Suzy Menkes at Couture: Day Four
Elie Saab: A Nostalgic Trip Home
The trees lining the ‘road ‘ that took the models from backstage to the bank of runway photographers had a deeper meaning than a catwalk for designer Elie Saab.
In a folder with a poetic storyline and peaceful pictures of his childhood home, the designer went back to the swaying laurel trees of his native Lebanon in the Sixties.
So the show had greenery down the tree-filled runway, suggesting a lazy, hazy afternoon. The collection spoke in soft and gentle colours: the pink of a pallid dawn, the green of olive trees and some exquisite applications of colourful butterflies.
Perhaps the glittering crystals at the start of the collection – and throughout – were meant to suggest sun glittering on water.
But, like every outfit on the runway, they spoke instead of Hollywood, rather than the show’s title, “A Riviera in the Levant.”
I respect Elie Saab for offering in this couture collection what his studio makes so beautifully: dresses for the red carpet – mostly long, but sometimes short and bouncy for Hollywood cuties.
I appreciated the techniques of draped chiffon, the delicate paillettes of tulips and the exceptional effects of lace cut-outs.
Yet it would have been good to see less obvious flesh, even if only semi-visible legs draped with chiffon.
Jean Paul Gaultier: Married to Couture
“You can always get married again – and again!” Jean Paul Gaultier said to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, after the former First Lady asked why the soundtrack at the designer’s riot of a couture show repeatedly played Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’.
If Carla and other celebrity guests – Dita Von Teese, Conchita Wurst and the ever-loyal Catherine Deneuve – had not got the bridal message by then, they never would.
Hadn’t they seen the opening look of a bride decked out in hair rollers, and the guest chairs adorned with white posies that were then flung on the runway?
There to catch them were mostly ‘retired’ models, brought back to the runway to storms of applause.
They included Naomi Campbell, who did the finale dressed as a flower bouquet.
But behind the high jinks were magnificent examples of Gaultier the master cutter. The way his lines follow the body was enhanced by fashion wizardry that had sleek tailoring morph into fluid forms.
“Bi-polar,” Jean Paul told me later when we met up at an event that showed off his new jewellery collection in collaboration with Swarovski.
Gaultier has always been the designer who best understood the male/female issues that changed society and fashion in the Eighties.
His mission was brought to perfection thirty years on as he created forceful, elegant and even adorable clothes for 2015, some with workwear denim embedded in high fashion.
The joyous show was a triumph for Gaultier and justified the decision last year by parent companyPuig to shutter the ready-to-wear.
Jean Paul told me that things were definitely different: that the work he put into couture and his visit to Austria for the Swarovski project would not have been possible on his previous crazy schedule.
For Gaultier, the pull back means that his fashion heart now belongs to couture.
Valentino: Poetry in motion
“We are trying to describe love,” said the Valentino duo backstage, as though it were the easiest thing in the world to thread life’s deepest emotions into fabric for a fashion show.
The story that Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli put together was also about the artist Marc Chagall, his Russian background, his Jewish heritage, and his ability to put all that together into the lightness of passing clouds.
The audience often has to suspend disbelief at Valentino creations from the current designers. But there were few arcane ideas at this show, which effectively closed the brief Paris haute couture season.
Instead there was beauty in clothes with folklore patterns and often simple, sporty shapes. So for daytime, the look could seem more Seventies boho than classic grandeur.
The evening clothes were more intense. As well as haute handwork, there was rich velvet fabric and a historic elegance. It was sometimes essential to have an open mind at a shearling bodice for the summer worn with a long skirt.
This season, there was beauty in these long dresses, often intensely decorated. But there were other chapters and verses: lighter dresses that acted as a canvas to simple, pure words such as ‘amore’ – love – or that most famous of Latin phrases: ‘Amor vincit omnia’ – Love conquers all.
It is to the credit of these designers that the sweet Italian music, the young models with flowers in their hair, and messages embroidered as decoration, created a moment when fashion became the still centre of a turning world.
Viktor & Rolf has always bean a brand to make an impression, but this season they turned themselves into Impressionists.
Van Gogh and his famous sunflower paintings were the inspiration for their wild and wonderful straw hats, with ultra-long sheaves of wheat all but concealed the colourful floral dresses underneath.
The design duo of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren has been so successful with fragrance that Iwondered what they could extract from this idea. “Impressionist!” Perhaps – with the exclamation point essential. Whatever their intentions, it made for a light-hearted summer show.