PARIS: WHAT A FRILL!
VALENTINO: After a raucous weekend of party girls, Ming molls, Goa girls and wayward Victorian ladies, Valentino did his part to uphold the grand old style of couture at his Sunday evening show. No themes, no scenes here. Just an exquisitely executed collection with all the flashy touches his Ladies eat up. And he served it to them on a silver platter, with all the trimmings — sable, ruffles, ruching, feathers, embroideries, beading and jabots on everything from delicate blouses to elaborate evening numbers. But even his barrage of embellishments didn’t help the dowdy factor from nudging its way into the show every now and then. Lady Elegance can be young and hip, but you don’t achieve it with a punk hairdo and all those fussy details.
Some of the clothes looked deceptively simple. A black gabardine suit and a black wool coat, for instance, seemed clean and spare coming down the runway, but when the model turned, Val’s signature knotted detail in satin was looming. And the lean skirt of a tweed suit turned into layered tiers at back. Before the show, the designer admitted that some of the collection would displease those relentless fur protestors, but that didn’t stop him from using yards of sable to trim suits or trace curved seams on princess coats, and lining jackets with mink.
He was more p.c. and more successful with a group of tres sauvage Malaysian albino tiger prints, patterned after the real ones in Siegfried and Roy’s Las Vegas show. They prowled the runway in sleek wool coat-and-dress combos for day, while for evening, they roared in beaded faille pants, or a long taffeta coat over a faille skirt. There was an endless parade of evening looks, including lace jackets all done up with ruched shoulders, cocktail shakers and long dresses dripping with ruffles and rosettes that were, shall we say, overdone. But when Valentino reined in his excesses, he was at his best, especially in the closing series of long black dresses in embroidered lace with feathered skirts fluttering like birds of paradise. “This is couture,” he said, “and we need a bit of fantasy.” You bet.
EMANUEL UNGARO: Power babe or boho artiste? The Emanuel Ungaro woman is both. He satiates her dual nature with an interplay of romantic eccentricity and tough chic, and on Monday, it made for a collection that was an interesting, often beautiful and sometimes perplexing proposition.
These days, Ungaro is into elaborate stage settings. Last season, he replicated a sandy pink terrain; for fall, he moved “inside,” into a space set with freestanding columns, round, red velvet banquets and huge trays of candles on the floor. Unlike one guest, who tripped over a tray, Ungaro’s models negotiated the turf perfectly. They circled around and about, the better to strut their stilettoed stuff in all sorts of novel combinations: a grand embroidered kimono and red lace blouse over tight, painted leather pants; a two-tone petal chubby over wavy, beaded ombred stripes. The looks continued in ever-wilder combinations, although the designer wisely interspersed the frenzy with some lovely black suits and super-short, super-tight dresses with an Eighties feel.
But there was no tempering the bohemian rhapsody he has orchestrated of late, continued here with unchecked daring. It looked worldly in its drama, yet with a current of adult gentleness. Ungaro loves couture’s lavish embellishments, and he worked them into a bead-and-feather frenzy, decorating gowns, dresses, pants and wispy little tops to twinkle madly. And all the accompanying projectile plumage led one showgoer to wonder if there are any living birds left in Paris.
At its best, the look was evocative and dreamy. But at some point, even the most charming eccentricity can work the nerves. That happened in shapeless hooded coats over alluring evening dresses, and on a communal scale during the finale. The models, some in sultry, linear sparklers, others in frothy, bustled ballgowns and skirts, all took a load off and sat, striking poses around the red seats, sometimes poking each other in the eye with their feathers. The scene looked a bit like an Edwardian brothel. Which was both amusing and unfortunate, because if Ungaro would temper the theatrics just a bit, his audience could focus more easily on the beauty of his clothes.