Fantasy Fashion

Avatar’s look is influencing designers—whether they’re aware of it or not

After watching Avatar at the Cinerama Dome in January, Alexandra Becket returned to her studio in the Fairfax District and began to sketch. The textile designer, whose prints are used for Anthropologie clothes and Pottery Barn home furnishings, riffed on images in the 3-D film. “Trumpet-shaped mushroom plants, glowing night foliage, floating jellyfish—these are my latest shapes and forms to reinterpret,” says Becket. The movie was also evocative for jeweler Martin Katz, who recognized the underwater inspiration behind its creatures and colors. “The visuals in the movie look like the sort of life you see on a coral reef,” says Katz. For his Beverly Hills boutique he plans to reprise his gem-encrusted pieces depicting a sea horse, an octopus, and a fish.

Now that Avatar has become the top-grossing film of all time, Pandora’s kaleidoscopic palette, Thomas Kinkade-like lighting, and organic curviness are positioning the movie to replace Project Runway as the fashion industry’s latest pop culture touchstone. “Any designer or artist who sees it will be inspired either directly or subliminally,” says Tarina Tarantino, whose eponymous line of accessories is known for its candy colors. “My fall story for our collection has an otherworldly theme. It feels even more appropriate after seeing this film. I think there is a general feeling in the air of ‘What else is out there?’?”

Although Avatar won’t have the instantaneous trendsetting impact of Flashdance’s ripped sweatshirts or Clueless’s plaid miniskirts, it could bring butterfly prints and jungle motifs to shops this year, stemming the tide of dark minimalism that was building before the film’s release. Subconsciously, Avatar will enhance the public’s visual sophistication, says dress designer Juan Carlos Obando. “By bringing the fantasy genre to the masses, the movie will help train people’s eye to appreciate visuals with a narrative behind it,” he says. “And the more they are able to understand the visual of a garment, the more they are able to value it.”