Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Thoughts From Couture: Days 1 & 2

On the first day of couture, there were many presentations, seven of them couture. How does that work, you ask, if it’s couture week? Demna Gvasalia’s highly popular Vetements offered its Spring 2017 ready-to-wear collection in an effort to buck and disrupt the system. It was a startling addition amidst the bulbous ballgowns, shimmering sequins, estimable effort. There was a pessimistic air, undoubtedly. Has Vetements purposely chosen to disrupt the couture scheduling to highlight couture’s uselessness in 2016? That’s been the question on my mind, given that the Vetements show was the antithesis to couture: it’s about accessibility, functionality in a subverted manner. 

Couture isn’t accessible. It costs a small fortune, is available to the select few that have the funds to expend on dresses, suiting that costs more than college tuition, even a sizeable house. Samantha Mumba wore a specially designed, dreadfully tacky, Scott Henshall diamond mini dress to a Spiderman premiere in 2004. $9 million dollars that dress was priced at, approximately. Just for scale, that’s more than 22 million Starbuck’s coffees, or 36 houses at $250,000. Of course, there are oligarchs, royalty, socialites, businessmen and businesswomen (according to Style Caster, today’s customers are likely from the Middle East, China, or Russia). that are willing to pay exorbitant prices for a piece that will last a lifetime. But couture isn’t necessarily designed to be worn. It’s for red carpet engagements as much as it’s for museum instalments. Day one of couture presented us with ample amounts of extravagance.
      Backstage at Alberta Ferretti Limited Edition

Alberta Ferretti Limited Edition, the couture division of the Italian label, opened festivities. 20s-inspired flapper dressing ensued. Feathers, embellishment, fringe, silk and delicate gold embroidery took to the runway. Daisy Buchanan-worthy frocks for the super rich. The best was a scalloped fringe gown, accompanied by a Baroque-inspired coat—lavish! Luxurious proceedings continued at Francesco Scognamiglio, who showed in purple-carpeted gilded rooms for an intimate presentation. Black fur encasing an opaque dress, enriched with gold, leaf embroideries. With a jewel encrusted veil, and gloves to match, Scognamiglio’s exposition of glamour was ostentatious, unique to his style of work. 3-D lace in a subtle purple hue; a layered, clam-esqe creation with a silk skirt, in seafoam blue; bunched up chiffon to evoke the texture of coral. Underwater motifs punctuated this collection. Want to look like The Little Mermaid? Francesco Scognamiglio is your man.

Elsewhere, Adeline André, with a positively-cast model lineup, focused her attention on tailoring and cut. Her select clientele will be elated with this jewel-tone offering of relaxed pieces, but its magic was lost on this critic. I did find the collection an antidote to the swishy chiffon trains seen at the previous two designers collections. It was more realistic, to the eye of someone who doesn’t collect an eight figure salary.

The past few seasons have seen Donatella portray the modern woman in a more honest way. Her Atelier Versace collection headlined Sunday evening. What was on offer? Nothing to get too excited about, there were some annoying asymmetric pieces, hideous rise and fall hemlines, different fabrics spliced together incongruously. There was too much mess. To think that a year ago, the Atelier Versace vixens stomped on a raised platform, above 10,000 orchids in a 70s hazy daydream, and a year later it looks like this. That’s disappointing.
       Atelier Versace finale
Bertrand Guyon’s Schiaparelli was the opposite of disappointing. The ex-Valentino designer replaced Marco Zannini and his work for the legendary house has been estimable. Yesterday morning there was a mix of suiting and dresses, shocking pink and pitch black. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Schiaparelli collection without some Schiap-witticisms—quirkiness, shocking pink, prints of Midas, jesters, and a unicorn of sorts. Guyana’s Schiaparelli hasn’t been about reigniting a dormant label with his own unique vision, making it look entirely different than what the label stands for. His Schiaparelli has been about continuing the sartorial prowess Elsa Schiaparelli offered to her customers: sublime, surrealist art pieces that you can wear proudly on your back.

Iris van Herpen is a woman who knows all about creating art pieces, fit for a museum—multiple pieces by her are currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, at the Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology exhibit. But more on her collection another day. Likewise, I’ll been doing a bumper edition of Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier’s Christian Dior on Friday. Along with Schiaparelli, Iris van Herpen and Dior are the only couture shows worth reporting from day two.

Fourteen presentations down by day two. We are into the swing of things at couture. At a time when the future of the menswear show hangs in the balance, the womenswear scheduling being disrupted, the proliferation of pre-collections, couture is the only one left standing, unaffected by fashion’s systematic ‘breakdown’ and in flux status. Could it be fashion’s last stronghold? I think so—that doesn’t mean designers don’t need to step things up a notch.
     Finale at Schiaparelli

Photo Credit: zombie.com

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