Zang Toi Raises the Barre
The Zang Toi Spring 2014 show opened with male ballet dancer, Cory Stearns, floating and spinning down a dramatically half-lit runway. For a show titled "Ballet Babe," it was interesting the opening image was that of a male and not a delicate ballerina. Stearns had two modeling moments as well, including an open jacket tuxedo that was the evening’s final look.
There may be no Zang Toi menswear line (yet), but placing Stearn front and center made the theme of the evening clear: masculine/feminine power play.
Once Stearns dipped backstage, full lights went up and female models came out in designs both ladylike and strong. Sleek suits were cut lean and feminine with flared hems, dramatic capes and oversized coats. Pretty chiffons and organzas weren’t overly sweet when constructed in the darkest of dark blues with bursts of black tulle underskirts. Styling included chignons that were more severe than girly.
At the Ballet
Sparing a shot of ballet slipper pink or two, the whole collection was stark in its severe lack of color. This is spring, right? But under Toi’s watchful eye, it made total sense. The darkness and the solid tailoring served the message well: ballerinas are beautiful, feminine creatures, true, but they are also dedicated and agile athletes.
Adding to the drama and the dance, models stopped at the end of the runway to spin and pose, many taking the moment to spread their arms wide, illustrating movement of the pieces and special linings of coats featuring the Toi family crest. The crest is also another allusion to Toi’s place in fashion.
These are gorgeous dresses, coats and suits meant for the ladies who lunch, embuing a certain kind of sophistication and price point. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Many designers have built their whole careers on this blue blood clientele (Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera to name a few). With this nuanced yet powerful spring show, Zang Toi’s name can easily be included with that elite group.
Zang Toi has been in the fashion industry for more than 20 years. Born in Malaysia and the youngest of seven children, he moved to New York City to study at Parsons School of Design. U.S. Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour featured Toi’s designs in the March 1990 issue. In addition to his list of celebrity clientele from Sharon Stone and Eva Longoria to philanthropist Melinda Gates, Toi has helped raise more than $700,000 for cancer research.