PARIS: THE RUNWAY ACTION

LOUIS FERAUD: Yvan Mispelaere, in his first couture outing for Feraud, got tangled in a web of overwrought geometry. This was somewhat surprising, since Mispelaere, who was recruited by the 49-year-old house to burnish its image, spent the past two years as Miuccia Prada’s assistant and assisted Valentino with couture for five years, and both of those designers are known for their control. Instead of following in their footsteps, though, Mispelaere was like a kid in a candy shop — make that a couture atelier. And it was a recipe for confusion: Models donned translucent tulle dresses embellished with haphazard geometric configurations and silly, clown-like discs and bows, making what should have been light and fanciful, heavy and tiresome. However, Mispelaere did manage to control his energy with a few numbers, including a black-and-white pinstriped wrap coat.

HANAE MORI: The veteran Japanese designer was inspired by Art Deco this couture outing. She showed chiffon muslin tunic dresses printed with geometric flowers as well as her usual mix of colorful kimonos. It was signature Mori, with an East-meets-West feel. She worked essentially with graphic patterns, and she looked freshest when she kept it simple, as in a cream wool dress with splashes of gold.

FRANCK SORBIER: The 35-year-old French designer gets the prize for the couture’s cutest presentation. He showed outside in the gardens of the Cartier Foundation and instructed his models, who carried baskets, to distribute knickknacks as they ambled among the crowd. It was all reminiscent of a country picnic scene by Renoir. Couture’s most famous client, Mouna Ayoub, who was the collection’s so-called godmother, sat in the front row, intently watching as Sorbier offered one romantic gown after another. They were mostly black, and always poetic, especially the flowing silk georgette dress with a peplum bustier. There were also pretty tulle numbers in blue, red and yellow. “Franck is a real artist,” enthused Ayoub after the show. “He has a unique way of flattering women.”

JEAN-CHARLES DE CASTELBAJAC: This year, Castelbajac has poured his efforts into exploring new horizons. In January, he introduced a men’s collection, and this week he dove headfirst into couture. “It was a fantastic experience,” said the 50-year-old designer. “I learned a lot, but I still have a lot to learn.” Known for his whimsical, arty clothes, Castelbajac stuck to his guns by transposing his signature naive graphic style onto made-to-measure. There was a silk crepe gown with a handpainted Bambi, a skirt embroidered to resemble an ornate Renaissance tapestry and a black minidress decorated with the face of Jimi Hendrix, replete with fringes to replicate the rock icon’s unruly hair. He wrapped a canvas painted by Anh Duong into a dress and asked Lesage to embroider a toy locomotive track around a slim dress. Accessories, like the wooden acorn and baguette bags, also showed Castelbajac’s childlike touch. At times, however, he was more grown up, as in a short dress made of 19 folded Hermes silk scarves and a patchwork gown in orange cashmere and lambskin.

PARIS — Designers gravitate here for the couture like the faithful to Mecca. With visions of grandeur and building a reputation, they come from far and wide, cherishing hopes that one day they’ll see their names in lights — or in headlines. Here are several of this season’s off-calendar designers who made an impression:
Russian duo Vladimir Seredin, 32, and Serguei Vasiliev, 29, whipped into town from Moscow for their second couture outing. Their ironic, tongue-in-cheek designs were a breath of fresh air. A folkloric dress was unapologetically curvy, while overt luxury oozed from the voluminous fox coats. And to make the romp even more wild, there was crazy makeup and outrageous hats, including one topped with burning candles.
Goran y Pejkoskiy, however, was in a destructive mood. War-ravaged Beirut was his inspiration for a collection that showcased deconstructed, folkloric clothes. It was the third couture collection for the Macedonian, who trained in the Netherlands. And since he’s sponsored by Holland’s Mondrian Foundation, he can focus on making a statement instead of creating clothes destined to sell. Still, some of the artsy pieces were fine — even wearable — such as a long folded skirt with leather strips paired with a tan deconstructed military coat. And a word about the unusual presentation: Guests were given earplugs at the entrance, since the music screamed as loud as a war.
Designer Elie Saab, 36, came from Lebanon for his Paris couture debut, and he intended to dazzle with extravagance. At home, he has built a reputation on dressing Middle Eastern royalty, most notably Queen Rania of Jordan. So there was a certain buzz surrounding Saab’s show. And the collection was sparkling — literally. The designer loves brilliantly embroidered, body-hugging muslin gowns with a folkloric touch, and some outfits looked as if they’d stepped right off a page of the Arabian Nights. But there was too much over-the-top excess and too little control. Case in point: He showed four wedding gowns — instead of just one — to close the show.
In his first couture collection, Irish-born designer Peter O’Brien went back to his roots, showing in the Irish Embassy here. It was all very fitting, because his tasteful designs seem more appropriate in a richly decorated salon than on the runway. But O’Brien, who’s the creative director at the Rochas fashion house, focused on the client. Nan Kempner and Mouna Ayoub were in the front row to view his neatly cut velour suit worn with a muslin blouse embroidered with Celtic motifs, and plenty of flowing satin gowns fit for any diplomatic occasion. Overall, O’Brien showed he has a sure hand and knows how to make real clothes.
Although he’s at home here, Jean-Denis Franoux is still relatively new to the couture. A professor at Paris’s Studio Bercot fashion school, he took last year off. In his return performance, he worked exclusively in black and purple, blending groovy and traditional silhouettes. There were some interesting pieces, even if they looked a bit heavy at times. He experimented with ruffles, for example, with mixed results, but hit the target when he positioned them in a vertical strip on a black dress.

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