Fall for Couture’s gravitational pull

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PARIS – The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing on the red carpet; billionaires are back in Sun Valley; and in Paris – “It’s like a school reunion, isn’t it?” said Carine Roitfeld, the French fashion editor, sliding her veil of hair from her dark eyes and taking a peek at the Dior show on Monday as the first week of live couture in over a year began .

Much of the band sat, as always, in a specially constructed box in the gardens of the Rodin Museum, this time suspended with an embroidery band depicting an imaginary landscape created by French artist Eva Jospin and made by the Chanakya School of Craft in India for three months. The participants who had not seen each other since early 2020 hugged and kissed with pleasure. Mrs. Roitfeld looked amused, if not entirely satisfied, by it all.

That’s right, there was something a little baffling about this hasty return to the familiar: the paparazzi clamoring for a photo of Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence; the pass-the-Champagne multi-course vegan dinners to celebrate every night; the stiletto heels clicking on the steps of the Palais Galliera.

So, while the audience was no longer so crowded that every seat on a bench seemed to be on a neighbor’s leg, and masks were still needed in the tents, the gravitational pull seemed backwards: back to classicism swish and holographic of an Armani Privé pantsuit; the explosive tulle of a Giambattista Valli evening dress; the intricate mosaic of a Fendi fur (although the furs were all made from ancient hides).

This is not to say that there have not been great – and even minor – leaps forward.

Fifty-three years after Cristobal Balenciaga closed the doors to his couture salon, Demna Gvasalia reopened them, recreating the pieces as precisely as possible, picking up where the man generally considered the greatest couturier of all had left. stopped. Sitting on a gilded ballroom chair where a single crimson eyelet had been placed precisely on the diagonal of each seat, it was hard not to think: the walls are probably panicking.

Because it wasn’t a trip to a strange wormhole in the middle of the 20th century. It was a master class on how to learn from the past in order to most effectively reach the mid-21st. How to question everything you thought you knew and reassess.

Instead of the old front row – Mona von Bismarck, Bunny Mellon, Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness – there was Kanye West (who came out on top), Lewis Hamilton, James Harden and Lil Baby. Instead of just nimble women on the runway, models came of all ages, shapes and types of beauty. (There was even a burgeoning minor celebrity model: Ella Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris’ stepdaughter.)

Expectations have been overturned – not just who gets to the seam or who is included, but what constitutes a couture garment; everyday and street totems have been transformed into elite objects.

Mr. Gvasalia played with the sack dress, of course, but it became a sack jacket: pinched at the waist, with a portrait collar torn off at the collarbone to form peaks around the neck and hollowed out at the shoulder blades. , as if he had been caught in the act of rejection. They came in neon orange gabardine and shaggy, silver faux fur, but also denim which itself had been treated as a valuable fiber, sourced from original machinery in Japan with silver plated hardware.

He crafted a padded black satin flare back tee with flared sleeves and a slightly raised collar, paired with loose jeans and a gorgeous opera stole that sweeps the floor. “I suffered for three months for this T-shirt,” he said after the show. “It’s much easier to make a ball gown.” To be fair, he also made them (most often inspired by the archives), in muslin wrapped around the body, or embroidery made somewhat degraded by time. He transformed parkas, anoraks and bathrobes into opera capes in ruby, shocking rose and chrysoprase.

Everything had the purity of monastic form, the rigor, and the absence of foreign rustling that defined Balenciaga in the first place, fueled by the forward momentum that pulls the walls down that marks Mr. Gvasalia’s work. The result broke through the torpor and discontent of the past year and put an end to all those whining questions about the importance of fashion. It made you want to dress up and go out and do something.

Obviously not everyone can, at least in these clothes (in fact, very few people can), but at this point Mr. Gvasalia is so widely copied by all mass market brands that before you know there will be a version of it. come to a store near you.

Speaking of action plans: Iris van Herpen took as her theme the earth seen from above, to better offer some perspective on our place in it after last year’s isolation. To do this, she teamed up with Frenchsky diver Domitille Kiger, who whirled through the air in an extraordinary gown from Ms. van Herpen’s collection that herself seemed to exist halfway between earth and sky. (Fun fact: Ms. van Herpen is also a skydiver.)

According to the designer, this was, as far as she or Ms. Kiger knows, the first time a jump has been attempted in a dress of any sort, and she ended up having to come out of thousands of tiny spheres. to withstand the pressure of someone falling at around 186 miles an hour. Indeed, Ms Kiger made her first jump into a web – the fabric used to make the sample – and, Ms van Herpen said, when Ms Kiger landed, “it had practically disintegrated”.

It is a solution characteristic of the work of the designer, which itself seems to exist in an area beyond fashion: a place where a dress can become a mutant expression of life processes; a hybrid creature of technology, art, imagination and… recycling. (Many of the other dresses in the collection, equally mobile and alluring, were made from fibers from recycled ocean plastic.) Someone is calling Guinness World Records.

Viktor & Rolf, masters of double-meaning couture, built an entire show as a meditation not just on brocade and jeweled adornments, but on the real meaning of royalty (kind of a hot topic these days) . Not to mention the different uses of the word “queen”, which has been splashed onto a variety of ceremonial scarves such as “A Royal Pain in the Ass” and “Size Queen”.

At Schiaparelli, Daniel Roseberry played at “finding the part of the body”, by pouring the elbows, the abdominals, the nose, the breasts and even the hollow of the buttocks in resin printed in golden 3D and inlaid them on a jacket. in matador jeans (made up of 11 old pairs of jeans), glamorous black dresses and even accessories. A pair of high heels gave new meaning to “toe-toe shoes”.

And nonagenarian architect Frank Gehry showed up to be feted at a Louis Vuitton dinner celebrating his very first perfume bottle, the lid of which looks like a piece of crumpled tin foil or a remnant of a vessel. spatial Bezos or Musk.

“We wanted to work on a wardrobe,” Maria Grazia Chiuri announced before her Dior show, which involved doubling the almost invisible alchemy and the touch of the hand: tweed remade in cashmere, feathers and intarsia so it was like big. swaddling clothes; Greek dresses so light they seem to wear air, although it actually takes 12 days of minute tailoring to make them.

This kind of effort is almost impossible to see with the naked eye, not least the smartphone. Ditto for the way the signature loop has been recreated in sparkling trompe-l’oeil Lesage embroidery at Chanel. Although designer Virginie Viard gave the influencer generation a (a little awkward) nod by oversizing the costumes and adding eyelet bustiers and navel-baring nipple tubes. And she paired flower-encrusted empire-waist tunic dresses with matching inlaid panties – like leggings, the couture version.

At the end of the show, after a majestic parade around the courtyard, the bride – Margaret Qualley, actor and daughter of Andie MacDowell, in a simple and elegant seashell pink dress – threw her bouquet above her head. and it landed in the turn of Laura Brown, the editor of InStyle, who burst out laughing. You had to be there.

For those who couldn’t pull away from their screens completely, John Galliano tossed the catwalk tradition at Maison Margiela to the wind and instead came up with a gothic horror short by French filmmaker Olivier Dahan inspired by stories and scenes. characters that Mr. Galliano invents to evoke his collections.

There was a 19th century fishing village, a ghost ship, a shipyard. There was a crown of shards of mirror that summoned a supernatural plague. There was a sort of shadow vine regurgitated from the mouth of a young lover. One hundred years have passed. There was another community, with a seer. There were dances in shirts and underwear, animal masks and rituals. There was a third age and a modern young woman who donned the crown and became the Cursed Queen. There were strobe effects and a blood moon.

Some were magnificent. Some were stupid. A lot of things were difficult to follow. But there were also some pretty amazing clothes, when you could see them.

In a sort of prequel documentary, the designer opened up about the painstaking experimentation and hours it took to create the outfits: the jackets and dresses spilling out old wadding made from animal corpses and recycled fabrics. , initially to eight or 10 times their size, then shrunk to mimic the effects of time and tide via an enzymatic and acid wash; the sweater made by assembling crocheted “delft” checks (the palette was very Dutch Renaissance); giant overcoats with old newspaper clippings sewn into their surfaces like stains from the past. The sorcerer’s robe made of mirror shards, sack robes and a voluminous lace and silk robe.

Was it the tailoring or was it the costume? Like all clothes, a bit of both.

In his introduction, Mr Galliano said it was about “anxiety, the power of nature and, in the face of it, how helpless we are”. It may have been expressed in fiction and fashion, but after last year there was no debate.


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