Paris Couture Day Three: Jean-Paul Gaultier Haute Couture by Glenn Martens; Elie Saab; Valentino and Zuhair Murad
Jean-Paul Gaultier Haute Couture by Glenn Martens - A laboratory of love
The day’s outstanding show was unquestionably Jean-Paul Gaultier Haute Couture by Glen Martens, a combination of Jean-Paul’s DNA and Martens mod-mad scientist ideas.
If couture is the laboratory of fashion, this was stylistic research of the highest order.
“I felt like I had just undergone a great lifting. He took on my codes but made them in his own way. Magnifique! Formidable!” enthused Gaultier himself, after the show inside his historic rue St Martin headquarters. The collection marked the second in a novel format introduced by Jean-Paul where guest designers create Gaultier couture for one season. It debuted with Sacai’s Chitose Abe last July.
So, with this show, at least for one season, Martens took on three positions – including his own Y/Project brand and Diesel, where he is creative director.
But, this will be his most memorable collection this spring. As Martens riffed on multiple elements in Gaultier’s DNA: lingerie, androgyny, French culture, Aran sweaters and techy graphics.
Adding a certain quirky grandeur with a JPG bodycon dress finished in tiger motif, where the model practically purred she liked her look so much. Or retranslating a grand Gaultier gown into a beautiful deranged widow in tulle, devoré velvet, optical fabrics and burnt crystals – all finished with a long train. A similar dress in white topped by a small cloud of tulle was mesmerizing.
Each model – done up with marvelous chignon and single, long-fabric-wrapped braids American-Indian style, courtesy master hairstylist Odile Gilbert – walking with enormous pride.
In his program notes, Martens named the modéliste and premier main, or fabric cutter and principal sewer, in the house’s famed atelier who actually made each look. One canny play on Gaultier’s deconstruction – made by Claire, Aléna and Charlotte – was a brilliant falling asunder corset skirt and bustier.
Before going totally into overdrive with metal stud-finished taffeta gowns that seem destined for the Costume Institute permanent collection.
“A celebration, because I am not really taking over the house. I just wanted to perpetuate the dream. I did not want to invent the woman, she is already there. But I also wanted to push it a little further in a deconstructed way,” explained Martens in the backstage.
Elie Saab - Beauty in a 19th century market
People, and a fair few designers, tend to forget that sometimes the most empowering thing a designer can do for a woman is to make her look and feel beautiful.
Which was the point of the latest collection by Elie Saab, where he used the full panoply of his atelier to create gowns of great beauty that granted a certain ethereal quality to the young ladies who wore them in his show.
Ravishingly, well-cut dresses in organza embroidered with crystalline flowers that looked scattered over them by a light wind. Verdant crystal-dusted cutaway gowns worn with matching hot pants or marvelous sequined moiré columns paired with matching gloves. Real screen goddess allure.
For less racy moments, fantastic grand gowns in faille, shantung or puckered chiffon in soft pink, Prussian blue or imperial Roman purple.
Perhaps, no designer anywhere makes wedding dresses quite as magical Saab, whose final look was a bride with a 20-square-meter train, all finished in glimmering bugle beads and crystals. Lebanon might be falling apart, Beirut still recovering from that giant explosion, but Elie Saab’s atelier is still producing works of real excellence. Talk about grace under pressure.
All staged inside the Carreau de Temple, a lofty glass, late 19th-century market, where the cast marched around rows of socially distanced clients. Few more elegant in the front row than Hend Al Otaiba, the first female ambassador to France of the United Arab Emirates.
“There are so many beautiful experiences to discover in Paris, and Elie Saab is definitely one of them,” beamed Al Otaiba.
Valentino - Anatomy of a little committee
Valentino staged its couture collection en petit comité, as the French call it, before a handful of guests inside its salon on the corner of Place Vendôme.
Slim celebrity pickings in the front row, where Tina Kunakey sported her signature mop of curly hair, beside minor league influencers. Even allowing for Covid, the setting felt impoverished, doubly so given Valentino Garavani’s reputation for a certain grandeur. No sign of the founder either, though his founding business partner Giancarlo Giammetti was there.
With a far larger mob of Instagram cannon fodder lurking outside in the square than guests within, Valentino’s current couturier Pierpaolo Piccioli sent out his usual selection of grandiose faille or chiffon gowns in eye-popping colors of lilac, peppermint and raspberry.
Mingled in with spruce summer suits or crepe columns with hefty golden leaf necklaces, worn on models with feather eye extensions worthy of Julia Fox. And in a co-ed show, added in a few loosely cut, Miami Vice suits for guys worn with drop neck t-shirts.
The collection was entitled 'Anatomy of Couture'. Piccioli even hung a banner outside the corner building announcing that name. At the finale, the Roman couturier embraced his atelier staff of petits mains and artisans as if he were about to emigrate to some very distant land.
Adding to the gloomy air, the soundtrack was entirely made up of the melancholy music of Antony & The Johnsons. Plus, the finale, was a tearful rendition of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Bob Dylan’s lament for the dying moments of Western sheriff. Was Dylan’s final farewell to a brave lawman some sort of hint?
Zuhair Murad - Jacqueline Sparrow on rue Castiglione
Captain Jack Sparrow or rather his wife and muses marched in some splendor in Paris couture on Wednesday in the latest show by Zuhair Murad.
To make the idea clear, Murad’s curvy runway was a facsimile of an ancient map of the Spanish Main. While his opening look was a rock star pirate in splendidly cut tuxedo dress, covered in golden chains that jangled as she sauntered through the Salon Napoleon in the Westin Hotel. Topped with a straw tricorne hat, she looked bound for helm of The Black Pearl.
It’s an historic couture location, where Yves Saint Laurent no less staged his shows for many seasons. And Zuhair certainly filled it with plenty of piratical glamor. One lady sailor was practically drenched in sailor’s loot; gold cables, ruby, emerald crystals and scores of strands of pearls were all sewn onto a subsequent impressive toile column.
Otherwise, the Lebanese couturier concentrated on what he does best – grand gowns for society weddings and upper echelon balls. But what really mattered were Zuhair’s lady pirates of the Caribbean.
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