Suzy Menkes at Couture: Day One
Ulyana Sergeenko: A Revolutionary Step
Furry balls were like puffs of snow – at the wrist, the waist, the long hemline or on high-heeled shoes. But this was a sleeker vision of the fashion fairy tales once offered by Russian designer Ulyana Sergeenko.
Whereas previous collections embraced the grandeur of the tsars and the sweetness of life on the summer tundra, this time Ulyana was inspired by post-revolutionary Russia, when, in her words, “the Bolsheviks created a bizarre form of shared living”.
What it meant for this designer was a new code: liberty, modesty, integrity – and a sense of lightness. Loyal to her Russian roots, but embracing today’s world, she sent out a comprehensive collection, vivid in its sweet colours, such as baby blue, blush pink, petrol, teal and royal blue. But a simplicity of cut hinted at the arrival of angular constructivism in art.
Ulyana has absorbed the realities of couture today: that it is made to be worn by modern women. In the mostly long dresses, fitted neatly to the body, she included details inspired by communal apartment living, from basic lamps to the joy of sparkling Christmas decorations.
The collection was not so down-to-earth, unless you think of the inspiration of a winter garden. The pre-communist decadence lingered in mink baby bonnets, by milliner Stephen Jones, and with colourful fur pompoms on Christian Louboutin shoes and boots. But the collection also had, in a controlled form, dense peasant handwork. Such decoration came through as intricate but realistic.
This show was a real step forward for Ulyana, from costume creations – however heartfelt – to fashion reality. Let’s call it a little Russian revolution of her own.
Donatella took the glamour, sophistication and sweetness of those flowers and made her vision of haute couture seem fresher and more approachable.
The flower headbands encasing long, loose hair had a Shakespearean, Midsummer Night’s Dreamquality to them – even if this was supposed to be the Winter 2015/6 Atelier collection.
“These are strong women – wearing corsets, but with a lightness to the dresses,” said Donatella backstage, where some of the models had to be fanned and the caged corsets unpinned in the Paris heat wave.
What Donatella brought to this collection was a sophisticated version of innocence. Instead of the bad girl look – all sex and exposure – the goal was a nymph-like lightness. For alongside the exposed corsets, the back might also have straps of feathers and flowers.
Even the short dresses, often airy and lacy, had a pertness that was tempered by wafting hemlines.
The tone of the show was set by the backdrop of Versace’s signature ‘Medusa’, set with bright flowers. The shades of the runway orchids – pink, purple and yellow – dominated the collection, with some mango and leaf green added to the florals.
There was a touch of hippie-de-luxe to dresses where the skirts dissolved into fringing and feathers. But Donatella was not untrue to herself: it was her vision, softened up.
Meanwhile the lacy delicateness of the long dresses was grounded by sturdy platform shoes or boots.
This was no couture revolution. But a change of venue from a gilded Parisian palace to a simpler building emphasised the difference from the Atelier’s last collection.
And making clothes for a flower carpet instead of the red carpet brought a welcome freshness to brand Versace.