My first experience at the MET Gala was in the late 90’s, admittedly at the wide-eyed age of 21, I had no idea the magnitude of what I was attending. I sat at a table with Whitney Houston, Isabella Rossellini, and Giovanna Battaglia – it was awe inspiring and fabulous beyond words. Looking back, I was highly inappropriately dressed for the occasion, a designer dressed me in the teeniest skirt (a belt really) with a massive rhinestone buckle, sky high wooden platforms, a sheer floral blouse – and here is the kicker – an enormous raccoon fur hat. Since youth and ignorance is bliss, I was blind to how silly I must have looked! I will never forget that night – it was my entrance into the world of high fashion, which I have been engulfed in ever since.
Fast forward to this year’s MET Gala “China: Through the Looking Glass” I became rather fascinated with the theme and began to peruse how China has influenced so many creative platforms in recent years – fashion, film, art, design, even architecture. The West has borrowed from China throughout history and Costume Institute Director Andrew Bolton stated, “The China mirrored in the fashions in this exhibition is wrapped in invention and imagination.” The said fashion is magnificently on display at Costume Institute’s Spring 2015 Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum showcasing many brilliant fantastical interpretations of China from various designers. Chinoiserie patters have also influenced the world of interiors with the beautifully intricate wall coverings cladding so many high-end interiors. Digging deeper, the art world has recently celebrated many emerging young Chinese artists like Sun Xen who recently had an exhibition at Sean Kelly Gallery. And lastly, architecture – an impressive Hudson Yards tower, designed by Chinese architecture firm Archilier, is under construction and meant to mirror Chinese lanterns.
I myself was asked to pay tribute – Michael Kors designed bespoke silk pajamas inspired by this year’s theme MET Gala “China: Through the Looking Glass”. The pajama sets, inspired by classic chinoiserie patterns, were created especially for Vogue staffers to wear at the gala, including Grace Coddington looking as chic as ever!
As I began to concept this shoot and craft my interpretation of China wearing the Michael Kors pj’s I was a bit stumped at the direction. How would I infuse China into my swoony existence? Would I find a classic chinoserie interior to shoot within? Perhaps I could incorporate Chinese food or head to the streets of Chinatown? Nothing felt particularly right.
But that’s what I love about being on a creative journey – the twists and turns your imagination takes, blindly leading you – which is exactly what happened. I was obsessively Googling Chinese inspired locations for days and yet the morning of the shoot I stumbled upon formal Chinese gardens in Staten Island. So the adventure began – China by way of the Verrazano Bridge. Photographer Kevin Lu and I went on a little road trip adventure and were transported into China – literally. The Chinese Scholar’s Garden at Snug Harbor is absolutely breathtaking and took me to another time and place in history.
The Michael Kors silk pajamas are on sale exclusively on the Michael Kors site the day after the MET and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Costume Institute.