While #FashionTok may have taken over our feeds, delivering all the latest microtrends straight to our phones, coffee table books still reign supreme when it comes to preserving fashion history. No hashtags or paid ads, just the thumbing of a few pages to find your favorite designer, runway look, photograph, or editorial. And now, with the latest sartorial oeuvre from Rizzoli, there’s a definitive record of the last 10 years of modern costuming, no scrolling required.
The just-released book, New York City Ballet: Choreography & Couture, commemorates a decade of annual galas, for which some of the industry’s most notable designers have created one-of-a-kind, couture-level costumes to introduce the company’s new ballets. Favorites like Thom Browne, Raf Simons, Virgil Abloh, Oscar de la Renta, Alexander McQueen, and more are featured in the compilation, which acts as much as a treasure box as it does a momentous documentation of fashion in motion.
New York City Ballet’s long-time costume director Marc Happel collaborated with Rizzoli and photographer Pari Dukovic to capture the work of more than 30 designers throughout the 200+-page book, a first for the historic New York dance company. Each fall, Happel works with actress Sarah Jessica Parker, vice chair of NYCB’s board of directors, to select a short list of both up-and-coming and world-renowned designers to approach with the special task of creating costumes to debut fresh choreography. The result is a night to remember, with hundreds of patrons and a handful of celebrities donning their best black tie attire to fête the unique occasion. This year’s gala celebrates New York City Ballet’s epic 75-year history and features costumes by Wes Gordon for Carolina Herrera.
“I’m always pushing for the designers that maybe weren’t in the same kind of world as a lot of the world-class designers we have worked with,” Happel tells ELLE.com. Rarely has a designer ever said no, but due to timing (it often coincides with New York Fashion Week), a collaboration isn’t always feasible, making the gala all the more special—and an opportunity to bring new, bold crowds to Lincoln Center each year.
“You don’t want it to become this sort of museum company. But you do hope that, when you go into that auditorium, you’re going to see younger patrons or patrons that look like they’ve come from the fashion world to see what Dries van Noten or Thome Browne has done. And that’s exciting.”
Below, preview the book, which features costumes by Palomo Spain, Humberto Leon, Narciso Rodriguez, and more, plus get a behind-the-scenes look at how the theatrical magic comes together. The book also features never-before-seen sketches (rejected ones too), inspirational quotes from dozens of designers and a handful of choreographers, and of course, up-close views of the clothing and dancers that you just can’t get from the front row.
Landon Peoples is a writer/editor based in New York covering fashion, culture, and beauty. Previously, he was the senior fashion features editor at Refinery29 and has also written for publications such as Vogue, the Wall Street Journal, V Magazine, and more.