There wasn’t a princess gown in sight. For spring, Elie Saab looked toward the African landscape to create his colorful silhouettes, which switched from glorious sunset tones on pleated halter-neck dresses to flowing silk pieces printed with geometrical shapes nonchalantly tied at the neck.
The collection started with more understated looks in the form of perforated shirtdresses riffing on the Sahara jacket — but good luck surviving high temperatures wearing a voluminous taffeta skirt. Simpler looks, like easy dark blue caftans with swirling arabesques of lace cut out on the shoulders, were overloaded with accessories: matching turbans, dangling earrings, leather and raffia bags, and long necklaces weighed down the pared-back silhouettes.
Most of the looks had a Studio 54 feel. Sunshine-pleated long dresses in jewel tones and a vibrant salmon-colored silk jumpsuit were highlights in a busy collection. Golden metal accessories were supposed to “highlight the feminine silhouette at its best” according to the show notes, but the thick chokers and rigid belts looked restricting, even if their boldness was well-matched with some of the softer garments: A draped powder pink off-the-shoulder dress was toughened up by the addition of chunky gold cuffs encircling arms and wrists.
The show notes insisted on “the diversity that animates the great savannas of Africa,” a cautionary note deflecting any accusation of cultural appropriation. The casting was accordingly diverse, with half of the looks shown on non-white models — Cindy Bruna in particular looked radiant in a silk jumpsuit mixing utilitarian pockets with long billowing sleeves. For all its ebullience, the collection felt a bit flat, especially the last series of looks: Taffeta dresses in pink and baby blue embroidered with glass beads in swirling motifs looked stiff and out of place.