Indie Haute couture: Giorgio Armani; Stephane Rolland and Alexandre Vauthier
Paris couture has rarely had as many indie couturiers as this season, ranging from a giant like Giorgio Armani to youthful couture houses like Stephane Rolland and Alexandre Vauthier. Where the common denominator is that they are happy doing their own thing.
Armani Privé: It’s standing ovation time in Paris
A standing ovation for Giorgio Armani for his latest Armani Privé haute couture collection and rightly so. With Delphine Arnault, scion of family that controls luxury’s greatest corporation LVMH, and hubby Xavier Niel, applauding heartily in the front row.
The show definitely rambled and the collection needed a major edit but there were some beautiful nuggets of fashion in this display.
Presented inside the famed concert hall, Salle Pleyel, reinvented as an Armani black and beige box with mini nightclub lamps, the show had all the elegant fantasy one expects from Armani Privé.
In the end, the best look was the finale white one, a superbly cut and gently sequined chemise and gilet worn over Indian-style jodhpurs. Topped by glistening sequined skullcap; gamine yet glamorous on a gal who looked gorgeous.
Glistening Armani, with midnight-blue jumpsuits, blazers and his beloved tunics in gradient-effect crystals; lacquer-effect silks and crystal mesh. Looks that would leave an admirer open-mouthed with awe.
Alta Moda Italiana, where the supreme refinement of the silhouette was often juxtaposed by the dazzling sequined pavés and the blinding crystal drops and baguette beads.
That said, an erratic collection, a self-indulgent 92 looks, and several real oddities – from the scrunched floral crinolines and ungainly rose-hued top overwhelmed with fabric petals.
However, those quibbles aside, this was Armani doing what he does best, tailored perfection and luminous luxury.
So, as he took his lingering bow, the whole audience rose to their feet; a two-minute ovation including Delphine and Xavier.
“What brings Delphine?” enquired one local critic.
“Shopping for daddy!” quipped another one about Madame Arnault, who apparently became friends with Giorgio on an island holiday.
Whatever. The overwhelming memory was the applause, and this striking mark of respect to Armani from Paris couture. Not an easy thing to obtain. Not at all.
Stephane Rolland: Barbara at Chatelet Theatre
Grand couture with a grand romantic tone at Stephane Rolland, whose collection was a homage to the great French singer Barbara, staged at the scene of her greatest triumphs, Chatelet Theatre.
Though little known outside the French speaking universe, Barbara’s melancholically poetic music and tragi-romantic life has a unique place in French culture. The result was a sumptuous show held on the stage, which ended with the cast parading before the grand old theatre, a great temple of the Second Empire.
Rolland’s style practically shouts French couture – so grand the volumes; so swirling three-meter-long matelassé scarves, so towering the models.
Perched on beveled Art Deco platforms, they appeared in asymmetrical tunics of black alligator; jumpsuits in black velvet opened to the belly button; elongated screen-idol sheath dresses with black crystal embroidery. Or most eye-catchingly, Masai embroidered white wool gazar gowns or wool crepe sweater dresses.
All rather Barbara, whose final concerts were staged in this very theatre. Fittingly, Valerie Lemercier, actress, stand-up comic and another French icon, addressed the audience of 600 pre-show.
“We are chez vous Barbara. This is your stage. Your theatre where you loved to play your piano in this beautiful Chatelet Theatre… And the long phrases from your songs brings us to the long dresses of Stephane Rolland,” explained Lemercier.
Rolland’s look is not for the faint-hearted. It helps to have a tall figure and a good budget. But if you have the chutzpah and the cash to wear Stephane Rolland, you know you are going to make a statement when you walk into any hotel lobby or onto any red carpet.
Alexandre Vauthier: Glam while you can
Nothing understated at Alexandre Vauthier, whose glitzy collection glimmered and sizzled down the runway inside a condemned laboratory in the south rim of Paris.
Nothing either for the reserved in this collection, which was kicky and dramatic – from a punchy black gown composed of six-inch long silicon shards to the deep-gorge black velvet va-va-vroom dress finished with a silver-sequined train.
So many sequins and cock feathers, quite a few littered the carpeted catwalk inside the light-filled space. One of the few important couture houses still owned by its founder began an important step into product diversification, as Vauthier showed some great new hold-alls and mini clutches with straps.
Couturiers have been in a reserved mood this season, reflecting the war and pandemic in the greater society. Not Alexander, whose gals cannot wait to get out to a grand dinner or hit the dancefloor.
Strutting their stuff in one-sleeve bias-cut silver sequin goddess gowns or electric-blue bugle-beaded tops, their sleeves completed with matching gloves.
Not that there wasn’t any news in this show, as Vauthier broke new ground with his voluminous sci-fi tunics and jackets, and rhomboid-shaped alligator coats.
However, despite being the reigning king of high-octane couture glamour, Alexandre’s finest moment was a series of beige crepe dresses finished with strass and Marabou feathers. Relatively toned down for Vauthier and all the better for that.
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