Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Haute couture, haute plaisir - Day 2 in Paris

Day two of Paris Haute Couture debuted with high drama and the theatrical aesthetic of the Chanel show. Like in a gothic fairytale of a damned woods, the models strutted down the runway with organised chaos in their hairdos and dark makeup of some kind of harlequins of the damned. The dresses themselves were rich in details and adornments, with delicate Chantilly lace combined with traditional Chanel tweed, tulle, beaded and sequined flowers and eau de nil feathers - an assortment of visual inspiration, from the great English ladies of the 18th centuries and their drawing room tragedies to the lost swans of Swan lake and a feminine version of Doomsday. A massively impressive collection, which defied both trends and tradition to establish itself as what haute couture is supposed to be - the closest thing to art that fashion allows.

Stéphane Rolland has often said he approaches each of his creations as if it were a sculpture. Yesterday, he proved to all that he has certainly managed to perfect his craft and vision with an almost monochrome collection so architectural, with lines so clean that they appeared to have gone from sketches to runway without any middle process in between. The shapes felt natural and organic, of refined fabrics like silk and organza, a contemporary view of Da Vinci's concept of simplicity as sophistication. It was a beauty to behold.

There was nothing simple, however, about the Armani Prive show. This was a massive display of creativity matched by a historian's enthusiasm for the beginnings of the 20th century and the riveting mixed heritage of the confluence between Europe and Asia. The gilets, the zouave-like pants and the fez-type hats that every model had fitted to her head, as well as the bold colour palette of rich reds, oranges, and saffron brought to mind the viziers of days of yore. Yet still, the striking silhouettes and the abundance of sleek pants and masculine details were reminiscent of the woman of the 20s and 30s, the strong figure on the brink of emancipation, rebelling against convention and setting out to build her own path. It was eye-catching and beautiful, yet another masterpiece from Signor Armani.

A difference exercise in creativity was Ulyana Sergeenko's new collection. Having stepped out (literally) from a book, her creations were inspired by the great US literary benchmarks of 'Gone with the wind' or 'Huckleberry Finn'. And, as is always the case with the Russian's sense of style, visible in both her persona and her designs, the end result was unapologetically theatrical and of a different era. While, overall, the collection may have seemed like a mere ensembles of costume for a period movie, what pleasantly surprised was the attention to details - the buttons on the back of the gowns were made of porcelain and hand-painted with the characters of Russian nursery rhymes, while beautiful crocheted embroideries drew attention to delicate silk blouses. It's this sense for the subtle that could make the difference for this designer in the future.

Perhaps not exactly what you would expect from the description 'haute couture', but Bouchra Jarrar's collection insinuates itself into your mind and alerts your senses with its casual sensibility and practical modernity. The collection featured a string of gorgeous coats for a wearer with great personality, each with its own detail of difference - an asymmetric closure or collar, an inventive scarf or a a striking bit of fur thrown in for good measure. The cuts of each of the clothes were riveting and the overall feel was one of impact and subversive lust.

In stark contrast, Alexandre Vauthier was all things dark, mysterious, slim and sleek. The night lady that preys on the unsuspecting, the strong silhouette of sexuality revealed and a modern homage to a hauntingly beautiful feminine presence.

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