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Monday Muse: Frida Kahlo Inspires Rebecca Minkoff and Naeem Khan

Frida Kahlo

New York Fashion Week brings together some common threads, but rarely do these commonalities unite designers as disparate as Naeem Khan — known for intricately beaded gowns and red-carpet ready dresses — and Rebecca Minkoff, the designer du jour for bloggettes, downtown girls and just about everyone looking for a go-to bag or an of-the-moment leather jacket. Both brands are expanding their lines and for Spring 2014 and they’re both looking to art icon Frida Kahlo for inspiration.

Born in Mexico, Frida Kahlo was a spark plug right from the beginning. She changed her birthdate to reflect the beginning of the Mexican Revolution — giving her the same birthdate as modern Mexico — and through her work, she became an icon of feminine expression and a unique combination of native tradition and the surrealist movement. Throughout her life, Kahlo faced severe health issues, often leaving her bedridden. Her isolation from society is her inspiration for the numerous self portraits that she painted throughout her career. Kahlo stated, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”

Kahlo became known for her depictions of herself surrounded by Mexican iconology, such as monkeys, roses and other indigenous plants as well as religion. Her life, including her relationship with Diego Rivera, was well-documented, especially in the pre-Internet age, and she became an unlikely celebrity with a following that stretched across the globe. Before her death, one of Kahlo’s works, The Frame, was purchased by the Louvre, making her the first modern Mexican artist to have their work on display at the renowned museum.

Rebecca Minkoff Spring 2014

Rebecca Minkoff Spring 2014

Rebecca Minkoff’s Spring 2014 runway show didn’t just mark her as a Lincoln Center mainstay, it showed that she could really put on a show that pushed the boundaries of Fashion Week. Just a few seasons ago, Minkoff’s Fashion Week presence was just a presentation and when she moved her show to the runways, she enlisted the help of Manrepeller Leandra Medine, who shot photos from her iPhone as she stomped down the catwalk.

After a more traditional showing last season — that included live music from DJs and indie bands — she decided it was time to combine her two loves once again. Enter Janelle Mon¡e: the R&B crooner turned minkoff’s Kahlo-tinged show into a concert and a runway show in one that left even the most jaded editors with a smile on their faces

Minkoff cited Kahlo as well as a few other well-known Latin American women as inspiration, but as the models turned the corner with Kahlo braids and bright bags — the brand’s bread and butter, even with expansion in to ready to wear, shoes and more — we knew there was one lady that came out on top. Kahlo’s roses, bright sun-drenched hues and of course, her braids, along with eclectic offerings such as sarape-patterned shorts, embroidered pencil skirts and gladiator boots made the show quintessentially Minkoff, meaning every girl wanted just about every piece. Look for Minkoff’s backpacks (they’re new additions to her line) as well as expanded selections of her costume jewelry when these items hit retailers in the spring.

Naeem Khan Spring 2014

Naeem Khan Spring 2014

On the opposite end of the spectrum at Naeem Khan, a more civilized affair, though no less vibrant, there were Kahlo braids alongside a collection of cocktail and evening dresses that dialed down the crass and highlighted Khan’s near-couture details.

Khan combined Kahlo with other traditional Mexican motifs, including flamenco and the churches that abound south of the border. A few of the pieces boasted clear Spanish influence — a peasant blouse paired with a trumpet skirt — but the bulk of the collection was a joyful cause celeb for fans of Kahlo’s colors. Painterly prints, abstract zigzags and more abounded on short and long silhouettes. Known more for feathers and beading, the collection was a breath of fresh air from Khan, especially given that his target customer, the Hollywood starlet, is probably scoping out Emmy dresses. The collection included a preview of Naeem Khan’s brand new bridal collection. The white lace gown that closed the runway show was shows with a bouquet of bright red roses and a matching veil. Given the explosion of color that came before, it was a beautiful shock.