So I’m sure you remember Nick Verreos from the best show on television, Project Runway (starring the inimitable Tim Gunn, whose own mermaidly interview you can read here), back in its second season, the season after the one in which Austin Scarlett was robbed and the very same one that Santino was on and Chloe Dao won. Nick, of course, was the dapper and erudite designer who amongst other things won the Barbie competition by making her a fabulous pink mermaid gown and has returned since to comment on other seasons. He continues to teach at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles and to design his fashion line NIKOLAKI and to write and appear on television commenting about red-carpet fashion, like on E! and TV Guide and Soapnet. So he seemed a perfect person to talk to about mermaidly fashion.
But first, look at that stylin Barbie:
So are mermaids a new trend on the red carpet?
Yes!!! Well, in actuality, this is not a “new” trend; This silhouette has been hot for several seasons now – but it has just gained “red carpet” momentum as of late.
What do you think accounts for the popularity of the mermaid look?
I think that what accounts for the popularity of the Mermaid look and shape is how flattering it is for a lot of women’s shapes. If you are a no-hip girl, this shape ca give you hips by accentuating that area and especially when it becomes much fuller at the bottom.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you are a “fuller hip” gal, this can really you a “Va-Va-Boom” figure – a la Kim Kardashian. I also think since we have been going through season after season of great red carpet “Old Hollywood Glamour” looks, the Mermaid Shape and Style really harks back to those days of Rita Hayworth and Grace Kelly and those gorgeous 1950′s gowns when that silhouette was popularized.
Do you have any favorite mermaid designs?
Mine of course!! Anything from my NIKOLAKI Collection that features a Mermaid shape is my favorite! I also loved all those late 40′s-early 50′s designs by the Fashion Designer Genius of Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga. Also, for some reason, the Latino designers such as Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta can create excellent Mermaid-shaped designs. I don’t think it is by coincidence.
What about celebrities who favor this look; do any pull it off particularly well?
Well, let’s see, I definitely think someone like Kim Kardashian (I know, I may be using the term “celebrity” a bit loosely with her!), I think she can pull it off; her body shape is made for the Mermaid Shape. I also think of Eva Longoria. She has given a “Mermaid” look on the red carpet and done it very well. I can also think of the younger stars like “Glee’s” Lea Michelle–she wore an Oscar de la Renta “Mermaid” design and looked fabulous!
If you could make a mermaid dress for one star this year, who would it be?
I think it would be Penelope Cruz or Annette Benning. For Penelope, I would love to create a gown that payed homage to her Spanish roots yet not make her look like a Flamenco dancer at a dinner-and-show Madrid Theater! And for Ms. Benning, I would love to see her in a statement-making mermaid shaped gown that would highlight her status as Hollywood “royalty”.
Do you yourself have a penchant for mermaids – if so, how do you explain their appeal?
I think I do have a special penchant for mermaids. Their ultra feminine, sexy yet elegant and still powerful. These are all the qualities that I perceive my ideal NIKOLAKI woman to have.
The “Mermaid appeal” is the fact that they are sexy yet strong. These are qualities woman like to have (at least I think so) and men love – even gay men!
How can regular human ladies add mermaid allure to their looks?
A tight fitted pencil skirt with barely a center back hem slit – ending at the knee or slightly above it – add some 5″ pumps , a slow yet determined walk, and voila: You can be a Mermaid at the office!!! Regular human ladies can add “Mermaid Allure” by simple wearing tighter fitting clothing, walking slowly and having a covert sexuality about them.
What about mermen?
Ha! I sometimes consider myself the male version of a Mermaid when I am wearing very tight skinny pants/jeans and by YSL Johnny Boots and a fitted jacket. This ensemble gives me a confidence and slow-paced strut that yes, sometimes I feel like I have tail fins I could flap!
Do you have any other advice for aspiring mermaids?
Own your strength and sexuality and be confident of yourself. Don’t be afraid to bring out the Glamorous in you every now and then–and oh…learn how to swim!!!! And do it with Style!
Bonus: Here are some of mermaid gowns Nick admires…
from Balenciaga in a 1951 issue of Vogue
to two Dior gowns from 2004
and a Carolina Herrera gown worn on the red carpet by January Jones
And here are some more of his own designs:
Ain’t they beauteous?