Sunday, January 29, 2017


It must be a challenge to come up with original ways of staging fashion shows, but Dutch-Vietnamese designer Xuan went all out in this regard during Paris couture week.

Xuan: amid the flowers.
Hers was a fashion show where the models did not move around, but instead had to stand still for long minutes, surrounded by flowers or alongside streams of falling water.

The aim was for the viewers to do the “walking” -through all the “different worlds of Xuan’s universe”, as portrayed in the Spring / Summer 2017 couture collection.

“Rather than watch the spectacle as a seated viewer, we invite guests to traverse three sites representing the sensorial experiences that informed the designs,” visitors were informed at the beginning of the show on Jan. 26, the last day of couture week.

So, when individuals in a tightly packed crowd trudged up the stairs to the upper rooms of the Dutch cultural institute in Paris, they were greeted with the sight of a model in a glass “house”, against a backdrop of multi-coloured flowers. The first thought that might have occurred to many is: “let’s hope she has no allergies!”

The designer at work.
Two other models stood in the "house", trying to remain motionless as viewers circled the structure. Interesting as the concept was, it detracted from the sumptuously made clothing, as awareness of the models took precedence.

“How long do they have to stand like that?” one viewer asked.

“About 30 minutes to an hour,” was the response from a staff assistant.

In another room, a stream of water cascaded from the ceiling, spraying two models as they stood in this section of the “universe”. The idea here was that “water, light and sound interplay to create an atmosphere of refreshing melancholy”.

After the third room, it was hard to say whether this was a “refreshing” way to see fashion, or just a bizarre attempt to stand out from the pack during fashion week. While Xuan certainly drew on the artistic side of showcasing clothing, the show had a discomfiting element.

Designer Liu Chao presented his collection without movement as well, but in his case there were no live models. His striking dresses were mounted on mannequins, as in a store window, for a presentation that took place at the gleaming, recently renovated Ritz hotel on the Place Vendôme.

Liu Chao
Here, too, viewers were invited to walk around the display, but they could do so without distractions – no blossoms or waterfalls. The daring was strictly in the designs, with the bold use of colour and jewel-embroidery.

“I can play with all kinds of material,” Chao told a reporter. “If I find interesting materials, I’ll work with it.”

The Chinese-born, Paris-based stylist explained that the embroidery included precious and semi-precious stones that come from “all over” the world.

Their integration into his Spring / Summer 2017 couture collection added an old-world charm to modern styles, and Chao's training in professional embroidery was apparent. He definitely seems someone to watch, judging from the imaginative creations. 

The same may be said of stylist Christine Hyun Mi Nielsen. Visitors to her show were met with a rumpled double bed, on which sat a model dressed in white like the sheet and pillowcases. Later came eerie music and high-stepping movement, as models ambled through rooms full of standing spectators.

Hyun Mi Nielsen
“What’s with the lack of chairs this year?” someone remarked.

“I know, right?” a fellow viewer responded.

Still, this was a show worth standing up for, as Nielsen combined sass with expertise for a range of ensembles that she said were inspired by her own experiences, including sadness at the loss of a job with a major fashion house.

The designs reflected vulnerability as well as a fighting spirit, with the models wearing face paint like warriors, and the earth tones of leather and other materials evoking nature as champion.

“I drew on my own background, and my heritage,” said Nielsen, who has worked as a studio director for Balenciaga and was Alexander McQueen’s Head of Womenwear Design in London. She was presenting under her own brand for the first time in Paris.

Galia Lahav
Other shows with a “difference” included Galia Lahav’s presentation at the glass-domed Grand Palais, where the evening couture collection was inspired by the “Victorian era in England and by its parallel phrase in France, la Belle Epoque”.

The designs included high collars, puffed sleves, long trains and corsets in a mix of rich fabrics and varied colours – ivory, black, gold, purples, scarlet. In-house designers Galia Lahav and Sharon Sever said most of the materials were hand-dyed to “emphasize the depth” of the century.

“We have integrated fabric dyeing techniques ... and embossed silicone, alongside the use of antique, original embroidery, from the 1890’s, made by Lesage,” they told fashion reporters.

Meanwhile, Antonio Ortega stood out for mixing things up in a collection fittingly titled “Hybrid”. Along with oddball evening gowns, he showcased stylish, innovative summer ensembles, such as a wrap-around orange skirt paired with a silky grey top and a shorts "suit" with bright red piping . Ortega, in fact, made couture look cool, and without the use of water.  - Tasshon

Antonio Ortega

Liu Chao