This feature began as a “new store in town” piece, announcing Christian Siriano’s The Collective West. Yet it’s impossible to relegate Christian Siriano to a store opening, just as it’s impossible to call a MyTeamTriumph event a race.
Some of you know him as a clothing designer and host of Project Runway. Some (like my publisher) inhaled every moment of every reality show he was ever in. Some of you don’t know him at all.
Historically, society celebrates clothing designers who have revolutionized fashion… well, couture that eventually trickled down to the masses. The annals of fashion highlight Coco Chanel who disdained corsetry and invented the little black dress, and Christian Dior who enabled wealthy war-torn women to wear wasp-waisted, elegant attire. Rich, young, thin women everywhere have enjoyed gorgeous clothing conceived by genius creatives for decades.
Then Christian (Siriano, not Dior) lands in this rarefied world of couture and revolutionizes it by creating clothing not only for this elite population, but for everyone else who wants it. First it was collaborations with Payless and Lane Bryant, making his designs affordable. The industry taunted him, censuring him for cheapening his brand. He didn’t care, nor did his couture customers.
Then Leslie happened, furthering the ripples of the industry’s sea change. On June 28, 2016, comedian/actress Leslie Jones tweeted that no designer showed interest in dressing her for a movie premiere. Leslie is black, six feet tall, weighs around 225 pounds, and not stereotypically beautiful. Which, if Vogue is indicative, helps explain why a bona fide star in a blockbuster-hopeful film couldn’t find someone to dress her.
In response to her tweet, he waved an emoji hand and it all began.
Christian made an elegant beyond-floor-length gown for Leslie, and in it she smiled for the Hollywood paparazzi as only a celebrity who looks fabulous in a gorgeous dress can.
Suddenly the industry’s ear burned from murmurs of dissent: is he tearing down the barriers of an ideal they’ve been constructing since their nascency?
Well, yeah. Yes.
In the town where he grew up, like the towns in which all but a few of us grew up, women come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. They’re monied, sort of monied, not monied. For the most part, they all have an interest in looking attractive. So why save the good stuff for that sliver of the population the fashion rags deem anatomically and monetarily acceptable? What’s the point?
None that he can discern. So he designs couture, middle market, and affordable collaborative collections for every type of woman.
Today we see models and influencers of all shapes and colors. Clothing that topped off at size 16 now tops off around size 30 or more. Runways and advertisements boast a spectrum of women rarely before featured in mainstream media.
Is he changing this all by himself? Of course not. But he’s playing a pivotal role.
Then two years ago he moves to Westport, takes stock of the empty store fronts, and transforms the beleaguered Men’s Wearhouse space into The Collective West. He looks around our town, finds talented local designers and businesses, and invites them to join. Griff Conti of Franny’s Farmacy, Sue Appleton-Webster of Swoon gallery, Wende Cohen of Bungalow, to name few.
To be clear, The Collective West is a business. No one involved is a charitable entity nor, to my knowledge, intends to be. But that’s not what this is about.
It’s about a man who’s helping everyone’s daughter, and some sons, to look at themselves in the mirror and be happy with what they see. It’s about women being able to buy clothes they love that makes them feel confident. It’s about a successful, well-known New Yorker who moves to Westport and fully immerses himself in the town, not expecting everyone’s attention but instead paying attention to everyone else.
Most of all, he’s a genuinely kind, gracious guy. Sometimes that’s what matters most.
The Collective West features:
Future Lovers of Tomorrow
Josh Levkoff Jewelry
Irene Lummertz Jewelry