Paris Couture Fall 2016: Zuhair Murad

If Elie Saab has moved beyond his days of solid jewel tone chiffon and beaded gowns, it feels like Zuhair Murad has stepped into that void. His couture collection could very easily be written off as Red! Blue! Green! Black! Gold! Finale Wedding Dress! Any Questions?

But that would be something of a disservice to the Lebanese designer who may be picking up the slack in the market left behind by Saab, but whose takes on these sorts of dresses at least have a POV, a theme and a fair for color combinations and patterns that Saab did not have during his heyday of solids.

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For one, there was the country angle. Not quite the American southwest and not quite the Australian outback, the country flair and cowboy hats were just neutral enough to appeal to both. And that’s savvy marketing, as those who are the most drawn to the safety of these sorts of solid jewel tone gowns that show everything without actually showing anything, and won’t land anyone on the worst dressed list, is the American country music market.

There were plenty of choice in the safety color of black, including a jumpsuit or two, just to fit in with the times. There was also quite a few red ones–nothing is safer on a red carpet than red, as long as it’s a few shades darker than the floor, and these definitely qualified. My personal favorites were when he allowed multicolor to come through, though the few two-toned pieces, most notably a green with blue bead work floor-length number, were quite striking. The only place where the designer lost me was the closing gold section, which felt like one had taken country, the 70s disco scene and the golden globes and attempted to put them in a blender for the “Will it blend” challenge. The whirl of two many concepts crashing into each other was headache inducing, but I could see a Taylor Swift type with no taste thinking them the bee’s knees.

The full collection, with closing tea dipped wedding gown, is below.

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Paris Couture Fall 2016: Francesco Scognamiglio

Every season there’s at least designer who get their first invite to show as a special guest at Couture Week. This year that group contained Italian designer Francesco Scognamiglio. A Neapolitan designer who has spent his career on the Italian fashion circuit, his ready to wear collections–which he’s been producing under his eponymous line since 2000–are very, very Italian. The bigger the flounce, the brighter the floral prints, the sexier the look, is how that always seems to go. (Unless over course, you’re Dolce or Gabbana, and then it’s all about looking like a walking homage to the Vatican.)

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It’s a career high to be asked to show at Couture week, and that leveling up–even if it’s only for the one time–can lead to other opportunities. Note that only days after showing at Couture Week it was announced that Beyoncé would be wearing one of Scognamiglio’s creations at her show in Milan next week.

But as for the show itself, interesting is not the word I would use. There were touches here and there. The veils especially stood out towards the beginning and the end. But other than the use of ostrich feathers and sculptural fabrics–neither of which had much to do with the other, except that one could tell that this is what Scognamiglio considered to be various “over the top” concepts–there wasn’t much to write home about. Not that I’m knocking his collection for only having 19 pieces. Some sneered at that, as if somehow one must put on a show of 90+ pieces, a la Chanel, in order to be considered serious. It was more that it was small time. And this was the big stage. Now was not the time to play it safe. But unfortunately, that’s what Scognamiglio chose to do.

Not that the pieces themselves aren’t pretty. The full collection is below.

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Paris Couture Fall 2016: Elie Saab

There was a time when the words “Elie Saab” were synonymous with collections that were nothing but solid jewel tone floor length gowns, all chiffon and beadwork, and nothing else to say about it. Though he wrestled with prints a few times, the results were such tat he didn’t seem to risk it very often. Though this made him the go to for those looking for safe but stylish options for the red carpet, it didn’t really make his shows very interesting. After all, what can one say when confronted by forty dresses all of which are either one of three shades of primary colors?

But times thankfully change. and though there’s still a baseline of solid jewel tone evening wear floor length gowns to all Saab’s collections, he has learned how to use prints, and appliques other than beads. And now, he’s moving to New York City.

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NEW YOWK CITY?!

Yes, New York City. Saab has a Madison Avenue store slated to open in 2017, and clearly the city’s distinctive art deco flavor of architecture has infiltrated his brain and his designs. This mean that even though we might have a gown that is nothing but a blue steel shade of silver, all chiffon and sequined beads, it also had more visual interest than that, having been designed to look like an homage to the city that doesn’t sleep.

Some of the designs were probably far too on the nose to be anything other than a touch embarrassing–such as the blue velvet with the chiffon filled cut outs that was so Empire State Building as to be costume. But then one must remember that cut out velvet and chiffon is also a step in a different direction for Saab, and consider that perhaps the hustle and bustle is aiding him in evolving into someone who can credibly create stunning gowns covered in three-dimensional floral appliques like he’s been an expert this whole time.

The full collection is below.

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Paris Couture Fall 2016: Viktor & Rolf

When you run out of inspiration, look to your old work and reboot. That’s the way the entertainment industry has been going for decades now, especially in the movie houses, and also in the TV landscape. But so far the fashion industry has mostly avoided the trope. When they do indulge, it comes out as a collection like the one put out by Viktor & Rolf last week for their Fall Couture line.

At first glance Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren looked to have come up with something resembling a mashup more than a reboot. One part Mochino, with the random branding, one part Dickens with the tall collapsing top hats, and one half hippie rag rugs from the 1960s and 1970s. Exactly what in heaven’s name we were supposed to take away from this was not clear.

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It wasn’t until the designers started pointing out the upcycled nature of everything that had gone into their work, and which of their former collections the scraps that made up what piece came from that all was explained. This was the ultimate mash-up of style and substance–the brand’s own style and substance at that. There were pieces from recently lines that stood out, like scraps of carpet, from when they made all their models be the red carpet. There were scraps from outfits they had debuted way back in 1993 when the brand first launched. They even pulled from their Monsieur Men label, which has been defunct for years.

In knitting, the odds and ends from skeins can be tied together to make novelty yarns that are then used to create new pieces. It’s rarer to see the textile world use the same trick, but in this day and age when “Reuse-Recycle-It” is stamped everywhere you look, perhaps V&R have come up with the newest trend of all–mashing up yourself.

The full collection is below.

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Paris Couture Fall 2016: Fendi

It’s funny how the small details add up to the larger picture. Only a week ago, we were looking over Lagerfeld’s work at the Chanel brand, which was a paean to the brand’s hard work behind the scenes as much as it was about the clothes. But then, only a few days–and a continent or two later–we see him over at Fendi, marking one of his own milestones: his 90th birthday.

In front of the famous Italian Trevi Fountain from La Dolce Vita, the Fendi brand staged one of their most breath-taking looking shows since they showed on the Great Wall of China a decade ago. Everyone was there, from the designers of the other houses, to yet another face of the Kardashian clan, model Kendall Jenner, who opened the show.

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Of course, the difference usually between Fendi and Chanel is that the Chanel shows are all about the staging, while the Fendi shows are all about the clothes–and the fur and the accessories first and foremost. Not this time. since the show was on a stage that rivals anything Chanel has ever done, it was more about the fountain, the lighting and the overall atmosphere than it was about the models and their trappings–at least this time.

And that’s just a tiny bit tragic because if there was one thing to focus on–and nearly impossible to do so from seats so far away–it was the shoes. Gorgeous Edwardian footwear with silken high heels boots that would make Lady Mary Crawley weep from lust. Forget the fur, especially if that’s not your thing, and check out pair after pair of the most glorious ankle boots this side of World War I, and thank heavens that at least something from the era Lagerfeld was born in made it to 2016 along with him.

The full line is below.

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Paris Couture Fall 2016: Iris Van Herpen

Fashion, said I this morning, I am feeling socially conscious Is there anything in the couture lines this season that would work for that?

No ma’am, not today, thank you kindly, responds Fashion. All of the couture collections went to Paris to escape the horrors of world events, not to amplify them. How about some nice Iris Van Herpen?

Oh, said I back to fashion. Oh, she’s pretty.

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Presented as a runway show that walked though the live zen bowl music accompaniment van Herpen ordered as her soundtrack, the concept behind these pieces came from the study of cymatics, which is the visualization of sound waves as evolving geometric fractal patterns. The result was high art clothing, from head to toe (including the wooden platform shoes), in a high concept piece, and a meditative like experience for the audience, in a month where perhaps that sort of deep relaxation is what we really need.

We’ve posted the full collection below–it’s certainly small enough, with only twelve pieces, each as exquisitely crafted as the next. Each have that feel of nature, while also  feeling uniquely alien, as sounds are both something we feel in our bones, yet never see made flesh. But we do also suggest watching the video of the presentation to get the zen feel of van Herpen’s vision, and the performance of Japanese musician Kazuya Nagaya. And perhaps it too can bring you a little bit of peace on a week that feels like the bad news only gets worse every day.

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Paris Couture Fall 2016: Valentino

Yas, Queen! Slay! Is a slang terms that’s developed recently, and mostly in reference to feminist pop icons like Beyoncé. But upon looking at the couture offerings of Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri, I found myself thinking that it would be the appropriate thing to say here….but in Elizabethan English, and in regards to the actual Queen Elizabeth I, who seemed to be the inspiration for their collection.

Or perhaps the phrase really should go to Maria Grazia Chiuri herself. The rumors had been bubbling up that her time with the Valentino line was drawing to a close, and after the show, the pair confirmed it. Henceforth Piccioli will be heading up the Fashion House solo. In tribute to his long time partner in deign, they left us with a fashion line fit for a queen.

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Chiuri and Piccioli have been the heads at Valentino SpA since 2008, though they had been heirs apparent for years prior, after being hand-picked by Valentino himself in 1999, after seeing their anti-minimalist sensibilities at work at Fendi. Their run at the brand has seen the line transition almost seamlessly through the modernization of the fashion industry as the inner workings of what was once an insular group became fodder for pop culture the same as if it were pop music or movies. Not all brands made the switch so easily, but their always accessible old school glamour, though still rooted in the Italian styles and traditions, made it possible for the brand to easily remain a major force.

Chiuri met Piccioli early in her carer and the twosome has been together three decades before this split became final today. Though perhaps this final line is not the most groundbreaking of collections from the two, that was never the point. The point was to bring the glamour and the mystique of the Italian fashion world and make it so that the modern one could appreciate it. And with that goal in mind, one can say that this collection once again slays.

Chiuri has not announced yet where she is heading for her first solo venture, but all speculation is that the still empty head at Dior is the most likely spot. Until we know for certain, let us let the queens parade one last time.

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