Asian demand for luxury goods is once again on the rise, and the region’s conglomerates want a piece of the action.
On the heels of Chinese group Fosun’s back-to-back purchases of Lanvin and Wolford, South Korean retail giant Shinsegae has resurrected the house of Poiret after a 90-year hiatus, with a fashion show on Sunday held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Yiqing Yin, a designer known for her intricately pleated couture gowns and for a stint as creative director of Leonard, has been charged with leading the revival. Her opening statement was an inky blue belted shawl collared coat, whose loose draping and geometric lines carried an echo of the Belle Epoque. She followed with opulent jacquard opera coats, sack dresses and kimono coats that read as subtle nods to the history of the brand.
Paul Poiret established his house in 1903 and became famous for freeing women from corsets with his Asian-inspired designs.
“Poiret is generally remembered for his extravagance and the richness of his ornamentation and fabrics, but in my opinion, he was truly revolutionary for pioneering two very contemporary ideas: oversize clothes and minimalism,” Yin said during a preview.
She based many of her designs on a 1923 cape that draped in a deep fold. Those overlapping fabric panels appeared as an oversize loop on the front of dresses and jumpsuits, which could be worn loose or belted — though Yin mostly favored a billowing back.
The designer worked in tailored looks, like a shimmering burgundy suit with a buttonless jacket, and asymmetric dresses made of pleated panels — including one in burnished gold, which she pegged as the house’s signature color.
The iridescent fabrics in jewel tones at times evoked Haider Ackermann, another designer backed by Belgian entrepreneur Anne Chapelle, chief executive officer of Poiret. The patterns and prints, which included brushwork effects, were new territory for Yin, known for her delicate hand and innovative constructions.
Her debut collection was a creditable effort that avoided the pitfalls of overt homage. The question is, are modern customers ready to embrace a new-look Poiret? The brand does not have the same resonance as contemporaries such as Lanvin, and for every successful revival, there have been failures — Jacques Fath or Worth spring to mind.
The difference here is that Shinsegae has deep pockets, proven expertise — in the form of Chapelle’s track record — and access to a vast retail network in Asia. The outcome will be interesting to follow, as other dormant brands prepare their comeback.