Following his Spring 2021 presentation during New York Fashion Week, the designer told PEOPLE about the inspiration behind the new collection, the importance of celebrating glamour during the coronavirus pandemic and what we can expect to see at the 2020 virtual Emmy Awards

By Hanna Flanagan and Andrea Lavinthal
September 18, 2020 01:58 PM
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Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty

In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many fashion labels are opting out of traditional runway shows and presentations this season, instead debuting new collections through imaginative virtual experiences or to a limited audience.

Christian Siriano — whose shows have become a staple in the New York Fashion Week circuit, surprising us year after year with headline-worthy moments — is the latest to test the waters. On Thursday, show-goers left Manhattan to attend the 34-year-old designer’s socially distanced Spring 2021 presentation at his super-chic home in Westport, Connecticut.

Christian Siriano
| Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

The highlights? An individual picnic set-up complete with wine and snacks for each guest, models effortlessly strutting through grass (yes, grass!) in heels from Sarah Jessica Parker’s collection, pieces embossed with the word “VOTE” ahead of the presidential election and pregnant Coco Rocha wading through Siriano’s backyard pool in a taffeta red gown to close the show.

Speaking with PEOPLE, Siriano said the unconventional fashion show turned out even better than he anticipated.

Credit: Coco Rocha/Instagram

“It was so nice to just have like a calm, beautiful experience. It really turned out more than we wanted. But honestly, I even was like, if people don't even come, I just wanted to have this beautiful show because I've been dying to create,” he shared. “So, I was like, I have to do something, or I just feel like I'm out of a job. That's why we wanted to do it this way. And it felt like people would feel a little comfortable coming to see it like this.”

Only Billy Porter and model Leigh Lezark attended the always celebrity-filled show this year — as many front row regulars are opting out of the fashion month circuit due to the pandemic — but that didn’t stop Siriano from sending an invitation to the break-out star of 2020: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Billy Porter
| Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

"We would have loved the governor to come. He was invited, but I think he had more important things to do then come today,” Siriano joked. “But it doesn't matter because he's been so supportive and awesome. This was kind of an homage to him and all the things that he helped us do. I mean, he helped us keep our business and it was great."

“I just really felt like I just really wanted to transport people just for 20 minutes,” Siriano added of the show. “We all got to be in a different world, different place, put the bad things away and just look at some fun and have fun. And remember that fashion should be fun and exciting. We can be playful and still glamorous. And I loved that everybody got to come to my house. Because I think it felt so important because we've all been stuck at home for so long and it's nice to just be in someone else's house.”

Below, the Project Runway alum reflects on the collection and reveals his fashion predictions for the virtual Emmy Awards on Sunday.

What was your inspiration this year?

"During quarantine, I was watching all my favorite old movies when I was a kid. So Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead was something I watched when I wanted to be a fashion designer. And Troop Beverly Hills. I loved Clueless growing up and now Alicia Silverstone is my best friend. So I wanted all those things [in the collection] but in my modern way. It was a collection that really came from me finally being able to take a break and sit at home and be inspired."

The "VOTE" theme throughout the collection was really powerful. What inspired you to create those looks? 

"I wanted to do a message, and voting is so important this coming November, whatever you believe in, it's just important. I knew that we're very visual creatures — I think when you put [the message] on someone's face, they understand. So that's what I did. I did this so people think about it. You can be fashionable and cool, but also political. They can be together. That was the idea."

Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Was it hard to convince Coco Rocha to walk this year since she's expecting?

"You know what's so funny? I was like, 'I know you're pregnant, but do you want to do this?' And she was like, 'I will do anything for you. Whatever you want.' During rehearsal, she's like, 'Should I jump in the pool?' And I'm like, 'Coco, do whatever you feel right. Have fun.' And she did. I was like, 'Okay, get in the pool. Great.'"

"I don't know if she thought it through, but it's okay. I think in the end, she was like, 'It was very natural. I just did it and I wasn't thinking, I just wanted to have fun.' That's why it turned out good."

Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

How have you and your team been preparing for the Emmys? 

"We just did a couple things, nothing too crazy, which is nice. It was kind of a break. I want to be at home watching, and I'm going to take a little relaxing break for a couple of days and see what happens with this collection and see what happens next in a few months in the world, I guess. That's what we're all dealing with."

We're convinced there's a massive text chain in Hollywood between the celebrities and stylists about how to interpret for this year's lax dress code. What can you tell us? 

"There is...I can say you're going to see a lot of glamorized pajama looks. Get ready for it! I think a lot of actors and actresses are trying to just feel at home. There's going to be some glamour, too. But I think a lot of people are going to try to make it a little fun and not so like, 'Oh my God, we have to be glamorous on a red carpet.' I don't think that's what it's about this time."

We're hoping at least one celebrity wears a gown. What's your prediction? 

"I think you'll see it. I know it for sure. Somebody will!"