Backstage, behind the strobe lights and floor-to-ceiling curtains, where models changed in a frenzy and audience howls dulled to a rumble, couturier CD Greene witnessed each of his looks stepping on to the runway to instant scintillation.
“This is the first time I’ve ever gotten to see the show through the monitor,” Greene said, soft-spoken with a beaming smile just moments after receiving a standing ovation as the close-out designer of Fashion Week El Paseo 2017. “Normally I’m backstage and I’m hectic; I’m running around. But this was wonderful because I got to see every piece.”
It’s difficult to imagine such an opulent and forthright fashion statement could materialize from such a gentle soul, but unpretentiously, Greene transformed a tent packed with people into a palatial disco ball. If you missed this show — the eighth and final evening of runway grandeur that is Fashion Week El Paseo — you missed an opportunity to commune with your inner Josephine Baker and to behold true, tailored splendor.
Slinky sheaths with graceful open backs. Ruffled minis in hand-patterned paillette. Pannier shapes. Spiked shoulders. Varicolored linings. Ethereal back draping. Knockout jumpsuits. This is the sort of modernized Old Hollywood glamour that sparks baby-making romance. (No, really. Following the show a couple rushed Susan Stein — Palm Springs Life fashion editor and boss lady of Fashion Week El Paseo — to thank her. Greene’s collection lit the fire, they gushed: “Second baby, definitely!”)
Leave it to a former fine arts major who studied painting, sculpture, and graphics at the Art Institute of Chicago to fabricate gowns with an architectural significance that rivals that of Palm Springs’ covetable midcentury properties by Donald Wexler and John Lautner. Greene’s commanding, jewel-encrusted couture is not easily forgotten. When a woman enters a room in a CD original, every fashion-conscious stranger instantly recognizes its creator.
The show began with long silk gloves and subdued 1940s silhouettes: A knee-length navy cape dress lined in baby pink silk with a pearl-coated portrait collar and complementary cuffs that just barely brush past the elbows. A cotton candy–colored sheath with Greene’s pearled neckline and a dramatic trailing cape. A regally sculpted high-neck gown in a whisper of a blush tone with a back-draped train and beaded nude mesh cascading down the entire right side.
Refined cocktail and gala wear surrendered to dazzling red carpet stunners as Greene’s paillette, jewel, and mirror–covered creations rounded out the night. Oh, the mirrors. In gold and crimson red, they cast tiny fluttering lights throughout the tent as models floated past the guests. An audience favorite was Greene’s supple white leather gown (so supple you might have assumed it was jersey) with protruding, statuesque hip pockets decked out in a mosaic of large white stones. Greene paired it with a matching motorcycle jacket.
A trio of emerald green ensembles, fully sequined as if possessing mermaid scales, possibly stole the show — a lanky open-back gown, a keyhole mini with flounce skirt, and a high-neck, cap-sleeve, flared-pant jumpsuit.
It’s all in the detail. Peek-a-boo linings in yellow and pink and blue. Flashes of skin in all the right places — waist-framing cutouts, artfully placed straps, lots of shoulder. Flirty ruffles. A long, feathered skirt. A moment of lavender-dyed fur. Gold on taupe. Sparkle on solids. Greene’s creations entwine the allure of a bygone era with sumptuous, wearable fabrics and refined construction.
“I’m always inspired by the films of the ’30s and the ’40s,” Greene said. “I love nature. I love aquatic sea life…” And it’s clear CD Greene loves women. It’s as if he has brought every young girl’s fantasy dress-up finery to life. He agrees with a laugh, but explains things more simply, “I love to dress them and make them instantly comfortable and fabulous.”
CD Greene receives a standing ovation from the Fashion Week El Paseo audience on the closing night in Palm Desert.
Raised in West Chesterfield, Illinois, Greene got his start designing menswear for Marshall Field’s in Chicago and moved to New York where he worked for different companies designing jeans and sweaters. In his free time, Greene custom-made cocktail and evening wear for friends, which ultimately garnered the attention of Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman buyers. Today, Greene’s gowns are available exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman and by private order; he is consistently one of Bergdorf’s top-selling designers and often drops by to fit customers in house. His Fifth Avenue atelier is two blocks from the luxury department store in New York.
Fashion Week El Paseo’s finale featuring CD Greene was presented by Eisenhower Medical Center Auxiliary. The Saturday night show is followed by a Sunday afternoon trunk show from noon to 4 p.m. where guests can see Greene’s gowns up close, try them on, and even take one home. Pieces are priced around $10,000.
VIDEO: See all the shimmer and shine of the CD Greene Collection from start to finish.