Raf Simons, Palomo Spain, Giles Deacon to Design Costumes for New York City Ballet

Raf Simons, Palomo Spain, Giles Deacon to Design Costumes for New York City Ballet

Send in the tulle: New York City Ballet will mark 10 years of fall fashion galas this fall with a new set of costumes from globally recognized designers.

On Sept. 28, the company will mark the event’s milestone anniversary with costume schemes designed by Raf Simons, Palomo Spain by Alejandro Gómez Palomo and Giles Deacon. As in previous years, the designers will work in tandem with choreographers to present an original new ballet that aims to defy traditions of movement and aesthetic.

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Deacon is the gala’s first repeat designer, while Palomo and Simons will join past collaborators including Thom Browne, Dries Van Noten, Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton and Iris Van Herpen.

Originally devised by Sarah Jessica Parker in 2012, the institution of fashion at City Ballet has proven lucrative for the company, while at times falling afoul of dance purists. In its decade-long run the fall fashion gala has proven financially important — raising more than $24 million in donations. But when examining the larger whole, ballets to emerge from the gala have debuted to questionable success — a select few have become repertory classics, while others have been shelved into the archives.

City Ballet costume director Marc Happel said that this is par for the course. “There will always be those two camps — the camp that does not like overly-designed dance because it distracts from the dancers and choreography, and I do understand that. But coming from a theatrical background myself, I think costume really lends itself to ballet and can create a mood and sense of place.”

Happel sees himself as a chief facilitator for the choreographer and designer’s vision. “I think a lot of the time I run into a situation where the costumes can be over-designed or over-embellished and that can be distracting, but we hope not. [This gala] has really pushed the boundaries of costumes to the forefront,” he said.

Happel is now tasked with directing his team to construct costumes for all three ballets over the next eight weeks — adjusting designs to make them accessible for movement and stage viewing.

Simons will design a single costume for Justin Peck’s “Solo” — a work for principal dancer Anthony Huxley that was filmed by Sofia Coppola during lockdown. The fall gala will mark Solo’s first live performance, with the work staged five times thereafter — performed by either Huxley or, on some evenings, seasoned ballerina Sara Mearns.

Palomo Spain will work with Gianna Reisen on her third ballet for the company. Reisen’s first piece, “Composer’s Holiday,” was well-received for its high-octane energy when it premiered at the 2017 fall fashion gala with a suite of costumes by the late Virgil Abloh.

Happel said that Reisen and Palomo have already settled on a scheme of 10 different colored costumes, each with Swarovski crystal pinstripes.

Due to supply chain constraints, the costume shop has already placed orders for the custom-color crystals in order to meet deadlines — something that Happel has had to adjust to in a post-pandemic world.

“It’s certainly made it harder for us in the shop,” Happel said of post-COVID-19 changes. “Many of our vendors are no longer there and the time frame to get things shipped isn’t the same. I think that’s the way it is now, it won’t change.”

Deacon, one of the fall fashion gala’s biggest success stories, is also its first repeat designer. In 2018, he and choreographer Kyle Abraham were hit-makers with a Kanye West and Nico Muhly-scored piece “The Runaway,” which has been performed most seasons since.

Deacon and Abraham’s partnership has grown beyond the walls of City Ballet; They have since teamed up on two pieces for Abraham’s own company A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, which were staged at institutions including The Joyce Theater and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Deacon said that he and Abraham’s creative connection has only strengthened over time. “I am hoping the creative dialogue we have developed over this time will really bring something unique and exciting to the fall event,” he said.

“I learned a lot last time working with Marc and his team on the construction and development of the pieces to bring my designs to be ‘ballet ready’ and am hoping to expand upon that this season with specialist details and ideas from my studio in London that can be realized in NYC. To work in this way with Kyle, Marc and the New York City Ballet is a creative privilege.”

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