His “campy” runway design for Iris Apatow stood out in a sea of naked dresses.
In America, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that the biggest fashion event of the year is not New York Fashion Week, the first Monday in May, or even Mississippi prom season — it’s the Oscars. For better or worse, entire legacies have been forged out of red carpet commentary and the spotlight is intense enough to change lives, careers, and even — as evidenced by J.Lo’s Versace Grammys dress — search engines. This makes it a Pretty Big Deal that the award for Most Talked About Dress at the Vanity Fair after-party goes to emerging Queens-based designer Colin Locascio.
Iris Apatow’s (yes, those Apatows) campy, persimmon-hued sequined gown and its 3-D beaded flowers “turned heads” (per Yahoo Style), “gagged” and “slayed” (per Twitter), and landed the 20-year-old on enough best dressed lists to place her firmly in the pantheon of Gen-Z fashion It girlies.
“We're getting people who are like, ‘I want to wear [the dress] to my wedding. When’s the best time to make it?’” Locascio tells InStyle a week post-carpet. “It's been the craziest parade of moments.”
Earlier this year, Locascio was named a designer to watch by Who What Wear and L’Officiel. His first-ever runway show at Spring Studios was a “can’t miss,” according to W Magazine, and Vogue named him one of “five debuts to know about.” Not that he’s a newcomer — Locascio was one of the first designers worn by Cardi B all the way back in 2016. Olivia Rodrigo, Bella Hadid, Rosalia, and Lady Gaga have all worn his pieces, and besties Selena Gomez and Nicola Peltz posted an IG in February of them having dinner in matching faux-fur hats from the brand.
“You're kind of always waiting for your viral moment. You read articles of, ‘Lady Gaga wore this designer thing and it popped off,’ or whatever. But that has not really been my story, necessarily,’ he says. “It's kind of been a long journey to now. So, it just feels super-important. I think it's tough as a young brand, it's hard not to compare yourself to other designers where you're like, ‘Oh, this person had their moment.’ It's been amazing to get to do it on my own terms and working with really cool creatives that I believe in. And I think we're all quite young and have a lot to say.”
Before he launched his eponymous label during the pandemic, Locascio worked on runway designs for Marc Jacobs, Adam Selman, and more after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015. Today, the ready-to-wear designer is known for his cartoon-y prints, surprising maximalist textures, and fabrication art, such as the flowers and also frogs inspired by a childhood stuffed animal. (Locascio originally thought he wanted to go into toy design — “I guess I didn't stretch that far.”)
Apatow’s dress walked in the Fall/Winter 2023 collection, which was inspired by and named after Locascio’s grandmother Frances, “a fabulous Fran Fine type” and “a hit-or-miss queen” who outfitted her seven children in homemade clothing. Locascio credits her for his love of flowers and fabrication (and his middle name, also Frances). “It was so funny,” Locascio says, recounting how he showed her Iris on the carpet. “She's like, ‘Wait, are those crochet flowers? I could do those for you.’ I'm like, ‘Girl, yeah, you could!’”
Locascio worked with a manufacturer in India (also used by Alexander McQueen) to create the whimsical 3-D flowers. The forms are carved styrofoam molded to a wire structure to keep the edges “super clean,” then topped with stretch georgette and beaded with crystals to build out dimension. The metallic centers are inspired by — Y2K girls will recognize this one — the flowers atop Marc Jacobs’s Daisy perfume bottles.
The dress itself is a “mish-mash” of decades in style. “The colors and the high saturation are very now, the wet-look sequins [are] ‘90s, early 2000s,” explains the designer, as is the square Calvin Klein-esque neckline — a “Kate Moss simple slip” silhouette.
The idea for the maximalist rosette choker came from his show stylist and collaborator Jungle Lin. “You know Carrie Bradshaw has that amazing viral moment of that flower on her neck,” says Locascio, “If my girl's Carrie Bradshaw, we're in Queens — I don't know, I feel like she would wear it this way — you know, kind of up the ante.”
If Colin’s girl is Carrie, the Samantha of this storyline is Albert Ayal of Up Next Designer.
Through his “industry secret” Instagram, Ayal spotlights emerging designers and connects them directly to stylists via dm slides — cutting out much of the industry rigamarole that can leave newcomers stuck at the gates.
“There's a genuine sincerity to what he's doing that people are really getting behind,” Locascio says. “I think the fashion industry is, air quote, super supportive of designers, but I think you almost have to prove yourself for years and years to get the kind of verification [that Ayal’s posts give].”
Within hours of his posts, the designers gain tens of thousands of followers. “We call it the UND effect,” he says. Ayal shares screenshots of their DMs blowing up, as well as street style photos of A-listers (Kylie Jenner and Bella Hadid, among others) wearing pieces sourced from the account.
“I feel like even if you don't think you discovered something on Up Next Designer, you probably did,” says Jared Ellner, the stylist who orchestrated Apatow’s Oscars moment. “So much of styling is digging really deeply into the corners of the internet, and he's a page that I always go to.”
Named a top emerging stylist for “next gen talents” by the CFDA this week, Ellner is famous in the fashion world for his work with Emma Chamberlain and is credited for “transforming” the YouTuber into the Met Gala host she is today.
“Being a fashion girl takes working with big houses to legitimize you,” says Ellner, but working with young designers is where you can experiment and establish your voice. “Everybody wants to be like, ‘Oohh, what's that? Who is that?’ And then feel like they're discovering something new.”
For his first time styling Apatow, Ellner wanted a look that would honor the young star’s campiness and playfulness while still respecting the event.
“It was so funny because Iris's apartment is literally floral wallpaper. When I pulled in I was like, ‘Oh my god, this dress is a representation of you and your style and your taste.”With its gigantic flowers and bright colors, Locascio’s dress would look at home in an anime, but his tailoring and craftsmanship can go neck-and-neck with any traditional house’s work, making it elevated enough for a storied carpet (full of Hollywood Foreign Press Association voters).
“I was blown away by [his] work,” says Ellner. “To be able to create these flowers and make it look expensive enough for a carpet like this is really incredible.”
More than just one of the best looks of the night, the dress signaled a turning point — establishing the group as a new crop of fashion players, ready to reinvent the typical red (or in this case, Champagne) carpet.
“It just felt like a big moment for everyone involved, which I think is so rarely the case,” Locascio says. “I think that they took a dress that they believed in, but they also brought it into a whole new world.”
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