PARIS: THE NEW GUARD

PARIS — Exciting young faces this couture season seem few and far between. After all, Viktor & Rolf, the Dutch duo whose wildly inventive clothes energized the couture in recent seasons, have suspended their high-fashion efforts to concentrate on their fledgling ready-to-wear.
Nevertheless, two relative newcomers to Paris made-to-measure — Pascal Humbert and Morteza Pashai — created a splash this season with distinctive collections that will solidify their position in the couture’s new guard.
Despite their differences, the two men share several similarities. Both are shy and introverted, as well as favor flattering silhouettes, soft hues and subtle details. The two also have used the couture as a platform to jump into rtw: These respective collections, inspired by their couture, will make their debut at retail this spring.
But the similarities stop there. For his part, Pascal Humbert’s collection couldn’t have been more Parisian. Bambou, widow of the tres Parisian chansonnier Serge Gainsbourg, led off the show wearing a widely-recognized emblem of Paris chic: le smoking. Humbert’s version was sharp and clean, embroidered with black sequins to produce a sparkling sheen. From there, the designer, working in a soft palette of gray, blue, white and pink, showed several beautifully cut dresses, some with seams made to twist around the body and others with layers of organza that added volume to the silhouette. As in recent seasons, Humbert also presented dresses with handpainted trompe l’oeil patterns. Resembling either interlocking puzzle pieces or knotted rope, they were more beautiful this time around. The tailored silk organza coats with intricate, but not overly-wrought, collars were sophisticated.
Iranian-born designer Morteza Pashai, who showed his second collection here, stuck to a limited color spectrum, featuring combinations of black, gray, chocolate and azure exclusively. Pashai, too, has several themes that often appear in his designs. He incorporates architectural details, such as the geometric slices of silk worked into epaulettes on pantsuits and also worked with chiffon, layering it in undulating square strips on dresses. He has a strong approach to design, which is clean and unfettered, yet also elegant and savvy.
Meanwhile, Dominique Sirop, a former assistant to Hubert de Givenchy, focused on creating gowns with a overtly luxurious feeling. In a show at the Theater de Champs Elysees, he featured a mere 16 outfits, but the collection was intelligently distilled and geared to his client. His silk georgette gowns were richly embroidered, some lined in steel pears and gold linen, others glazed with gold. The silhouettes were long and slinky, with an accent on decoration. A shaved mink kimono, for example, was embroidered with gold linen, while another evening kimono, this time in amber organza, was embellished with ostrich feathers.
Adeline Andre prefers to imbue her couture with an artsy touch. Her compact collection was shown in a small gallery, with the models walking out in groups of five. They stopped in designated areas and began to count in what soon became an orchestrated chant. It was all a little strange, as it was intended to be. The clothes, however, were classic Andre, including futuristic, geometric suits a la Cardin that looked like a scene out of “Star Trek.” But the designer also revealed a softer, more romantic side in her simple, Ancient Greece-inspired silk georgette and organza gowns, given texture and body by the juxtaposition of different colors.

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