Time to Rise for Zunino

At Fashion Week El Paseo, the longtime industry insider showed he’s the star



Photo By Gerry Maceda

The second that designer Mark Zunino’s first look hit the Fashion Week El Paseo runway on Saturday night, one had to wonder: Why is this man not a household name?

Zunino has been in the biz forever, starting his career on the Dynasty set in the 1980s, when he assisted costumer Nolan Miller, rising to the role of Miller’s right-hand man before eventually taking over the entire empire.   

But despite his glitzy, high-profile gowns for high-profile wearers — including Heather Locklear, Sophia Loren, and Halle Berry — Zunino has hovered slightly under the fashion world’s radar — except for last month’s turn in the tabloids when Bachelor villainess Courtney Robertson was “accidentally” photographed trying on wedding dresses at Zunino’s Los Angeles studio.  

In our humble opinion, it’s time for his rise.

Zunino is an authority on formalwear, having earned his stripes outfitting Joan Collins in the sparkly, bejeweled gowns that became a symbol of 1980s excess. And while sparkle and shine are major themes of his new work, Zunino balances, using the right amount of sequins, beading, rhinestones, and lace to avoid the overdone look that so many others in this genre master so well.

Saturday night, examples included a metallic lace ball gown in muted gold — that in anything brighter would have been too much — and the single, puffy sleeve on a black, asymmetrical gown that provided the right amount of oomph for a memorable outfit.

While his gowns were breathtaking in the kind of way that makes one wish they were a movie star or, at least, friends with someone throwing an incredible black-tie affair, the real star of Saturday night’s show was the debut of Zunino’s collection of wedding gowns.

Like his usual party gear, Zunino’s bridalwear perfectly balanced simplicity and distinctive detailing.

A short-sleeve beaded top with a full satin ball skirt was elegant yet young, while a matte column gown with complimentary fringe beading was a modern nod to Daisy Buchanan. A backless number with strong, structured cap sleeves were enough to make one annoyed at being single.

It’s no wonder Zunino is making Courtney Robertson’s gown for her Bachelor wedding — which the designer neither confirms nor denies.

“This is just a smattering, the beginning,” he says of the bridal collection. In two weeks, he will show the line at the bridal shows in New York, where he is continuing talks with notable bridal retailer Kleinfeld’s. “They want to have a West Coast presence, so I’m doing an exclusive collection for them. We’ll see what happens.”

What happened last night in the Big White Tent was a fashion show that did exactly what a good fashion show is supposed to do: transport viewers to a place where style meets fantasy. A black beaded spaghetti strap dress would be perfect for the carpet at Cannes, while a black satin gown with sculptural shocking pink detail was something typically reserved for the box of a collector’s Barbie doll. A sheer beaded top with a full, cream-colored satin skirt is what you’d wear to marry the man of your dreams.

Funny enough, Nolan Miller was reluctant to let Zunino showcase his own designs in the early ’90s, saying his sheer, structured details were too “contemporary.”

Miller is now in his 80s, retired, and living in Los Angeles, focusing on his ailing health.

Had he known then what Zunino would go on to create, we can only assume he would have given his blessing right off the bat.
 

 


 

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