COUTURE’S NEW RECRUITS
PARIS — The concept of making couture hip is the idea driving many designers here who are using the haute art as a springboard for broader recognition. From Olivier and Michele Chatenet, whose quirky reworked vintage line, E2, helped them land design duties at Leonard, to Morteza Pashai and Frederic Molenac, who have translated couture collections into increasingly successful ready-to-wear ventures, more and more fledgling designers see the couture as a means to a greater end.
Bruno Pieters, 24, who made a fine debut this season with a collection that revolved around the idea of repetition, has sparked interest among a group of retailers, who are contemplating buying his line as ready-to-wear. Pieters, who’s based in Antwerp, featured just one silhouette — a full skirt over petticoats paired with a matching fitted jacket — and altered its color, fabric and tailoring details. The clothes and engaging presentation, including a revolving onstage disc and high-tech video projection, had a contemporary edge. In evoking Viktor & Rolf’s conceptual approach, however, Pieters did tread some familiar ground.
The husband-and-wife team of the Chatenets understand what’s cool. With vintage clothes at the current apex of style, their recut pieces for E2, scavenged from the thrift shops, have developed a celebrity following. Gwyneth Paltrow is a client, and earlier this month Madonna, in Paris for her “Drowned World” tour, dropped by. She left almost two hours later with a handful of clothes, including a graphic poncho cut from a antique kimono.
Their collection this season explored the darker side of fashion. Called Gothic Farm, it featured black almost exclusively with a handful of rose and pink numbers perfect for the boudoir. As is their custom, they refashioned pieces from houses ranging from Christian Dior to Chanel, adding such decorative touches as shredded lace and metal eyelets. Iranian designer Morteza Pashai, in his third couture outing, continued to refine his silhouette. There are elements of the grand couture tradition in some of the designer’s work. His coats are cut with immaculate shoulders and his full trousers are perfectly chic. These clothes with geometric rigor are his forte. But one longs for a designer with Pashai’s talent to be adventurous, too, and give his clothes a little more vavoom.
Frederic Molenac, 32, who showed dresses that were slashed and then held together with chrome spikes or leather pieces pressed into scar-like patterns, went the fetishist route. Bondage belts constrained shoulders, molded leather pieces covered one breast in some styles, while other outfits oozed primitive tribalism.
Adeline Andre, known for her bias gowns, went to work on another idea this season. In a look that was part socialist worker, part mechanic, she featured coveralls in silk georgette with chunky zippers. Andre has a futuristic streak that’s intriguing, if not always aesthetically pleasing. But when she draped her trademark dresses, juxtaposing textures and colors, the result was romantic and soft.
Fred Sathal came back to the runway for fall after a season’s hiatus, staging an elaborate show with ballerinas moving mechanically to modernist atonal music. Organic in its colors and feeling, the collection featured rich embroidery on short pantsuits, deconstructed skirts and interesting dyed fabrics. But one would like to see Sathal put more effort into creating a new silhouette.
Meanwhile, Dominique Sirop kept his customer in mind. He knows how to whip up slinky dresses that emphasize the curves of a woman’s body. This season there was an Eastern flavor to much of his work. His so-called “chic happening” at the Theatre des Champs Elysees featured sultans luxuriating on sofas as models strolled by in his opulently embroidered dresses and long metallic or matte leather coats.
Another designer who seems to want to please the client is Italian Carlo Ponti, whose designs have a glamorous Dolce Vita style geared to the jet-setter. But it’s difficult to see many woman who want to be chic wearing Ponti’s circular, doughnut-like fur or gowns with elaborate folds of tulle. When he stuck to simpler and sexier silhouettes, the results were better.
The show with the most histrionics this season, however, came from Armenian twins Vartan and Guevork Tarloyan. In their program notes, they cited influences ranging from Hieronymous Bosch to the Spanish Inquisition. The result was pure fantasy, with dramatic Elizabethan gowns, executioner’s hats, barely-there organza dresses and voluminous fur coats. But one wonders if their personal world of storm and stress can be penetrated by the outside world.
Anne Valerie Hash’s collection was more ready-to-wear than couture. In transforming trousers into jackets, skirts and blouses, though, she managed to make the experimental easy enough to wear.