Tadashi Shoji's name was on a lot of people's lips following the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, where best supporting actress winner Octavia Spencer turned heads in pastel gowns from the designer's Spring 2012 collection. But if Spencer plans to make this label her red carpet go-to, she may have to commit to a less soft-hued look, as Shoji has moved on from last season's tulip inspiration.
The mood of today's collection was a more somber one. As the designer put it himself a few days before his show, "The feeling is ominous, as if something is coming." Shoji, who was born and raised in Japan, drew inspiration from another corner of the Far East, specifically the Golden Age of Shanghai. Standouts included a black gown of Chantilly and Venetian lace with a high neckline, which the designer deemed "covered up but still sexy," as well as a series of drop-waist dresses done in digital floral prints taken from a Chinese painting. Julia Nobis closed the show in a striking black velvet number with beaded lace embroidery at the neck, a reminder of Shoji's knack for detail. Scalloped sequins and chiffon "shutters" lent the dresses a couture hand.
Overall, the collection, which was styled by Tina Chai, proved a bit more cohesive than the last. Still, Shoji continues to offer his audience a wide variety of colors and silhouettes, which is presumably important when catering to an international customer base that spans Russia, Poland, Brazil, and now China. (Shoji will be opening stores in Beijing and Shanghai come spring.) There is no denying that the designer has his feet in the right places when it comes to retail support (Neiman Marcus' Ken Downing was in the front row). And with the Oscars less than three weeks away, the dresses he showed today should put him in position to score another red-carpet coup.