Our review will be posted shortly. See the complete collection by clicking the image at left.
Bouchra Jarrar has been showing at Couture for six seasons and has yet to put a single beaded ball gown on her runway. Rigor is her stock in trade, and there was more of that at her Musée Bourdelle show today. She opened with tailoring. It’s as precise as ever—she cuts a mean pair of trousers. But notice the ruffle at the hem of the first look’s ivory vest. That small detail told the whole story of the collection, which was notable for its new sense of femininity.
“Everything has a waist,” she said backstage. “It’s very constructed, but A-line and flared.” A year ago, her jackets were boxy and her frocks were almost egg-shaped. Here, belts played a starring role, whether cinching dresses made from shirting stripe fabric or buckled over the black, peplumed bustier that topped a pair of gabardine pants.
Women have fallen for Jarrar because she’s given them something new to wear for work. This season, seduction is the order of the day. A silk gown in a lily print turned to reveal a plunging draped back. Another long dress was made from shifting layers of georgette and crepe de chine in black and a green she aptly called “very profond“; the effect was captivating. And, yes, she even did a beaded gown, or at least it was partly beaded on its bodice. Lovely all around.
Fashion had seen nothing like it for years. Outside in the street, there
was hysteria. Inside, the industry’s great and good—Alaïa, Elbaz,
Jacobs, Theyskens, Tisci, Van Assche, Versace, von Furstenberg—gathered
to see Raf Simons debut his first haute couture collection for Christian Dior. That it would be a success seemed a given, what with the evolving
polish and confidence of Simons’ “couture trilogy” for his previous
employer, Jil Sander. That it would be such a triumph was a thrill. The avant-garde outsider from Antwerp insinuated himself into the hallowed history of haute couture with a tour de force
that had both emotional and intellectual
resonance. As the man himself said, “A shift is happening.”
About that outsider thing: It’s a position that has always loaned a
crystal clarity to Simons’ vision and has helped him to the purest
interpretations of his inspirations. Here, he used that unusually
heightened sense of focus to reflect on Christian Dior as architect, a
notion that dovetailed neatly with his own obsession with construction.
The first look—a tuxedo whose jacket was shaped after Dior’s iconic Bar
jacket, one of the most distinctive silhouettes in fashion—established
an innate compatibility that reached across a half-century.
Simons has been engaged with this world for a while. Dior was obviously
the guiding spirit of his fascination with midcentury couture (see the Q&A here) during his
last seasons with Sander. But he approached an actual couture collection
with an appropriate balance of reverence and iconoclasm. One key
silhouette could best be defined as a full-skirted classic ball gown
truncated at the peplum (a quote from a 1952 collection, according to the
run of show), its skirt replaced by black silk cigarette pants. The
formal past, the streamlined future, meeting in the middle. It was the same with
the traditional Bucol silks woven to represent a painting, drips and all,
by Sterling Ruby, one of the contemporary art world’s hottest properties
(and a Simons favorite). Past and future met again in an evening
ensemble that matched the athletic ease of a citron silk knit to the grandeur of
a floor-sweeping silk skirt. And the veils that Stephen Jones contributed
to the finale may have been from Paris in the 1930’s, but there is
timeless allure in that look.
Simons returned to the flared hip of the Bar with a deep-pocketed coat-dress in red cashmere as well as a strapless dress in the same
heartbreaking shade of pink that launched his last Sander show. That was
the kind of subtle personal flourish that married his own story to
history. It also underlined how much of an asset Simons will be not just
to Dior but to couture itself. He can’t help himself; he will bring a
heart-on-his-sleeve human dimension to this remote and rarefied world.
But as he proved today, he certainly won’t be doing it in a low-key way.
Christian Dior’s own obsession—flowers—was translated into salons
lined ceiling to floor with panels of blooms: delphiniums in the blue
room, orchids in the white room, mimosa in the yellow room, and so on.
More than a million all told, making a gorgeous architectural abstraction
of nature. There’s some kind of metaphor about creative processes in
there somewhere, but it’s simpler to leave things with Simons’ own definition
of the day: “a blueprint.”
As a brand becomes more established, recurring stylistic elements come to be known as “house codes.” That Collette Dinnigan has several easily identifiable touches—lace that flutters over shoulders and neckline-to-hemline sparkle both come to mind—speaks to a level of consistency that she’s more or less maintained over 20 years.
Her 2013 pre-collection follows the classic Resort ethos—clothes for beach getaways—without abandoning her red carpet-lite niche. Dresses in geranium, sky blue, and crisp green French lace skimmed the body without clinging. A short-sleeved dress in mesh and lace was an LBD with staying power. Dinnigan placed equal weight on three-dimensional fabrics (featuring raffia flowers, beads, and paillettes) as on two breezy but busy prints.
If some pieces (the daisy embroidery, the coral capped-sleeve ruffle dress) prompted a déjà-vu reaction—as in, doesn’t that look like [insert high-end label here] from Spring 2012?—it simply confirms that this designer can turn runway drama into first-date fashion. Her collection will make it to poolsides and movie premieres; eyelet blouses and jersey dresses looked travel-friendly, while the bejeweled gowns are party photo bait. These are lifestyle codes that Dinnigan understands well.
Olivier Rousteing has developed a bit of an America fixation. A year ago, at a presentation of his first collection for Balmain, he was talking about Las Vegas. When he was working on this Resort lineup, a trip to Miami made a big impression. You saw it not only in its South Beach colors (yellow, peach, and mint) and oversize Don Johnson proportions, but also in its Latin influences. “I’m mixed race, too,” he said, “so it was beautiful to see the connection between Cuba and the U.S. there.”
“Fun, happiness, and hope” were the endearingly earnest Rousteing’s talking points for Resort, and we’d say he nailed all three, without killing off the sexy edge that defined the Balmainia moment under his predecessor, Christophe Decarnin.
The key silhouette here was an elongated blazer that buttoned well south of the navel and fell to about the hips, worn with loose, pleated, and cuffed trousers. There was no such oversizing with the dresses, though, which remained as mini as mini gets. Rousteing is really getting behind a silhouette with a folded-over skirt construction that creates a flaring volume at the sides of the thighs. He also gets this season’s prize for novelty for a dress made from basket-weave raffia.
You may never walk a mile in Ralph Lauren‘s shoes. You may have to walk a mile to Ralph Lauren’s shoes. A fashion spectator, invited into Lauren’s sweeping Madison Avenue showrooms, has a long journey ahead of him. The trip through the worlds of Purple Label, Black Label, Polo, and RLX—plus the Jeans iterations of at least a few of the preceding lines—seems to encompass at least one city block. Bring your hiking boots. Or borrow a pair of those on display.
First, Purple Label, the toniest jewel in the RL crown—the chairman of its board, if you will. The highest rollers won’t be disappointed by the three-piece tailoring and tailcoated evening options, though they may be surprised to find them newly snug, thanks to a slimmed silhouette. The sportswear offerings have been much expanded, from floral pants to hazard orange, bonded slickers, for the CEO who peacocks when he’s off the clock. Or perhaps just in acknowledgment of the fact that today’s CEO isn’t necessarily hoary. This is the age of the Instagram millionaire.
At Black Label, the story is brown. It’s the label’s new neutral, and it looks great against the country club pastels like lilac and sea foam that are RL standards. The Black Label denim gets in on the story, too, in weather-beaten sand tones.
Polo is more relaxed, the college boy of the bunch, with natural shoulders and softer materials to match. The RL team has begun to mix it in with the technical-sport RLX collection, a move that’s brought a bit of freshness to both. The vibe is Outdoorsman in the Off Hours—which translates pretty directly to Men’s Fashion Editor in the On Hours. Leave on those hiking boots, in other words, but put on your blazer, too.
Our review will be posted shortly. See the complete collection by clicking the image at left.
Pity the designer who had to follow Raf Simons’ blockbuster debut at Dior. Today, that task fell to Alexis Mabille, and the Frenchman suffered by the comparison. A beauty look that had his models sporting crescent moon hairdos with diamanté brooches suspended from their tips did him no favors, but the collection’s more fatal flaw was its lack of focus.
Backstage, Mabille said he was “imagining women as jewels.” That gave him his far-ranging color palette—malachite to opal to topaz to platinum—and an excuse to lay the sequins on thick. Beyond that, it was hard to connect the dots between the show-opening clingy black jersey dress trimmed in 600 buttons and the finale look in nude crepe veiled in a silvery organza. Still, there were a few winners in the mix. The long-sleeved velvet number with slits on the front and back of the bodice and batwing sleeves stood out for its simplicity. There’s beauty in diversity, sure, but a strong point of view is everything in fashion, as Simons made so clear at Dior. Mabille’s collection didn’t have enough of that.
Vintage tennis outfits from the thirties and forties inspired Cacharel‘s new Resort collection. Styled with crisp white sneaks and a ringlet-curl pixie cut, lookbook model Maja Salamon channeled racket stars from the era like Pauline Betz Addie in cotton shorts sets and collared pointelle knit dresses (the Wimbledonlike green turf on which she was standing helped achieve the desired effect). For their first few seasons as creative directors, Ling Liu and Dawei Sun resisted the French house’s signature Liberty florals, opting to show more graphic patterns instead. This time around, the design duo put their own spin on the signature prints, mixing in crystallized butterflies with the standard blossoms. The result was particularly fresh worn head to toe on a fitted tank with matching wide-legged trousers. Other noteworthy moments included a tie-back turquoise top paired with a “wavelength”-motif silk maxi skirt and an on-trend, away-from-the body geometric jacquard coat.
Giambattista Valli spun a bucolic backstory for his Couture collection: nymphs, fairies, silvery reflections in woodland ponds. And the Master’s Margarita, witchy and wanton in her dealings with the devil. Ain’t couture grand! Remarkably, these pagan sentiments almost managed to infiltrate the clothes. They certainly shaped the prints.
Valli was thinking that the couture dream is so far away from what constitutes “fashion” in most people’s minds that he could follow his fantasy into some timeless realm, a place where the transience of beauty was arrested, kind of like the dreamy fairyland in Ridley Scott’s Legend. It was a lovely idea, embodied by models whose veiled heads were studded with butterflies. But the clothes didn’t match the concept.
That was partly a function of Valli’s solid grounding in Roman alta moda. If the prints brought the moda, the silhouettes looked merely alta, ruffled to discomfort, extended into traditional volumes that looked… er… stuffy.
There were moments when the concept crossed over into glamorous conviction. A coat designed to look like the grass of a woodland glade had a shaggy splendor. A sequin underskirt shimmered like sunlight on water. The final outfit, an orgy of ruffles, had a tenebrous sensuality. Otherwise, Valli’s party-girl froth went off the fizz with this collection.