Ball Gown. Viktor & Rolf SS23 Couture

Viktor & Rolf seem to own the “meme” couture niche. It’s all about haute ideas that have a tendency to instantly go viral. This season, the Dutch designers focused on elevating – or rather, mocking – the concept of a hysterically saccharine ball gown. The first three dresses were classically-constructed, cupcake-shaped ball gowns, with corset waists embellished with crystals and bows and sugary pastel skirts. Then came a model in a beige corset, her peach dress bobbing along 10cm in front of her, held off her body with a hidden frame, and looking as though it were being ferried along by the mice in Cinderella. One model wore her ball gown upside down, her vision completely obscured by an inverted 3-D printed bodice and layers of tightly sewn powder-blue tulle. Others wore pretty pastel creations that were slightly askew, held by a frame on an angle just off their bodies, as though they were the result of a photoshopping error. A couple wore their debutante-style dresses perpendicular to their bodies. Somehow they kept their faces humorless as they processed through the gilded ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel in sparkling Louboutin kitten heels. The effect was giggle-inducing. “It’s an absurd take on the stereotype of a couture ballgown,” said Rolf Snoeren backstage. “Which we translated for the 21st century,” added Viktor Horsting. Snoeren continued: “It comes from a love of glamour [but] like our perfume, we want it to be beautiful and we also want it to have a clever idea.” There was a comment here about internet culture and how consuming visuals on our phones – snapping photographs and immediately being able to invert them, using filters to distort and enhance our silhouettes and bone structure – has warped our sense of reality. “There is a disconnect between what we see, and the physicality of the product,” said Snoeren. Then there is the internet’s context-less state, where one scroll can take you from a fashion show to a mass shooting. “The information that comes at us, going from making banana cake to so many people being killed in Ukraine,” said Snoeren. “It’s: What kind of world are we living in? It’s absurd,” Horsting concluded.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Fantastic Drama. Miss Sohee SS23 Couture

It’s not the easiest thing to be a young couture brand and try entering the Parisian haute couture schedule. South Korean newcomer Sohee Park is the most exciting emerging talent, who with confidence introduced herself to this quite intimidating scene. Last season Sohee caused quite a sensation in Milan, where she presented a fabulously theatrical collection supported by Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce. Despite being freshly graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins, showmanship was demonstrable, as was her crystal clear vision and savoir faire. Miss Sohee’s solo debut was staged in the gilded salons of the Westin Paris-Vendôme, formerly known as The Intercontinental Hotel, where the crème de la crème of French couturiers past put on memorable shows; actually it was where Yves Saint Laurent used to present his unforgettable collections. The salon was bathed in a dark, nocturnal light, setting the tone for the mood Sohee wanted to convey. She didn’t go for predictability, but took a different route from Milanese outing. “It’s always about drama and fantasy,” she explained. “But this time it’s darker, sexier. There’s lots of black, it’s such a seductive color that gives depth and mystery. I wanted to play with the idea of shadows, so I added veils and transparencies.” In contrast to last season’s voluminous concoctions, the silhouette was kept fitted to the body with corsetry to help achieve the hourglass shapes the designer was after. Intricate embroideries of flowers, birds, and insects were inspired by the paintings of a 19th century Korean artist. They graced the chiffon-and-tulle layered trails on sinuous mermaid numbers, or the heart-shaped, sequined fringed bustiers of tight-fitted satin dresses. A cascade of black crystals dropped from the neckline of a billowy, liquid cape in absinthe green satin, which looked quite sensational. There were many attractive pieces in the show; while tightly-edited, it emphasized Sohee’s range, as well as her seductive eye for embellishments and her penchant for graceful flamboyance.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Habitat. Chanel SS23 Couture

The latest Chanel couture collection is drama-free and controversy-negative. Generally pretty and easily digestible clothes. And there were animals, too – but not in a Schiaparelli kind of way. What comes up when you research Coco Chanel’s home interior is her love for an animal theme: a model of a camel on a side-table, large bronzes of deer clustered around her fireplace, and lion effigies here, there, and everywhere. Virginie Viard collaborated with the artist Xavier Veilhan to come up with a set idea for the spring-summer 2023 couture show orbiting around Coco’s cozy habitat. A parade of something between cute Chanel drum majorettes, or perhaps, circus ringmasters, appeared on yesterday’s runway. They flipped along in their short, flared suits with the odd top hat and bow tie, shod in little white cross-laced boots with Chanel’s signature black-tipped toes. By this time, they were walking around Veilhan’s menagerie of mobile animal sculptures – a horse, lion, deer, buffalo, bird, fish, dog, and elephant – which had been trundled out to join the camel. Still, it’s not in Viard’s nature as a creative director to push a concept over clothes. Instead, here was a collection of haute couture that felt youthfully relatable. The spectacle of her march of the majorettes simply became a device for freshening up the template of Chanel day suits, led out by a charming military-jacketed number in white. That was followed by varieties of abbreviated, gilded Chanel tweeds: a short trapeze coat, de-frumpified box-pleated skirts cut as minis, and then a tiny sugar-pink coat-dress with a stand-away collar. It was a bit ’60s Mod maybe, but not too obviously. And then, at the finale, out popped the bride from a hidden door in the elephant. She was wearing a little white dress entirely covered with embroidered doves and a white bow tie. It was a charming sight.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Click-Bait Couture (And A Question For The Culture). Schiaparelli SS23 Couture

Daniel Roseberry‘s spring-summer 2023 haute couture collection for Schiaparelli set the internet ablaze. In general, society feels an ease in blaming and targeting fashion – and its industry – in a whole range of humanity’s faults. It’s so frivolous, and it doesn’t have the art world’s intimidating authority to freely touch difficult topics… actually, who needs fashion? That’s why a controversy, or even a stinking hot scandal, can so easily grow out of a fashion scene. Yes, these fake – yet extremely realistic – taxidermy dresses coming from Schiaparelli’s couture atelier, without reading into further context, may instantly associate with a number of horrible crimes, from poaching endangered species to colonialism. But since when is interpreting everything without comprehending the context first a normal thing to do? Now that’s a question for the culture.

Shocking has been integral to Schiaparelli’s DNA since Elsa’s day. And Roseberry knows how to make his couture a clickbait moment for the 21st century. The designer’s mind was in fact focused on a hell – the Inferno of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s relevant as ever in 2023, and the three sinful animal symbols Dante wrote of (Lion: pride; Leopard: lust; Wolf: avarice) keep on firing the minds. “The animals are one of the four literal references that I took from Dante’s Inferno,” Roseberry explained . “In the first cycle of Dante’s journey, he faces terrors. He confronts a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf. They each represent different things. But the lion and the animals are there as a photorealistic approaching of surrealism and trompe l’oeil in a different way.” Roseberry found a creative parallel to his dilemmas in the hellish tortures Dante allegorized. “It’s the agony of wanting to surprise,” he said. “I just want it to be powerful in a different way every time.” His ambition: to “show the impossible.” Regarding the three, now-infamous looks, I will admit they felt too costume-y for me in the first place. It’s a great shame that all the explosive attention drawn by overshadowed the extraordinary work Roseberry and his team lavished on molding, sculpting, and embellishing the majority of the collection. The waisted shape of the classic Schiaparelli Shocking! perfume bottle was transmuted into extreme hourglass silhouettes, corseted in the back. There were ‘plastrons’ of stiffly exaggerated, up-to-the-eyeline bustiers (crafted in mother-of-pearl, marquetry, and broken glass jewelry). He also dealt out incredibly silhouetted trouser suits, vertiginously plunging tuxedos, and a pinstripe which had mind-boggling lines imitating menswear fabric, but curving in and out in some visually unaccountable way. Would the collection look in overall better without the faux-animal drama? Probably. But would it grab the Internet’s attention? Of course, not.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

NET-A-PORTER Limited

An Ode To Punk. Maison Margiela AW23

The world became a sadder place without the Dame and the Queen of punk, Vivienne Westwood, who passed away just a couple of days before the New Year. Who else could create a more authentic and vivid tribute to Westwood’s work – and the entire subculture she helped create and kept leading – than John Galliano? His co-ed autumn-winter 2023 collection for Maison Margiela, one of the best ready-to-wear collections he’s done for the brand in a while, makes you believe punk isn’t dead. Galliano brought up the term ‘Rorschach test’ for the subjective seeing of different things when we look at fashion. Through these eyes, it looked very like a fierce, urgent reveling in the subcultural spirit of the 1970s and early ’80s in London – Galliano’s youth, but brought forward, mashed up for today. “You might see some familiar figures in it,” he suggested. “Jordan on the King’s Road; the fishnets; Johnny Rotten, maybe.” He’d sent out crude collaged photocopied flyers with his invitations – like fanzines and invites to underground gigs, the way kids navigated nightlife long before mobile phones. A couple of models were clutching them with their handbags as they lurched down the runway, as if in a hurry to get somewhere. In some of their hats, fancifully collaged from trash bags and scraps of tulle, were cockades made from chopped-up flyers. The plaids didn’t look like punk tartan – Westwood’s eternally favorite fabric—but then again, it almost did. And, to these eyes at least, there she was, almost personified in the girls who were dashing along in Galliano’s ingeniously wrapped pencil skirts – the sexy ’50s rocker style that Vivienne always spoke about as the first clothes she loved making for herself as a teenager. If that really was a salute to the late designer, it was also mixed up in the layers and layers of Galliano’s spins on 1950s tulle ballgowns, his huge, swinging opera coats, and chopped-up Americana. There were also Western-type jackets with Mickey Mouse plackets, Hawaiian prints, all seen through a punk, D-I-Y filter. Beautiful and emotionally moving.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

NET-A-PORTER Limited