Paris haute couture’s opening Monday had plenty to offer the purist and the fantasist. As three very talented designers – two hired to reinvent historic Paris marques, and the other the métier’s most influential independent – offered contrasting visions of couture – from the decadent to the dashing.
Schiaparelli: Corrida couture
Elsa Schiaparelli always had a thing for the corrida, and so does her latest successor Daniel Roseberry, whose latest collection for the house was entitled Matador Couture.
Unveiled online in a four-minute video on Monday morning, the opening day of the Paris haute couture season, the collection marked the latest post-surrealist take on the house by the Texan-born designer.
From the opening look; a sleeveless satin moiré dress in the color of Albero, the yellow organic sand of the bullring; finished with contrasting bosoms – studded conical brass on the left, woven passementerie on the right, on a model who sported giant evil-eye earrings dripping with white and indigo pearls.
Though Roseberry’s matadors will make the Alternativa – or graduation ceremony – in patchwork concoctions of baroque splendour. Cocoon coats in jacquards or even denim, hyper embroidered and worn with gold or black leather leggings. Often anchored by art deco multi-layer platforms.
Bullfighters and their mujeres, a superstitious lot by definition, will surely admire the marvellously outlandish petal shaped chokers, finished with hands, noses and ears.
Roseberry put the house’s atelier inside its Place Vendome headquarters into overdrive with a remarkable jacket in densely woven crystals – a couture Suit of Light if ever there was one. While another brilliant display of craftsmanship, a jacket delicately embroidered with fabric roses, referenced a 1937 creation by Jean Cocteau and Schiap’.
Though born in Rome, Elsa also did love Spain. Her original print advertisement for the 1950 Zut de Schiaparelli featured an angelic female matador with violet cape leaping over the downward pointing horns of a raging black bull. While auctions at Christies occasionally throw up vintage toreador looks and boleros with dense embroidery.
“For two years, I’ve been saying that I didn’t care about nostalgia. This season, though it’s where it all started. I found myself wondering again and again: What if you combined a little Manet; a little Lacroix; a little 1980s; a little 1880s; a little matador; a little space alien; a little Ingres; a little shimmer; a lot of color? Could I do it? And what would it look like? The answer is this, my fourth couture collection, “The Matador”: A collection that honors Elsa’s vision but isn’t in thrall to it,” explained Roseberry in his program notes.
Hopefully with a little more longevity than Lacroix.
Azzaro: Haute Decadence
“The lockdown was a good time to take a moment to really have a good look at this house,” opined Olivier Theyskens, who presented his latest collection for Azzaro Monday afternoon.
A four-minute video, and a highly coherent and respectful interpretation of Azzaro, a marque best know for its high-octane Gallic glitz and roll.
Theyskens certainly pulled few punches with coats made out of “clunky sequins” that almost shot out sparks. While his broad-shouldered trouser suits for ladies looked like they were made of broken glass. One could have sworn the chalk-striped gangster rocker suit was constructed in malleable wrought iron. His cast seemed to be poured into the anthracite sequin columns or fun metal vegan leather cocktails.
Theyskens added his gothic touch to asymmetrical cocktails showing acres of leg. One sure needs a good body to wear Azzaro, but if you’re fit then you own most rooms into which you walk.
“For me Azzaro is Versailles, but it’s not baroque. It’s alternative materials and oversized sequins; graphic and asymmetric cut-outs and diagrams,” argued Theyskens.
During the confinement, the Belgian designer got a guided tour of the Galliera archives from the fashion museum’s main curator Alexandre Samson. An immense pleasure to rifle through three huge racks of Azzaro archives and a bunch of boxes, he recalls.
“I was privileged to go there. Most of the stuff had been worn by famous singers or actresses. All there for a reason. It’s a very serious conservatory,” notes Theyskens who, unlike many young designers, sketches with ease – on an iPad no less.
His take on Azzaro is very much Haute Decadence – sexy tops with strips of Plexiglas over caviar micro pearls; risqué chic columns with plenty of shoulder and a neckline that does not overwhelm. Parisian nightlife – though not precious, but sexy and cool. A blend of Azzaro Couture and Azzaro Atelier ready-to-wear that connects to the founder’s approach to fashion.
“I think Loris Azzaro was very cool and I like to work in his theme of mind,” concluded Theyskens, by far Loris’ most credible successor.
Giambattista Valli: A new direction amid New Brutalism
Now that’s what we call a juxtaposition. Paris’ most romantic resident couturier Giambattista Valli took his latest collection very far away from its usual haute bourgeois setting this season. Unveiling his fall/winter 2021/22 at a massive monument to New Brutalism, Oscar Niemeyer’s bunker-like structure that was once the Communist Party of France’s headquarters.
The result was Valli’s strongest collection in years. Too often in recent seasons Giambattista has veered to a somewhat saccharine version of voluminous couture. Clothes that worked far better in fashion shoots than in real life.
Not this season, where his draping, tailoring and detailing had renewed vigor. As if Valli had finally departed the Salotto Buono for the real world.
His fantasy was very fresh – like the candy-floss pink feathered column topped by a feather cloud-cocoon hat in matching colors. And Giamba, as he is generally known, managed to whip up a great femme fatale double-breasted suit with arching lapels.
Not that he didn’t send out several mammoth chiffon gowns with four-meter trains, that floated majestically in the concrete bunker, designed heroically in undulating concrete by Niemeyer – the greatest architect of the tropics.
Valli’s Amazonia models strutting around concrete walls and pebble-dashed rooftops in dramatic crepe cocktails with massive organza fan-shaped shoulders. Heads covered in outrageous Barbie doll wigs with satin ties; or faux-futurist hairstyles courtesy of hairstylist extraordinaire Odile Gilbert.
Giambattista Valli Haute Couture Fall/ Winter 2021-2022
Interspersed with the images of concrete were drone shots of rural chateaux and estates, as Valli also introduced menswear. Neat calico suits worn with capes; giant priestly soutanes; or absolutely brilliant tuxedo shirts sewn full of marabou feathers which stylists will fight over for VIP clients. Eat your heart out Arsene Lupin.
“Extraordinary creatures who abandon their sensual garments opting for the attire of men – strangers, friends, lovers – whom they met in this adventure of Parisian glamour, saturated by the neon lights of a penthouse, a private club, a lounged or a parking lot,” was the Italian couturier’s aromatic interpretation in his show release.
Before Giamba took one of his proud, black-bearded, cashmere-sweater-hugging bows. Designers have practically all given up taking the applause during the pandemic in their online show videos.