All About Winnie Harlow's Two Custom Zac Posen Dresses for the Harper's Bazaar Icons Party: 'I Felt Like a Ballerina'

The Harper’s Bazaar ICONS party is one of the swankiest A-list soireés during New York Fashion Week, and Winnie Harlow knew just who to call to make sure she looked like a fashion fairytale for the fête, designer Zac Posen.

“Zac Posen is not only the ‘king of the gown,’ he is special because he understands me, makes me feel comfortable and radiant and is always making me laugh,” Harlow tells PEOPLE about the designer. “I am very inspired by everything he represents.”

Harlow, who starred in the brand’s Spring 2020 campaign, is close with Posen. “Zac is known for being innovative and avant-garde genius and I’m so glad to be part of his campaign. This was a designer-muse relationship at its best.”

What they came up with for her first look for the evening was a voluminous off-the-shoulder tiered and ruffled ball gown in a lilac hue.

“The volume of the dress was incredible. It was absolutely an impressive feeling just to put it on,” she says of her fairytale moment. “When I wore this dress, I felt like a princess on my way to the ball, or a ballerina on stage. It was magical.”

That ballerina feeling was exactly what Posen was going for as he designed.

“I was inspired by the New York City Ballet, I am doing their costume for their Fall Gala,” Posen tells PEOPLE. “Winnie was ideal to wear them as she is a modern ballerina, she has the resilience, elegance and poise with a definite edge and what a presence.”

While this gown made a major impact on the carpet, the party always includes a show-stopping performance by a superstar singer (this year that was Alicia Keys) so Harlow knew she needed to swap into something simpler for the party portion.

“I’m always a little extra in everything I do,” she says about her decision to change dresses.

“I left the Plaza Athénée hotel with a big voluminous dress to walk the red carpet with Zac,” she explains. “Then I went to change dresses and went back inside to give a kiss to [host] Carine Roitfeld. My second dress was as if I had removed a layer from the first. Perfect for moving with freedom and dancing while Alicia Keys was performing ‘New York New York.'”

The second design looked very similar to the first, with tulle ruffled layers in a strapless design also cinched at the waist, just with a shorter hem.

“I cannot even start to count the hours going into each gown. They are both unique,” Posen says. “Like all my designs, it starts with a drap, then a pattern, many fittings and lots of hours of perfecting. always have strong women in mind when I design my pieces, I want them to highlight their confidence and to empower them. Patience is key and always worth it.”

And it was especially easy to design with his superstar muse in mind.

“I always have strong women in mind when I design my pieces, I want them to highlight their confidence and to empower them. I love women shapes and forms and I love celebrating women.”

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