Saturday, 17 July 2010

The naked and the dead at Paris couture


Haute couture
is all about dressing up — dressing way, way, up, in fact, in made-to-measure garments that cost as much as a new car. But Jean Paul Gaultier reversed the equation Wednesday, sending out burlesque star Dita Von Teese, who peeled off layer after wildly expensive layer till she was stripped literally to the bone.

The campy strip show — which ended with Von Teese in a buff-colored bustier with sequin-covered applique bones mapping out her skeleton — was a fit finale to a fall-winter 2010-11 collection largely about transparency and anatomy, with a dash of morbidness thrown in for good measure.

At Valentino, the garment's anatomy — the bone-work that give the gowns their shape — took center stage, with translucent hoop-skirts and an oblong birdcage made of tulle fitted over the bum-skimming minidresses.

Earlier in the week, Riccardo Tisci showed off the skill of the seamstresses at the house of Givenchy, delivering Mexican Day of the Dead-inspired lace and tulle bodysuits and gowns with appliques that mapped out the bones of the human body. In glimmering gold rhinestones and the finest Chantilly lace, his museum-quality concoctions were the world's most expensive Halloween skeleton costumes. Emerging French designer Julien Fournie's night of the living dead collection was also spot on the morbid, x-ray chic trend.

Other shows on Wednesday, the last day of Paris' ever-dwindling three-day-long couture calendar included emerging Lebanese talent Rabih Kayrouz, who marched to his own relaxed drum with a collection of cool summer staples that blended the line between couture and ready-to-wear.

On Aura Tout Vu's fish-themed collection was meant for the thin slice on the Venn diagram where the very wealthy and very funny demographics overlap. After all, it takes a pretty good sense of humor to pull off an impeccable beige sheath dress with sleeves ending in stuffed fish-face hand puppets.

French veteran Franck Sorbier's uplifting collection underscored the core values of couture — which is meant to be a celebration of creativity and technical savoir faire but has increasingly become a media blitz used by luxury conglomerates for promoting aspirational secondary products like cosmetics, perfumes and sunglasses. Coming after big-budget mega-productions like Tuesday's Chanel show, where models paraded beneath an enormous golden lion — in an homage to the founder's astrological sign — Sorbier's sincere and funny collection was a much-needed reminder of what couture should be about.

Paris' couture calendar officially concludes on Thursday, with fine jewelry presentations at Place Vendome jewelry houses like Boucheron, Chaumet and Van Cleef & Arpels.