Sunday, July 02, 2017

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

The Americans in Paris

American models at the "Battle of Versailles" 1973

Who could forget the 1973 ‘Battle of Versailles’ which pitted five American designers (Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, Stephen Burrows) against five French designers considered to be the best in the world (Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior)? The Americans were deemed the winners, owing to their youthful approach, and their ‘secret weapon’: eleven African American models who stole the show.


Zac Posen Spring/Summer 2011 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com

Since that time a number of American designers have opted to show in the City of Light, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Notwithstanding avowed Francophile Zac Posen’s predilection for grand eveningwear much in keeping with the tradition of French haute couture, when he made the jump from New York to Paris to show his spring/summer 2011 collection, the reviews were far from glowing.


Rick Owens Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com

Faring much better is Rick Owens, who was just honored with the CFDA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The designer has been designing and showing in Paris since 2003 and as he put it, "Who doesn't want to come to Paris if they're a designer?" "It's the ultimate place."


Vera Wang Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com

That’s exactly what Vera Wang thought. When she accepted her Legion of Honor Award in Paris last March, she also used it as an opportunity to show her fall 2017 ready-to-wear collection. It was inspired by Napoleon and Josephine, and unsurprisingly filled with medals, like her own (why not?)


Rodarte Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com

West Coast based sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy made the decision to switch their shows from New York to Paris last year as a way to capture the best audience and allow for longer production times. They presented their Fall 2017 collection in an intimate atelier in the Third Arrondissement this past March.


Thom Browne Spring/Summer 2018 Menswear
Photo: Vogue.com 

Thom Browne, whose impeccably constructed ultra-tailored ready-to-wear (which is unequivocally on par with couture) showed his spring 2018 menswear collection in Paris last month and that is where he will be showing his next womenswear collection. Their gain, our loss. While that is where he belongs, for many, including myself, his show has traditionally been the highlight of New York Fashion Week.


Chado Ralph Rucci Fall/Winter 2002 Haute Couture

But it was not until 2002 that one of our own, Ralph Rucci, actually broke the glass ceiling and was invited to show his haute couture with the haute couture shows in Paris. That is a big deal considering that the last time before that was about 50 years earlier and the designer was Mainbocher. As Mr. Rucci said at the time, “You can work in America, do made-to-measure to the highest standard, but until you come here, you cannot call it haute couture.”

Fast forward to Paris Haute Couture Week for fall/winter 2017-2018 which got underway July 2nd and ends on July 6th. Two American labels, Proenza Schouler and Rodarte, were elected by the Federation de la Haute Couture de la Mode to be “guest members” for the week. Among other things, it emphasizes the ongoing blurring of the lines between ready-to-wear and couture and points to the different ways couture can be approached. They both showed on Sunday, the first day, and let’s just say, it’s obvious that Paris inspired them to up their game.


 Proenza Schouler Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com

While they have different design aesthetics, what both houses have in common is their wholehearted embrace of their craft, exquisite workmanship, intricate handiwork, beautiful fabrication, and meticulous attention to detail, all of which are in keeping with the couture. But there is a certain American ease, sportiness and pragmatism at the heart of American fashion; even when the clothes are quite dressed up. This was exemplified by Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez’s Sunday morning Proenza Schouler runway show where they did what they do best. They have certainly come a long way from those early collections (the first runway show was in 2003), filled with perfectly proportioned elevated wardrobe staples; the kind that make fashion editors swoon and take notice. No wonder they were quickly hailed as “The next generation of American talent.”


Proenza Schouler Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com

The collection was youthful, hip, cool, chic, and eye catching. These are not clothes for the faint of heart. It focused on a feminine, elongated silhouette and while it was covered up at times, it was also quite revealing with its use of sheer lace, skirts with high slits (front and back), and cut outs. It looked sexy and alluring and always elegant.


Proenza Schouler Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com

Other than a few pieces in pale pink and nude, Jack and Lazaro focused on a color palette of predominantly black, white and fire engine red. There were the duo’s signature art inspired graphic pairings (stripes with floral jacquards), architectural ruffles, exceptional knitwear, strong shouldered jackets, outstanding coats, lace trousers, and dreamy pieces in ruched tulle. It was highly textural with an emphasis on surface interest.


Proenza Schouler Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com

They accessorized with their crowd pleasing structured bags, wide cuffs (in clear lucite or metal), and kept it all looking effortless with grounded, flat pointy toed shoes (in suede, leather, patent leather and silver) that enabled the models to literally saunter quickly down the courtyard runway.


Rodarte Spring /Summer 2018 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com

The Rodarte show was a perfect example of what initially put the Mulleavy sisters on the fashion map, beginning with their first formal show in 2006. Their exquisite designs, which make use of couture seamstresses, are at once otherworldly and magical, yet remain modern edgy and of the moment.


Rodarte Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com 

The uber creative, imaginative duo, who share a singular vision, have been known to get their inspiration from everywhere: literature, music, movies, and landscape. Looking at the lush garden setting, the exquisite flowers and floral prints, the flower accessories (in the hair and worn on the arms) the dreamy, beautifully romantic feminine dresses (many in white and pink), had me wondering if one or both might have a wedding on their mind.


Rodarte Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear
Photo: Vogue.com 

But it wasn’t just about dresses perfect for a bride or bridesmaid. To counterbalance the sweetness, there were a number of pieces in black and red, and a group of gutsy cropped biker jackets (in black and white leather) paired with a couture version of a motocross pant.




- Marilyn Kirschner


No comments:

Post a Comment