Like others, Olivier Saillard has been observing fashion on the streets, but his conclusion is quite different. “I found that many designers invent shapes that aren’t necessarily seen on the streets, so I wanted to do the opposite: find what was most common in the streets and accompany it with a little more beauty,” he said at a presentation for his Moda Povera collection.

As ubiquitous and basic as it comes in the age of streetwear, the jersey t-shirt caught his attention, its jersey igniting thoughts of Madame Grès. Having developed “the ability to dare, to work and see later” thanks to his close affinity with Azzedine Alaïa, as he said at the opening of an exhibition on the late couturier earlier in the week, Saillard set about finding Martine Lenoir, the couturier’s last seamstress still in activity with whom he developed a collection using only that basic item as material.

Bottle green, black, bright orange or red, the palette was that of the stock he sourced on the Internet and fitted on fit model Axelle Doué, another Grès alum. Using only the couturier’s draping techniques, he transformed the t-shirt into dresses, tops and tunics that dared anyone to linger on their humble origins.

Sleeves tucked up into graduated architectural caps, a neckline gathered down to reveal the nape of the neck in the manner of a kimono, delicate pin tucks bisecting the front, seams covered in silk piping — the techniques mined the repertoire of couture to cunningly twist the jersey into new shapes.

Stitches holding them in place, and the occasional self-tie allowing subtle adjustments, there wasn’t an adornment in sight, save for whip-stitched crosses marking the front of an item — for reference only as some of them can still be transformed further by being worn back-to-front. The result had the beautiful proof that couture can stem from any material, given the knowhow.

Asked whether there would be a follow-up to this initial offering, Saillard replied that he would like to continue. No more than one collection a year — at his own pace, another similarity with Alaïa. “But he did more than that though. He knew how to do it, I don’t,” Saillard said.

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