It's been around a year now that fashion shows as we know them came to a halt, but Christian Siriano is one of the few who have still managed to hold physical runway shows with a live (socially distant, masked) audience.

After last season's outdoor Connecticut outing, Siriano returned to New York in typical glamorous fashion, staging his Fall 2021 show inside the neoclassical corridors of Gotham Hall. His collection of sculptural ball gowns with dramatic ruffles and illusion panels were an emphatic declaration of the power of glamour and fantasy dressing that people desire more than ever.

The starting point was a trip to Aspen, Colorado to visit his family, where he envisioned an alternate lodge world of hidden parties and cocktail hours in the mountains and everyone is just fiercely glamorous. And the resort town's rich sunset overlooking wide landscapes served as the inspiration behind the orange and pink color palette.

"I think the gowns and all the work that goes into the clothes was fun because I think people miss it," he told PAPER backstage afterward. "There's nothing happening, so it's like you missed the glamour. At least I do, I think my girls do. I know our clients do."

Indeed, although the pandemic has altered what clothing categories most people are buying into, there's still a place for fabulous eveningwear that many people are betting on once life returns to normal. "What's so crazy is we're selling the most basic of the basic," he says. "The merch, the fragrances, that's fine. But honestly, we're still pulling gowns. I'm not mad at a $30,000 sale, I'm really not."

Siriano is also one of the few savvy New York designers who embraces partnerships. With resources limited as a result of the pandemic, some designers are linking up with unexpected third parties to help fund their shows, as Christian Cowan did with Motorola and Jason Wu with Coca-Cola.

For his latest showcase, Siriano partnered with Beautyrest and had models like Coco Rocha and Teddy Quinlivan laying on the company's mattresses while getting pampered and ready before the show. He also sent down a pair of dresses that incorporate secondhand pieces from the consignment and thrift store ThredUp.

As is the norm for Siriano's shows, there was an array of different body types represented on the runway, something he's been doing for years but only now are other designers slowly latching on to. Does he feel like the industry is finally catching up to him?

"I mean, it took a minute but yeah. It's really nice, though," he says. "I'm really proud of girls like Precious [Lee] having a moment and it's important. The big brands need to get on it. And I think there's gonna be more. But also, like actresses and musicians, a lot of them are curvy girls and we've been loving them for years, so why not the same thing with a model?"

Photography: Sara Kerens/ Courtesy of Christian Siriano

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