Sheer fabrics and tactile details dazzled in the Narces show, March 17 at Fashion Week El Paseo.
PHOTOGRAPH BY YASIN CHAUDHRY
Toronto-based designer and creative director Nikki Wirthensohn Yassemi of Narces started Fashion Week El Paseo 2023 with a bang and mesmerized guests with 67 ensembles in a range of cuts and styles. Colors, seen in sheer fabrics and hand-appliquéd details, sashayed from intense brights to nudes to white as smoothly as the models’ struts down the runway.
Against the illuminated backdrop of a starry sky, a crystal gown emerged first, glistening like electrified snow. The hooded dress with long sleeves and a deep slit almost seemed to glide down the runway on its own, sizzling under the lights with every step. “Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Nancy Sinatra tipped off attendees who packed the full tent: There would be no working up to big moments on opening night. Every garment commanded a moment of its own.
The daring variety and quality that Yessemi sent down the runway befit someone born into the folds of world-class fashion. Her luxury eveningwear and cocktail designs blend vintage glamour with modern cuts in designs that transcend classification. She understands the artful presence of a dress in full bloom, covered in a meadow of flowers; the drama of well-placed cutouts and sheer panels from hip to floor; the timeless construction of a bustier; the girlish flounce of layered tulle.
Designer Nikki Yassemi ties the sheer coat of her finale look.
PHOTOGRAPH BY TIFFANY L. CLARK
Yassemi grew up in a swirl of gowns. Her mother, Mitra, worked in the United Kingdom as a dressmaker with British couturier Victor Edelstein, tailor to the royal family. Some of Princess Diana’s most hauntingly beautiful ballgowns passed through Mitra’s skillful hands. Yassemi attended her first fashion show at age 8. Backstage, she remembers being swept up in the fray of Edelstein’s models and his racks of eveningwear, leaving her forever spellbound and destined to put her own creations on a fashion week stage.
This opening night show harnessed the power of that deep-rooted excitement. Coated metallics in vegan stretch leather with the covetable sheen of wet paint ushered in some of the evening’s boldest hues. Jumpsuits, gowns, and separates claimed their rightful moments in jewel-box greens and blues, frosty lipstick pinks, vampy red, dandelion yellow, rose gold, blush, silver, black, and a knockout neon chartreuse. By way of pattern, a sheer black bodysuit wore polka dots, and florals broke up the solids intermittently. Several white gowns were wedding-aisle ready yet too versatile to be dubbed exclusively bridal.
Silhouettes announced themselves without apology, from fit-and-flare frocks to gowns with exaggerated shoulders and brazen front slits. The dialogue continued in textural fabrics and couture embellishments. Skin, whether left strategically exposed or visible through a textile, is a Narces signature.
Yassemi often designs with a sheer foundation to render illusions of grandeur on the body. On a mesh canvas, she may “paint” her vision in crystals, ostrich feathers, or three-dimensional flowers. Yet even the line’s sheerest-of-the-sheer pieces offer the option to layer for real-life wearability — a slip beneath or a blazer over top.
Born in Austria, Yassemi lived in Iran and the United Kingdom before moving to Canada, where the Narces designs are made. Her childhood memories and her mother’s guidance have stood in for formal training. Instead of pursuing a degree in fashion design, she picked up an MBA and met her husband, Stefan Wirthensohn, in the process. He serves as managing director of her line.
With a power couple behind the brand, the collections exude authentic feminine sensuality. Romance and sexiness co-exist. Playful goes formal. Structure meets softness. Pieces seem to murmur, “I’m demure, yet dangerous.”
Could there be another subtle narrative, one that indulges a bit of fantasy? The red-carpet starlet reincarnate. The after-work urban seductress. The prima ballerina on Europe’s great stages. From goth-chick lead singer to fashion fairy tale walking the runway straight into her happy ending, Yassemi’s imagination translates as liberating and universal.
PHOTOGRAPH BY TIFFANY L. CLARK
For one night, these models tried such storylines on for size, and attendees lived vicariously. Plunging necklines, backless gowns, bare chests under sheer tops, and leggy slits racing toward the sky require a certain bravado. We witnessed the confidence to step out boldly — and the designs to do it in.
Yassemi has said that the allure of eveningwear is that it acts as jewelry, transforming the wearer with a singular dazzling piece. Her finale embodied that notion. Over a revealing, dual-slit, sheath dress adorned in crystals, an ultralight, cape-like coat with the ethereal look of a cloud begged to be untied, removed, and spun full circle. Pivoting with just the hint of a smile, the model swished that coat behind her all the way back down the runway.
Narces unfurled a strong start to a week of what will surely be strong fashion, set off with a bang and wrapped up with a bustle.
Fashion Week El Paseo continues through March 23 at The Gardens on El Paseo in Palm Desert. For tickets and the full schedule of runway shows, pop-up-stores, and special events, visit fashionweekelpaseo.com.