Thursday, July 5, 2018


Kithe Brewster design.
On some of the hottest days of the year so far, designers increased the temperature with intense originality, taking spectators both back in time and into the future during Paris Haute Couture week.
The uncommon venues used for the July 1-to-5 shows - such as the venerable American Cathedral in the city's chic 8th arrondissement - contributed to the heat, as lack of air conditioning and perhaps internal discomfort caused spectators to fan themselves, while admiring the clothing.
Brewster's "art of draping".
Still, Paris-based American designer Kithe Brewster utilised the church space to good effect for his Autumn-Winter 2018-19 collection, which drew inspiration from first-century Rome, with “emphasis on the art of draping”.
The show, his first couture event, began with a ballet piece featuring a pair of dancers leaping down the aisle against the backdrop of stained glass windows. As other dancers - muscular and male - joined them in the altar area, the models began strutting down the church “runway”, and one couldn’t help wondering what a regular congregation might have made of the show.
Several of the “romanesque” gowns might actually be seen again in church at weddings, with their striking fabrics of silk and wool crepe, adorned with sequins. Brewster employed a range of rich colors, too, including red, fuchsia, black and gold, which reflected his background in show business; he has worked as a stylist with artists such as singer Beyoncé, rapper Eve and the group Bewitched.
The designs met an enthusiastic reception and fans later rushed backstage to compliment a perspiring Brewster. “Excuse me for the sweat,” the designer told one aficionada, as he posed with her for the requisite selfie.
Liu Chao
Chinese designer Liu Chao and Mexican-Canadian stylist Antonio Ortega also presented their collections at the same venue, with Chao evoking a kind of Darth-Vader universe, with dark colours and dramatic, discordant music, while Ortega went for a playful yet elegant vibe.
As a spectator remarked, Chao’s designs “totally fit the setting”, with their futuristic feel and the echoes of other-worldliness, amidst the warmth. The emphasis on black - with tassels, studs and intriguing headgear - emitted youthful energy and edginess as well.
A similar, modern dynamism came from Ortega. He decorated the entrance to the show with bright-yellow posters bearing the words “be yourself”, and told his cast of models (including his two adopted children) to enjoy the garments.
Their joyousness and smiles became infective as they swaggered down the aisle wearing vibrant pink and yellow ensembles, and, at the end, spectacular peacock feathers.
“It was an interesting collection,” one spectator noted. “I really liked the playfulness.”
Antonio Ortega
Fans also commmented that the diversity of the models and the designers’ influences were a welcome aspect of the haute couture scene.
For his part, Ortega told Tasshon that he took inspiration from his own multi-cultural background.
“Multiculturalism is with us, and it’s a part of my brand and my soul,” he said. “When I travel, I see how mixed everything is - peacocks walking around in urban areas in India, for instance. That inspires me.”
His show, titled “Forms and Urban Desires” equally incorporated Art Nouveau elements, as the designer used reflective materials to give a “nod to a cityscape populated by glass and steel towers” and chose fabrics such as silk, tulle, lurex and cashmere to evoke both the curves and straight lines of towns.
Later the same day, Greek designer Celia Kritharioti paid homage to her mother through a breath-taking collection of superbly crafted dresses and gowns.
The show started with her voice relating a memory: “The first time I visited Paris, I was with my mother. I was a little girl and I was holding her hand as we entered all the fashion houses during Couture Week … My mother loved black, pearls and Paris, as much as she did Greece.”
Celia Kritharioti - ready to soar.
The collection put the spotlight on black for elegance, mixing the colour with gold before moving to ivory and finally a magnificent white gown with huge feathers. This was all set to live music from the talented soprano Christina Poulitsi, and took place in the ornate rooms of the Mona Bismarck townhouse - a centre for art and cultural events along the river Seine.
The models included Russian star Natalya Vodianova, wearing Chantilly lace, silk tulle, and velvet, among other fabrics, with intricate embroidery and pearls. Spiky black headdresses and lace leggings added to the overall aesthetics.
“We are in Paris again,” said Kritharioti, referring to her mother. “I have left her hand and walk alone. At every one of my shows, my gaze searches for her in the audience, though I know that she too, is looking at me from backstage, by my side.”
Russian-born designer Galia Lahav also had her partner - Sharon Sever - by her side for their collection titled “And God Created Woman”. The emphasis here was on femininity with pastels inspired by the seaside and by Monet’s impressionism.
Galia Lahav
Floral chiffon prints meanwhile came from Sever’s own watercolour artwork, and the yellows drew attention as Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" played over the speakers.
The “flirtatious and free” creations also used emerald green, denim blue and ice pink for vibrant dresses, jumpsuits and tops.
All the designs made for a grand spectacle in the high-ceilinged, historic setting of the Université René Descartes, in the sixth arrondissement. An off-the-shoulder gown in layers of silvery grey lace and a vibrant concoction in pink elicited gasps of appreciation for a brand renowned for its lavish, luxurious gowns.
“These clothes are hot. They really appeal to my inner duchess,” said a 70-year-old American spectator, walking out into the bright sunlight to a glass of chilled champagne served in the courtyard, after the défilé
The heatwave would continue for a few more shows. - Tasshon
Galia Lahav