Despite the overwhelmingly negative response to the spring Emanuel Ungaro show, the house’s new guard — Lindsay Lohan and her partner-in-(fashion)-crime Estrella Archs — may actually have more in common than you’d suspect with the early years of the French couturier. Well, design acumen aside. Let’s break it down.
1) It Takes Two
Ungaro, like Archs and Lohan, worked in tandem on all collections — with his close friend, sometime muse and assistant Sonia Knapp, who originally contributed $1,000 of her own money and a Porsche to help Ungaro launch his house in 1965. “We are together 24 hours a day,” Ungaro told WWD in July 1968. “And we fight,” added Knapp. “I am a Leo and he is Aquarius. We are like two men when we work. We fight it out.”
“Sometimes she slams the door and walks out. But it is good. You need to fight when you work. And Sonia is new to the business. Pure. Her opinions are fresh. Her outlook complements mine,” said Ungaro. It is, however, doubtful that Archs has a similarly positive opinion of Lohan, if the pair’s tepid finale walk was any indication.
2) Judgement Daze
Lohan is best known for her work in the tabloids, in which she appears as frequently as the words “beau” and “canoodle.” And for his part, Ungaro was no stranger to the press. Indeed, from the beginning, he provoked editors with his sexy aesthetic (OK, no glittery pasties) and sharp tongue. WWD highlighted Ungaro’s bravado and radical views on couture, not to mention his racy silhouettes, in early stories on the designer. “Emanuel Ungaro clenches his fists together, drives them forward, exhaling — as if he were ripping through all the tradition, all the obstacles in Paris Couture,” read one description of him in a 1965 story on buyers’ reception to his first collection. As for the skimpy silhouettes, Ungaro countered, “I was quite surprised to read the Paris report in so many papers claiming that my skirts were so short. I have no exact skirt length and to me they didn’t look short — I never measured them.”
As a new designer under fashion’s unrelenting and unforgiving glare, Ungaro felt a lot of pressure, of the sort to which Lohan can probably relate. “People judge me as if I’ve had ten collections behind me,” he complained to WWD in August 1966. “This was my third collection….It takes more than three collections to make a real couturier.” On the press, in general, he added: “They’ve never made me a gift of anything. Their attitude is as if I’ve had ten collections behind me. I’m flattered, but the press also forgets that I worked six years for Balenciaga. That’s all right. I don’t mind. All this is good for me. It pushes me to drive forward still harder. So long as they don’t try to close me off.”
(In the same story, however, Ungaro did make two very un-Lohan statements: “Shock for its own sake doesn’t interest me,” and, “A maison de couture is not a circus.”)
Nearly two years later, Ungaro’s resentment of the press had intensified. “Let’s kill the mystique of the couturier and the almighty power of the press,” he told WWD in July 1968. “I get all tight up when I think of those 18 people in the front row who are going to pass judgement on what I do.”
3) Too Sexy?
Ungaro was also known for his unabashedly sexy take on the couture. He was courting a new, younger, party-hearty customer. “I want girls to look healthy…sunburnt…with sturdy legs to stand on…and I want them to look as if they had a good appetite,” Ungaro told WWD in January 1966. While this doesn’t quite conjure images of a zonked-out tabloid star à la Lohan, WWD’s 1967 characterization of the Ungaro customer definitely resonates: “Ungaro creates for the modern trim woman,” WWD wrote. “She keeps her skirts short, her body tight….She shuns underwear and likes the cool chic of trim bright lines.” Now, if that’s not a good starting-place for the next Archs-Lohan collection, we don’t know what is.