Clashing forces of history from Ulyana Sergeenko
Two moments marked Russian history: the end of the Romanov dynasty at the beginning of the 20th century and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
What amazing tales! And who better to express these moments than Russian designer Ulyana Sergeenko, couture's primary fairytale-teller? She took the two opposing events, dragged them from the pages of the history books, and created an intriguing look – part grandiose, part crazy boho.
Against a backdrop of an intensely decorated Paris hotel, worthy of Romanov excess, the models looked purposeful but charming. Chalky colours like the facades of St Petersburg brought a decadent prettiness to a pastel pink Soviet cap, worn at a rakish angle, the work of British milliner Stephen Jones.
Bags shaped like cats and fish or with card motifs from a decadent dynasty added depth to the tales of Russia. But it was the visual effects that garnered the most attention. The pale green of a fluffy fur jacket competing with melds of yellow, peachy pink and turquoise. It was mesmerising to find the unexpected: ball dresses worn with the military caps, brief hemlines on A-line dresses, or skinnie Bowie looks. I felt a sense of chaos with the mash-up of the early era. And of freedom in the post-Soviet period.
There is something compelling about Ulyana's work and the intensity of the hand-decoration, which included the cat purses. She described the fashion storyline as "Marie Antoinette meets David Bowie”. However pretentious or ridiculous that might sound, the designer gets better each season as her technique and vision develop. And this show was a winner.