The location — the Conciergerie, where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned during the French Revolution before being sent to the guillotine — and ecclesiastic-meets-medieval princess theme, lent itself perfectly to Guo Pei’s signature penchant for fantasy, lavish, jeweled embroidery, corsets and drama.
At lights-down, out came an apparition in a supersized, glow-in-the-dark gown knitted from white plastic strips, holding a candelabra. On her heels — though moving at snail’s pace due to her towering carved platforms — came a pale, Lady of Shalott type in a gray liquid silk gown with trailing sleeves, carefully balancing a high crown on her head.
And so the procession continued, presenting a range of conceptual gowns from one with a rigid, finely pleated gold lampshade skirt that resembled a cupcake wrapper, to a richly embroidered, white domed dress with a matching domed headpiece evoking some kind of ecclesiastic headgear, with the model’s face peeking out through a hole.
The collection’s more classic gowns featured prints based on church murals from St. Gallen Cathedral in Switzerland, in the town where many of the fabrics were made.
It was a whacky spectacle that, ultimately — despite the impressive handiwork and regal embellishments, as a collection that took over two years to make — felt more costume than couture.
Even the fabulous Carmen Dell’Orefice, who closed the show in a scarlet gown dripping with blood-red crystals, backed by a giant, fanning, poppylike collar, failed to pull off her look.