Marco Colagrossi on Rebooting Emanuel Ungaro
The Italian designer aims step-by-step to nudge the brand in a cooler direction without letting go of its glamazon DNA.
“An exaggerated sense of nature and femininity coming back to life” is how Marco Colagrossi described the direction of his first main women’s ready-to-wear collection for Emanuel Ungaro since succeeding Fausto Puglisi as creative director in March. The role marks the first major appointment for the Italian designer, who has held key roles at Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.
While Colagrossi stuck close to the house’s DNA for his well-received cruise collection, from here on — “step by step” — the plan is to make the tone a little less “madame.” As fond as he is of the brand’s maximalist, glamazon heyday — “I’m an Eighties kid, I can remember my mother and her friends wearing tsunamis of ruffles, taffetta, duchesse satin and polka dots” — the designer said he’s aiming for an overall cooler attitude “to rebuild the connection between the ideal Ungaro woman and the woman of today.” (Think less silk duchesse and more techno fabrics like cellophane-like materials and plastics, albeit “handled like silk.”)
After exploring the house’s archives, based mainly on couture looks with plenty “puffy skirts and puffy sleeves” action, the designer has held onto two key elements: “the sumptuous color and sense of magnificence.” That includes a pure-Ungaro color palette, with a combination of fuchsia, green, Klein blue and deep purple, offset with neon floral jacquards and a sprinkling of polka-dot appliqués. A sense of sumptuousness and volume comes from silhouettes evoking a flower in bloom, with forms based on carnations and tulips, and oversize volumes at the hips, shoulder and sleeve. To break it up a bit, the makeup and hair will be distressed. The show will be held Friday.
As the latest in a “long roll” of designers at the troubled house, Colagrossi said there’s a feeling of starting over as the company undergoes a reorganization, with a new factory partner in place. As reported, after failing to deliver its spring 2017 collection as a result of its licensee Modalis filing a petition for composition with creditors, the house — which is controlled by Asim Abdullah, a San Francisco-based high-tech entrepreneur, and his investment vehicle Aimz — in March inked a production agreement with Italian manufacturer Cieffe Srl, which produces collections for brands including Giambattista Valli and Christopher Kane. A brand management consultant, Angela Casiero, is also in place to oversee all North American operations including strategic marketing, public relations and brand growth.
“The label was founded in 1965, but actually now we’re once again a start-up. There’s this feeling of weighty heritage because of the name, but also this feeling of a student coming out with their first show, with a lot of expectation,” Colagrossi said. “But if I don’t think about it too much, I’m having the best time of my life.”
Olivier Lapidus on Channeling Jeanne Lanvin
For his debut collection as Lanvin’s artistic director, the designer imagined what the founder would be designing today.
Olivier Lapidus embarked on an imaginary spot of crystal ball reading for his first collection for Lanvin since taking over from Bouchra Jarrar, who left the brand in July after only 16 months. The line will be presented in a wing of the Grand Palais on Wednesday.
“I started with this idea of asking Jeanne Lanvin, if she were still alive today, what she would be doing now,” said the designer at a preview of the collection at the firm’s headquarters. “Lanvin died on July 6, 1946, and I met with [Lanvin majority owner Shaw-Lan Wang] on July 6, 2017. For a rebirth of a company, it’s maybe symbolic,” he added.
For the 37 or so looks in the collection, Lapidus focused on contemporary updates of house codes including kimono sleeves, chainmail accents, bows and quilting. Key silhouettes include a Grecian-style asymmetric tunic dress in flowing black silk; a big-volume, Sixties-style coat in ribbed bright red cotton, and a long, black, scoop-back dress with a stiff, flared hem with retro airs.
Accessories include classic handbags in colored croc with hardware based on the original house logo from the Twenties with removable contrasting nylon backpack straps (and a price tag falling at around 25,000 euros, according to Lapidus), and shoes with Lanvin-embossed white soles “to symbolize a blank page.” The line’s jangly jewelry, still designed by Elie Top, includes necklaces with shamrock pendants and daisy motifs in crystals, nodding to Carven’s daughter, Marguerite.
Accents include a vintage tone-on-tone Lanvin label on grosgrain belts, “as if to say Jeanne is here.” There’s also some logo action, with the house name used as an allover print on dresses with asymmetric skirts, with Lanvin’s lucky symbol, the shamrock, peppering the collection.
The aim going forward, the designer said, is to introduce a made-to-measure service on top of the full range of “value-for-money” knits, daywear and cocktail wear. “At some point I will try to develop a range between couture and ready-to-wear where the customer is queen, she can order anything she wants.”
Asked about reports that the plan is to turn Lanvin into “a French Michael Kors,” he replied: “I never said that, it’s fake news. But it’s not bad, Michael Kors is a wonderful man who has had big success.”
It’s still early days for Lapidus at the beleaguered brand. But having managed to turn the collection around in 42 days — “I spent my holiday here, I was the captain of an empty boat” — for now he’s sitting happy.
“I’m surrounded by a wonderful team….I’ve had a warm welcome into the company. ‘Miracle at Lanvin,’ that’s Madame Wang said,” said Lapidus, whipping out a photo of a delighted-looking Wang on his iPhone wearing one of the sport-chic backpacks.
Richard René on Going Back to Guy Laroche’s Roots
“Guy Laroche was my youth, all of the films I watched growing up at the end of the Seventies and the start of the Eighties featured his costumes,” said Richard René, who based his debut collection on one of the designer’s muses, French actress Mireille Darc, who died in August. René pointed out among the most memorable looks a scoop-backed black gown she wore in a scene from Yves Robert’s 1972 film “Le Grand Blond.”
“For me she really encapsulates the house. She helped make the house known, as a brand that has quite a unique style, with a take on elegance that has that slightly reserved French thing to it. It’s quite Jane Birkin in mood, only more formal,” said René, summarizing the house codes as: “Minimalism, chic and irreverence. It’s pseudo couture, but in a good sense, in that it’s a very tailored look.”
The designer for his debut effort will present a concise black-and-white collection based on the Bauhaus logo created in 1922 by Oskar Schlemmer with plays on asymmetry and opposites: in-and-out, shine and matte, sheer and opaque.
The wardrobe spans minimalist tailored elements and graphic lingerie-inspired silk slips with a dash of old-school glamour coming from a white swan-down coat lined with silk.
Adding to the back-to-the-roots vibe, the show will be held on Wednesday in the Guy Laroche store on Rue François 1er in the 8th arrondissement.
René began his career in 1994 at Hermès as assistant to then-creative director Claude Brouet. Between 1997 and 2004, he worked at Jean Paul Gaultier as assistant on haute couture collections and accessories. He returned to the brand from 2007 to 2011 as designer of men’s collections and women’s pre-collections.
Having swept several prizes at the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography in 2004, René launched his own brand, showing intermittently as a guest member on the French capital’s couture calendar until the label folded in 2010. Since 2014, he has been creative director of French luxury swimwear brand Vilebrequin, a role that he will maintain.
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