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Lela Rose’s fall 2023 collection is resplendent with hearts: heart cutouts on ankle-length trousers; a knit sweater featuring a heart with a sword through it; sweetheart necklines and heart pockets; there was heart lace, heart embroideries, and heart jacquards. But love wasn’t really on Rose’s mind this season. “I’m honestly not a fan of Valentine’s Day, it’s so kitschy and cheesy,” Rose said. “That was never really the inspiration. It was really about a deck of cards, and this regal fantasy in a way.”

Fall 2023 is Rose’s trip through the looking glass to see—you guessed it—the Queen of Hearts. And while Rose is known for her relentlessly optimistic designs (see the fruit-themed spring 2023 collection), she went a bit edgier and darker to bring the rich, royal influences to the fore. How does she balance such a cutesy shape with making clothes for adult women? “It’s the way that you use it, and don’t overuse it,” she said, pointing to a black velvet dress with a heart-shaped bodice and pockets as an example. Evening wear achieves this best. The goldenrod and salmon dresses made of lace with hearts (and other abstract shapes) are more subtle iterations of the theme. A white column gown with rich red and blue floral sequin embroidery is a regal standout—despite depicting the lowly three of diamonds.