Ulyana Sergeenko Couture Spring 2018

Ulyana Sergeenko likes to put a magnifying glass to small traditions of her homeland, particularly the ones that survived the 1917 Revolution and the Soviet era. This time, it was tea, and the porcelain sets that families kept and used, then and now.

On tables set out in the gilded salons of the Hôtel d’Evreux, mounds of sweets and flowers looked fit for a modern-day Marie Antoinette. Mismatched tea sets from the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory, with which the couture brand collaborated on a pair of sets, awaited Alice’s return to Wonderland. Both were cited as inspirations.

Make-believe is one talent Sergeenko possesses in droves, and the tea party continued on the clothes themselves. As in porcelain, white and black dominated as base colors. Flora crawled across removable sleeves, along the trellis of a Bardot-esque bustier dress, or tumbled down in the folds of a skirt. Porcelain was evoked in the sculptural volumes of sleeves. White dresses looked like they would do particularly well come bridal season, for brides or guests. Dark variations turned the sweetness cloying, the drama dial cranked too high.

Among the most arresting looks were a swishing white dress with delicate broderie anglaise edging that nodded to chic napkins; a funnel neck dress dotted with tiny floral clusters and side basques, and a white bustier dress embroidered in wreaths of leaves, and overlaid with a voile peppered with clusters of crystal flowers.

The Russian designer had wanted a light and positive moment, rather than the drama of a runway show, for her summer couture. Given the social media controversy around her that erupted hours earlier, one couldn’t help draw parallels to Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s infamous “Chemise à la Reine” portrait of the doomed French queen — a desire for the appearance of simplicity and proximity ultimately read as tone-deafness.

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