-based designer at her Lower East Side Studio.
Monica Byrne 199 Lafayette Street Suite 302 New York, NY 10012 T: 212-219-2203 F: 212-219-2669 E: [email protected].
Michael Atchison & Associates Showroom 498 7th Avenue New York, NY 10018T: 212-967-7979