This year, Christian Siriano celebrated the 10th anniversary of his label with a blowout, 72-look show at New York Fashion Week (Cardi B, Coco Rocha and Laverne Cox were among the celebrities in attendance). The designer has undoubtably made his mark on fashion—and will continue to for decades more. Editor-in-chief Indira Cesarine sat down with the fashion visionary to talk about his landmark collection, the joy of dressing up and embracing diversity.
Indira: So, who didn’t love your incredible show—the 10th anniversary of Christian Siriano! Tell me about it. It must be such a key time in your career.
Christian: It was exciting! We wanted to have a powerful, emotional presence. Going through the archives through the years was really fun. We wanted to include things we’ve done before but also try things we’ve never done before. It was quite a mix, which is why the collection was so big—it won’t be that big for a long time! We really wanted a full spectrum of dressing, to highlight different types of beautiful people and have a lot of people there to support, like some of my clients from my very first season. It was a great mix. It was a feel-good day!
The show was at such a beautiful location as well.
The venue was amazing. Our world has been so crazy; I wanted a kind of escapism.
You have such diversity in your casting. People always talk about how you’re one of the few designers at New York Fashion Week who chooses to include plus size models as well as gender non-conforming models. How do you do your castings? What do you look for when you’re finding the Christian Siriano model?
We try to find a lot of different people who make sense for the customer. We have so many different types of people buying the clothes that it doesn’t work to have the same type of girl over and over again—that’s just not who the customer is. I’m really glad we have girls of different shapes and ethnicities because now, the customer can see themselves in the clothes. I hated how for a really long time people would say, “I can’t wear this; it wouldn’t look right on me.” That started to get to me over the years. Now they can actually see themselves [in the clothes], which is great. Fashion and getting dressed should be the fun part of the day, the easy part. Picking out a dress shouldn’t be a stressful thing. This is fun; this is a luxury to be able to play dress-up and buy beautiful clothes!
How do you feel you’ve evolved over the years? Where do you see your collection going?
Everything changes! It changes because the customer changes. The world of social media is such a big part of that, even in the last four to five years. Fashion is so much more relevant to the world. It’s in people’s faces all the time. It’s hard to keep up; you always have to be thinking of something new and exciting. But on the flip side, it’s really great that [fashion] is more accessible, which I think is important considering what’s happening in our culture. Fashion can still feel aspirational but it doesn’t have to feel completely closed off to the world.
Your clothes have such a dramatic, glamorous touch. They’re what you’d wear to a special event or on the red carpet. How do you feel like that idea connects to the real woman? Do you think the way you’ve brought in plus-size women has opened up your audience?
Yes, so much. Obviously, we have great day dresses that you can wear to work—suits and jackets and things. But what I love is the idea of getting dressed. I always say it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. People have a social calendar, people have things to do and I like that you can find something for all those different occasions. Obviously there are great places to get easy, wearable clothes for every day. I would never want to compete with that. [My work] is still very special. And again, with women over a size twelve, they didn’t have a lot of options in this world. Now, if they have a wedding or a friend’s birthday and they want to get dressed up and feel glamorous and they’re a size 18, why not? It’s changed my business.
What sizes do you do now?
2 to 26.
Wow, in all pieces?
Anything can be ordered if we don’t have it in stock. What’s great is that even with Moda Operandi, we go up to a size 24. A lot of retailers have been buying more sizes: 16, 18, 20. It’s a nice change. It’s so funny that it’s such an untapped market: [plus size] customers have money, they want clothes and they want to be just as stylish as everyone else.
At one stage you were doing lots of collaborations with retailers. What’s happening with that now?
We’ve been with Payless for ten years now, which is crazy. We just launched a beauty line with Elf Cosmetics and that’s in their stores and also in Target, so it’s a more mass collaboration.
So the beauty brand, is it Christian Siriano for Elf? What was your involvement with the makeup line?
Yeah, it’s Christian Siriano for Elf Cosmetics. We only did four products: a small palette, two beautiful lip-glosses and a makeup case. The [idea] really came from Fashion Week—[Elf was] my sponsor, and they asked if I wanted to do a quick collaboration. It’s awesome; it’s been selling out like crazy. We’ve done a lot of collaborations because it’s fun to bring the product to different types of households. There are so many different [projects]: we launched bedding; we just launched a new fragrance. And my book just came out!
That’s what I was going to ask you about next—your book! It commemorates everything you’ve done so far career wise. Where can people buy it?
Good news and bad news: the book is sold out. We’re already in our second reprint, so it will come out in a couple months. There are a few left on my website I think. We did it for the holidays, and it was the perfect holiday gift. Rizzoli does a beautiful book!
It’s a big honor as well, to have a retrospective of your work in print.
It’s something I really wanted because I think people sometimes forget things. It’s nice to have [my work] all in one place to see the stories of how these clothes come to life and some of the people who have worn them over the years. It’s something I really wanted and it’ll last forever. If I go out of business one day, I’ll still have it!
Would you ever expand into other sectors? For example, Tom Ford started directing.
You never know! There are so many things I’m into. We’re actually opening a new retail store that’s kind of like a mini department store. I’m the curator of it and it has other brands.
So retail, creative direction?
I’ve always loved that. I really understand how customers like to shop.
With all the amazing women out there, are there any muses in particular who inspire you?
Everyone! There are so many people that we love to dress all the time. We had such a great moment with Whoopi [Goldberg], one of the very first people I dressed, wearing my work to the Oscars now in 2018. There’s also transgender activist Janet Mock who has become quite a vocal powerhouse—I love dressing her. There’s such a range of people, which I really like. We dressed almost 17 people for the Oscars. It was nuts.
That must have been hectic! Did you do all the fittings yourself?
No, some were with stylists in LA. Some [pieces] were pulled; a lot were custom. Some fittings I did, some I didn’t.
Your work is perfect for the Oscars, or any of those glamorous red carpet events.
It’s so funny because when I was younger, I never understood [the Oscars]. I thought it wasn’t real; I thought it was part of a show or a movie. And obviously when I got older I understood, but when I was little, I liked the fantasy of it being a dream-like world. Red carpet is weird—it’s a place where you gather and people look at you and what you’re doing. It’s a weird thing to think about!
Have you done any costume design for film? Is that something you’re interested in?
Yeah, we did some costumes for a new movie with Julianne Moore that will come out soon. We just did costumes for Sia’s new movie, the one she’s doing with Kate Hudson. We’re about to do some music tours. But not too much; costume is hard. It’s a whole different world. It’s wonderful, but a beast!
Photography and interview by Indira Cesarine