#SuzyCouture: Clothes With Personality
Iris van Herpen: Installation versus creation
Iris van Herpen celebrated her tenth year in “fashion” with a show that both defined and re-interpreted her idea of clothing.
To most people, clothes are about closets and finding something to wear. For Iris, a fashion show is an opportunity to stretch the minds of the spectators, adding all sorts of extraordinary performances, such as the models in the 2014 “Biopiracy” show, who were suspended in a vacuum-pack bag above the runway – a nervous-making distraction from the models waking past them.
So it was with a “here we go again” feeling that I watched tanks filled with both water and living people, of both sexes. Even before the first outfit appeared, I was praying that they would not get out of breath if the mechanics inside failed them. However, it seems that the Danish performers, Between Music, were underwater artists.
All this was a distraction from the clothes themselves, which were high-tech and as difficult for the audience to understand as for the models to wear. I have not previously seen, under this label, laser-cut cotton heat-bonded on tulle. The rippling effect, like spun chiffon, was rather beautiful. Yet such garments – say a stretch-velvet lace dress, heat-bonded and laser-cut – will find it tough to get inside a stylish woman’s closet.
Iris, with her digital awareness and design intelligence, may be charting the future of dressing. Her outfits might become game-changers placed in museums. (This has happened already.)
But in the current Paris dialogue between haute couture and ready-to-wear, it is difficult to know how to position Iris. She finds clients who are experimental in spirit, which defines her to a certain extent with haute couture. But while the traditional houses have found a link with ready-to-wear, translating its historic handwork into clothes for everyone, it is so difficult for a non-tech-expert to grasp the geodesic geometry of creating the shortest possible straight line – let alone understand whether such a concept could ever reach fashion’s main streets.
A decade on, the Iris van Herpen brand remains an enigma – but a fascinating riddle to unfold.
Atelier Versace: Rock the Baroque – but gently
Metal mesh, a slick, gilded sexiness and bold shoulders – they all shaped the “Rock the Baroque” spirit in the Gianni Versace years. Now, with an aluminium sheen for the new millennium, Donatella Versace has taken up the theme, but presented it gently.
Gone are the days when the Atelier Versace show was staged with a hub of celebrities on and off the runway. That fashion baton has passed to Balmain. But Donatella continues to bring glitter to global red carpets, and the private Paris presentation for clients glowed with glamour.
The most modern look was in the gilded jumpsuit, evoking the current Versace image of power women.
“As if armour were poured on to the body,” was the designer’s vision of this scaly surface in bronze with antique gold, fading to white.
Outlining the shape of the body – including those back-to-the-Eighties shoulders – was the overall theme, and it took the look from a tailored suit with a deep-pile brocade surface to a tuxedo jacket, undecorated until the sleeves were split open from the elbows to reveal a hand-painted Baroque lining with gloves to match.
All the Versace codes were there, such as the snakes curling across the chest and shoulders of a golden lace dress. Yet a 21st-century flourish was present in the use of a 3D-printed necklace that appeared to hold up the entire dress.
However plush the velvet and golden furnishings and the vases of white orchids and cream roses, the line-up of mannequins was a poor substitute for a runway of models in action. But Donatella seems happy with the company’s current under-the-radar glamour.
“Atelier Versace is a fantasy come to life,” she said. “It’s about power and fragility and the inner strength when the two are combined.”
Peter Dundas: In his own name
“It is about things that I love – I just wanted to be honest with myself. It was a kind of liberation process – mentally – as well. I just felt I had to have a starting point,” said Peter Dundas, as the designer who was Creative Director at Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci showed his first solo collection.
And what a setting! A grand Parisian house, loaned by friends of Dundas, allowed the audience to sink into velvet chairs with gilded frames, admire the crystal lamps, the swishing curtains, the shelves of rare books, and watch the models stride in high heels across the oriental carpets.
The Dundas style never drops far from the treatment, or in this designer’s case, far from sensuality. But the designer’s sexy offerings are something for a modern woman to take in her stride: A black lace column opened up one side to a view of a bright green satin mini skirt; or a jumpsuit – today’s fashion passion – in bright blue sequins from plunging neck to ankles.
This concept of taking sex in your stride has to be well made to work. And even at this intimate distance, the outfits, with the signature Dundas sweetheart necklace, had a racy class. From shocking pink – fur included – to flower embroidery on denim, the designer made a clear statement.
“I’ve been everywhere that things are made – Mumbai, machine factories – I’ve been involved in every step. “It’s about what I love, the colours that I love, embellishments… It has been a crazy time,” said Dundas, who will start the process of getting his own-name clothes out there by selling online through Moda Operandi from 7 July (for delivery at the end of October), and a “guilt-free”-priced capsule collection available through Far Fetch later this year.
MiuMiu: Car crazy
“It’s not me who loves cars, it’s my son who is crazy for racing,” said a laughing Miuccia Prada, who was referring to her rally-driver son Lorenzo Bertelli.
But what the quirky designer does not know about objects on four wheels she makes up for in designs for two legs – preferably long and bare, one end reaching up to puffy shorts; the other down to sparking slippers.
The MiuMiu show was a hoot – or should that be “Toot! Toot!” – from the moment the audience stepped into the Automobile Club of France to find a wall full of photographs of seductive ladies in front of fancy cars that were clearly designed for the opposite sex.
But not at the MiuMiu show. It started with Canadian rapper Tommy Genesis prancing on stage in cropped tracksuit – a romper-cum-jumpsuit that was the fashion motif of the show.
And it was, indeed, motifs that gave that wicked “Mrs Prada” effect to what might otherwise have been simple sportswear – although there were also cuddly coats as a more all-embracing wardrobe.
The MiuMiu brand identifies a certain kind of young, modern woman. But its designer’s skill is in the conflicting taste and unlikely mix of it all: Marilyn Monroe on the soundtrack and Gwendolyn Christie from Game of Thrones among the strong women celebrities in the audience. As ever, a MiuMiu show as smart and witty as its creator.