Dauphinette, the sustainably minded, made-in-New-York label founded by Olivia Cheng in 2018, captures the sentiment of being a girl. But this girl is a sort of hell-born angel who confronts death in a pleasurable way.
Cheng quoted “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in her show notes, which she dubbed “The Dauphinette Mourning Post.” The quote read, “It is the time that you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
In her “Gods, Girls and Monsters” spring 2024 runway show held at The Freehand’s Georgia Room, Cheng’s collection was reminiscent of playing dress-up in mom’s wardrobe but one undeterred by the reality of moth-bitten fabrics and various stages of rework. (The show notes confirmed that Cheng, indeed, utilized vintage kimono silks and Shanghainese woven silks from mom). Everything upcycled was music to the ears — literally. Jingling along, models became musicians as they traced the runway in looks rife with intricate vintage beading, beetle brooches, glass eyes, broken vintage jewelry, upcycled rhinestones, cabinet pulls and so on.
Many looks, like the plastic matchbox shift dress and lampshade corsets with bloomers, elicited smiles and awe from guests.
Unusual materials are a kitschy callout for the designer. One lampshade corset was made from a bioleather from TomTex. Even scraps of leftover hair extensions from the show were woven into heels. The latter was a nod to customs of the Victorian era, specifically, a mourning ring made from braided hair and 10-karat gold.
“This collection is not, by any means, an attempt to glamorize or decorate death,” said Cheng. “A ‘collection about death’ turns out to be the celebration and expression of a terrifically turbulent life. A god, a girl, a monster — within the single span of most days I manage to feel like all three. I’m the monster under your bed. I’m the voice inside your head. I’m the girl you’re dying to meet.”
The show coincided with the launch of Cheng’s first fragrance “369.” The perfume is described as a prance through the Garden of Eden and the desire to make a scent reminiscent of the “best-smelling skin under the sun” aided by top notes of lemon, fig and tomato leaf.