Without question, Rafael Cennamo’s presentation in “The Box” at Lincoln Center was by far my favorite show of the season. The beauty, grandeur, and originality of it frankly brought me to tears.
I stopped by the show on a whim knowing that Cennamo designs wedding dresses. I only had about 10 minutes to shoot the show before I had to go back for a runway show. Oh what I would have given to have had more time! Rafael Cennamo is a true couturier in every meaning of the word. Each piece was an exquisite piece of hand made art. It was appropriate that the collection was shown as a presentation so that you could take in all the details in your own time and at multiple angles. The last time fashion brought me to tears and inspired me so much was at the Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty” exhibit at the Met. I was so incredibly saddened that McQueen’s genius was cut short. That exhibit is what moved me to professionally pursue fashion photography. Presentations like Cennamo’s “21 Shades of Gold”, which drew upon the ornate gold of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, are what will keep me coming back year after year to New York Fashion Week, filled with excitement.
While every model was gilded in gold, each one had a distinctly different look. It felt like a historical retrospective on regal gowns with a modern twist. Several of the models had delicate gold bondage style wrappings around their heads. Others were crowned with with headpieces made from the gilded gears and cogs of a clock. The juxtaposition of these abstract pieces with Cennamo’s gowns made me feel like I was inside a surreal Salvador Dalí painting. Those without headpieces had heavy gold eyebrow adornments made from safety pins. The simple addition of these accessories had a dramatic impact on how I perceived the women. Models with the eyebrow enhancements seemed to give off an aura of power, like a statue of a goddess on a pedestal, but those with the bondage style wrappings and abstract crowns felt trapped. I found the differences to be striking. Was this effect intended? I have a feeling like all great artists, we will never be able to completely enter Cennamo’s mind to really understand his vision.
Cennamo used textiles in unique and creative ways as well. In such a small space you would expect them to clash, but far from it. They all complemented each other. My favorite was his use of chunky knits that were hand painted with gold. You’d never think chunky knits would be associated with gala and red carpet worthy gowns, but Cennamo proved it is not only possible, but rather fantastic when executed to perfection. I was thrilled when I came around to the end of the collection to find Rafael standing there greeting those visiting his presentation. I asked if I could please shake his hand because I was so overwhelmingly impressed by his work. He was incredibly humble and sweet and even let me take a shot of him. So while we will forever mourn the loss of Alexander McQueen, we can take solace in knowing that the world still has the gift of brilliant minds, like Rafael Cennamo’s, to bring us works of art that make us stop and pause and think. It’s in these moments that true inspiration is found, and I for one, would like to thank Rafael Cennamo for inspiring me, and so many others, that wonderful day.
Note: For more of my images from this collection, check out Moda & Estilo’s piece “Rafael Cennamo Redifines the Show Stopper“.