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Ulyana Sergeenko Couture Fall 2014

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Ulyana Sergeenko Couture Fall 2014: Ulyana Sergeenko looked back to Russia’s revolutionary period, setting out to translate the political and creative turmoil into a lineup that oscillated between USSR-inspired rigidness and the folly of a Tamara de Lempicka painting. In every couture collection, Ulyana Sergeenko tells a story. This time, it was a reimagining of a ride on the Orient Express. Sergeenko’s new heroine not only crossed borders (the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), but also, in a manner of speaking, cross-dressed, borrowing clothes from the men she met on her travels and mixing them with her own more feminine attire. “She could be a movie star,” Sergeenko said, “but she’s definitely a femme fatale.”

Sergeenko opened with a strict coat in black leather with worn-out effects, and quickly followed it up with a pair of luscious high-waisted pants, styled with a transparent top and a long, trailing boa. More literal references to the art movements of the era included colorful, hand-knitted mohair sweaters, an homage to Lempicka, as well as the more abstract, geometric lines of Kazimir Malevich.

At a preview a couple of days before the show, Sergeenko was keen to point out the hand-painted beaded fringe suspended from the back of a silk chemisier gown, or the way the stripes on a sheath weren’t a print but rather intarsias of narrow bands of silk. It was impressive stuff in close-up, as were the hand-embroidered cotton buds (a nod to Kazakhstan’s major crop) that decorated many of the looks.


Giambattista Valli Couture Fall 2014

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Giambattista Valli Couture Fall 2014: Nothing said “new Couture customer” like Giambattista Valli’s collection tonight. Imagine the Alhambra Gardens. A girl wakes, maybe she’s still dressed from the night before, maybe she swathes herself in a striped sheet or slips into her beau’s pj’s. It’s bright so she puts on sunglasses. Her head hurts. She wraps it in a napkin from the champagne bucket. And she goes for a walk in the garden. There’s a dry, warm wind, blossoms are blowing, they cloud her…

A pretty picture, and Valli did it justice on his catwalk. Valli visited the gardens years ago and filed the memory away for access at the right moment. It was the eclecticism of the Alhambra that appealed to him, the mix of Moorish and Spanish. That mix was entirely sublimated here, but there was still a feeling for the heat of the gardens, for the richness of the flowers, and even, at the end, a monochrome catholic strictness as a kind of cleanser before a finale of skirts fluffed into an extravaganza of feathery tulle. “They’ll be the best-seller,” Valli announced confidently, because they would lend themselves so well to weddings.

“The secret of my girls is that they’re always eccentric,” he said before his show. “They don’t playit. They are.” So you could say that there was eccentricity in a skirt in pink fluro lace laid over a striped body. But the strength of this lineup was that Valli didn’t, for once, actually cater to that waywardness. Skirts were pencil thin and below the knee, and right away that gave the collection a long, elegant, grown-up line. They were paired with crop tops, tanks, or a capelet situation that Valli liked. In the case of the full-skirted frenzy of the finale, he used tiny piped pajama tops as a counterpoint.


Maison Martin Margiela Couture Fall 2014

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Maison Martin Margiela Couture Fall 2014: The surrealists used to play a game called Exquisite Corpse, in which each artist would contribute an element to an image, fold it over, and pass it on to someone else who would then add his or her bit with no knowledge of what had been done before. At the end of it all, there’d be some screwball composite that would inevitably betray an unpredictable internal logic.

What better analogy for the house of Maison Martin Margiela’s Artisanal collection is there than the Exquisite Corpse? The recombinant elements of today’s presentation strung together a grab bag of extraordinary bits and pieces that ultimately composed “a collective memory of Haute Couture” (or so claimed the show notes). But, typically, it was not the grandeur but the detritus of Couture—the fabric offcuts, the embroidery samples—that the collection celebrated.

Artisanal’s modus operandi is alchemy: Turn a bagful of bottle tops into a shimmering skirt, stitch a handful of embroidered Van Gogh irises into an exotic sheath dress, and collage swatches of cashmere collected at trade fairs into a caftan. Or sew a mess of coins “sourced in various dressing-table drawers and from flea markets across Paris and Brussels” onto a flimsy wrap of fabric to make a jingly-jangly gypsy skirt. The ingenuity was enthralling; the fetishistic detailing of every hour, every bead or sequin slightly less so than usual, perhaps because the collection itself felt a little thin to begin with. It may be simply that the novelty has worn off. Or else the clothes themselves were less enthralling, more arbitrary than before. That was definitely the case with the lobster embroideries and the aluminum “I Love You” party balloon re-created as a crystal bustier.


Valentino Couture Fall 2014

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apping it all off backstage atValentino today, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli were talking about the Pre-Raphaelites, who themselves exalted all things classical. The goddess gowns on the runway were 21st-century interpretations of 19th-century interpretations of Roman togas.

Paired with gladiator sandals that laced up to the knees, the dresses also signposted two of the week’s other relevant themes: youthfulness and ease. The Valentino designers have always loved a long, fluid shift. In the past they’ve read as noble or nun-like. Here, tied at the waist with long lengths of leather ribbon, they looked like innocence itself, or innocence on the verge of being lost.

That caveat aside, the collection was lovely. Romantic, but with a nice sense of rawness. Credit goes to the sandals, the leather strapping, and the naive, almost rustic quality of the wool and leather embroideries. The gold and black sheaves of wheat on a white wool dress were simple but striking. Hand-painted daisies on nude organza were subtler. Which isn’t to say that Chiuri and Piccioli neglected the lavish. On the contrary, a coat in gold lamé embroidered with pearls, paillettes, and silk thread was as opulent as anything on the runways this week, and the same is true of a tulle toga embroidered with yet more pearls and crystals.

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Chanel Couture Fall 2014

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Chanel Couture Fall 2014: Le Corbusier was the architect who made concrete a staple of modern design. So Lagerfeld made concrete the foundation of his collection. Concrete! In Haute Couture! When you turn it into tiny tiles, it becomes a beautiful mosaic. Who knew? Lagerfeld delightedly demonstrated the material’s unexpected lightness by dangling a string of concrete beads under the noses of journalists. “Tongue in chic,” he crowed. “Verychic.”

That twistedness was the key to the collection. The word couture implies cutting and seaming. There was none of that here. Everything was molded rather than seamed. “It’s Haute Couture without the Couture,” said Lagerfeld, tongue firmly in cheek. And yet there was look after look of a gorgeousness so exquisite it could only be achieved in ateliers that were accustomed to confronting the impossible—and mastering it. It must help that Lagerfeld always has the future in mind as he cherry-picks his way through the past. Take lace and coat it with silicone. Think pink, but think plastic, too. Tatter, shred, disrespect…and make something new. That was all in keeping with the much-touted youth-ifying of Couture. Sam McKnight’s hair and Maison Michel’s little hats perched pertly on the back of the models’ heads had the effect of a Haircut 100 cover from The Face circa 1982. The effect was compounded by Lagerfeld building his silhouette on shorts. There were coat dresses over shorts, jackets and skirts over shorts, plus the perfect shoes for shorts—sandals. Given the molded, sculpted nature of the clothes, Lagerfeld liked the ease of a flat. “The models can walk in those dresses like they’re nothing,” he said.

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