Monday, January 29, 2007

Springing into Haute Couture

Last week a few privileged designers showed their Spring 2007 haute couture collections in Paris. Although, as many of you know, I could write at length on the history of haute couture within the context of fashion design, art, and life as we know it, I thought I would reserve this space, my first post on my new blog, for a good old-fashioned rating of the collections. So, the eight shows, from worst to best, were:

8. Christian Lacroix: Uninspiring silhouettes got pepped up with fabrics and flourishes that only succeeded in making each outfit revolting. Although Sarah Mower, the reviewer for insists that Lacroix's collection "continues to entertain," I must disagree with her statement that "nobody will ever complain." If there was any doubt as to Lacroix's banality, just consider his program preface, which claimed the collection was about flowers. A spring collection about flowers? Didn't he watch The Devil Wears Prada?

7. Chanel: Karl Lagerfeld began the show with a group of Chanel jackets belted at the waist and worn as dresses with shiny black tights. Although the look was clearly aiming for a mod reinterpretation of Chanel classics, Lagerfeld couldn't quite pull it off. Instead you got the impression that some little girls were trying to play dress up. His slightly longer dresses were more successful, but then he erred again by turning 1920s silhouettes into armor-plated evening gowns.

6. Givency: Riccardo Tisci went Gothic and even somewhat Star Wars this year, which occasionally succeeded in making evening wear look interesting again. For example, now that glitzy glamour as once again become de rigeur on the red carpet, I would like to see a celebrity (not Angelina Jolie) show up at the Oscars in the daringly minimalist gown at left.

5. Armani Prive: Armani showed a coherent collection of theatrically 1940s suits and evening wear, all glazed in iridescent greys, silvers, and golds. The 1940s not being my favorite fashion decade, and the glittering fabrics not being particularly flattering, this collection does not rate especially high.

4. Eli Saab: I'm beginning to feel that if you've seen one Saab collection, you've seen them all. Saab is always elegant and wearable, favoring iridescent fabrics and flattering, accessible silhouettes, but his work could use more variety from year to year as well as within each collection. This spring, the most exciting gowns were also the most classical, as at left.

3. Jean Paul Gaultier: Gaultier showed a surprisingly wearable collection that was supposedly inspired by traditional Catholic garbs and images. Maybe the minimalism of the nun's habit was just what Gaultier needed to make his usually fantastical creations work in the real world. Who knew Catholicism could be so chic?

2. Valentino: It's hard to say why Valentino's collection seemed so significantly more interesting than Saab's or even Lacroix's. It too built on a mix of tried-but-true silhouettes evoking mid-century glamour. Yet somehow Valentino's work looked remarkably fresh, perhaps because almost every outfit was shown in a clean bright white.

1. Christian Dior: In a season of underwhelming shows, where the best compliment I can often pay is that a collection is "wearable," John Galliano reminded me why haute couture is still around and (for some) still going strong. The collection fused the glamour of Japan and Balenciaga, with a few fans and hats evoking the 1900s thrown in for good measure. Each outfit was fantastical yet logically so. It is not a collection of clothes many of us would actually wear, as haute couture rarely is and perhaps never should be. But instead of mentally altering the clothes to fit my life, I found myself imaginatively recreating my life to fit these sumptuous concoctions. I'm including a few highlights below, but take the time to see this inspiring collection in its entirety.

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