by Patricia Luiza Blaj
The 2016 Spring Haute Couture Fashion Week came, wooed us and left a lot sooner than we would’ve liked. During the few days in which the social media were filled with impossibly gorgeous gowns women everywhere had a very good excuse to start dreaming about their fairytales and dream dresses we used to sketch as little girls. But which ones of these collections really made the fairy tales come true?
1. Giambattista Valli
After having lived for 18 years in Paris, it would’ve been impossible for this year’s couture collection not to reflect any of the aftermaths of the terrible November attacks. While some designers chose to portray the suffering, or the resilience of the French, Valli decided “it was time to say thank you” and brought an ode to the fragility and inherent beauty of the city, by taking inspiration from its four most famous gardens: Parc de Bagatelly, Palais-Royal, Jardin du Luxembourg and the Jardin des Tuileries. As a signature Valli collection, his “fetish motif”, the flowers were omnipresent, gracing exaggerated volumes such as the bishop sleeves on tailored short lengths, while the infamous tulle plissé gowns, in shades as delicate as rose quarts and violent as poppy red, were left to be savored last. Embroideries and applications met crystals at opposites: the sparkles were as mathematically placed as the flowers were playful and flamboyant. They met on canvases just as varied: organza empire waisted dresses (inspired by “Les Sours de Napoleon”, a 2013 exhibition at the Monet), gowns of lace and macrame and my personal favourite: slender bushed of roses adorning a white mink coat.
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2. Ralph and Russo
If we were allowed to describe Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo’s collection using one word and one word only, that would most definitely be romantic. Hand painted and appliqués of flowers, glass beads shaped as petals, ostrich feathers and crystals graced delicate ball gowns, which alternated with lingerie that evoked the fifties pinup glam. Fully crystal encrusted gowns went down the runway against a similarly delicate and diaphanous backdrop, with cascading, petal adorned capes. The retro theme was highlighted with the lingerie looks, hand painted corseted bustiers paired with chiffon night robes for domestic matters and opera coats for public ones. The belle of the ball was, however, the collection’s bride: a multi layered tulle gown, lavishly embroidered with silver bullion, silk organza petals and pearls. It’s train and kimono leaves were three meters long and the model required the help of six people to turn on the runway. Now that’s a dream dress come true.
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3. Elie Saab
The Beirut-based designer took on a different angle for this year’s show: “Enter India” and so the models marched down a dirt covered runway with potted exotic plants as a backdrop, in flat explorer boots, something the Saab woman wasn’t really accustomed to. The different angle manifested in the clothes themselves, as silky, tailored pants were spotted, as well as dusters and belt bags hooked with binocular cases and leather map tubes. This season’t muse was Lilah Wingfield, an English noblewoman who traveled to Udaipur and Delhi in 1911, her photo being present on the show booklet. “India is her backdrop and her inspiration for a new blend of formalism and ease, opulence and elementary lines.” The design language featured a correspondence between British and Indian silhouettes. The ruffled high necks, abundance of lace and the tight sleeves remind us of a period when Victorian silhouettes were giving in to the Victorian era, while sashes thrown over one shoulder hint at saris. The splendid mixture gave off a vibe that’s quite different than the gentle fairy tale the Elie Saab character is used to. A breath of fresh Indian air.
4. Zuhair Murad
Backstage before the show, Murad said “I love the possibilities of corsets. You could say I wanted to put women in a gilded cage,”; and so he did, figuratively speaking, of course. A few works were on each critic’s lips after this show and one of them is “fairytale”. Zuhair Murad created a fairytale where whimsical met seductive, with a palette dominated by powdery pastels. The dresses were laced with historical inspiration (pun intended) and corsets, crinolines and tulle, adorned with 3D embroidered “flower tattoos” graced both cocktail dresses and majestic evening gowns. Most dresses featured individually sewn on flower petals, dozens of glistening sequins and silver beads. The grand finale would be part of “no ordinary wedding”, as the designer himself said, and we definitely agree. The wedding dress had a 9 meter long train and a veil to measure and it required two shifts of 30 embroiderers one month to complete. Speaking of fairy tale weddings.
5. Viktor & Rolf
“We call it performance of sculpture”, declared the two designers, as a description of the melting together of white pique polo shirts and Cubist portraits that resumes their Couture collection. Could you even imagine what the collection looks like after only reading the description? We couldn’t and even if we could, our imagination probably wouldn’t even be close to the grandeur of this show. V&R took a shot at testing the limits of wearability as they brought to life one of the most revolutionary art movements. Their motif was clear from the beginning, as they traced a clearly cubist face in a simple white tennis dress and as the show progressed, the sculptural, 3D constructions kept getting more complex, more outrageous. There were clear references to Braque’s collages, Matisse’s cutouts, Picasso’s Dora Maar and Fançoise, while the breastplates that resembles masks channeled Cubism’s fixation with primitive art. The designers also added a personal touch: the stiff ruffles and bows, which did not belong to cubists. The “A” word has been often said in regards to this collection, and while the debate is still ongoing whether an item of clothing can or cannot be called art, no one can argue that this collection was highly original and different in the most delightful way. These cubist dresses would definitely make for a hell of an attire for the villains in our childhood fairy tales.