Fashionista contributor Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
PARIS–Perhaps Riccardo Tisci has been thinking a great deal about what couture actually is. Ever since Pierre Bergé issued his famous edict nearly a decade ago that “haute couture is dead,” Paris couture has been in a state of constant turbulence. But over the past few seasons, a new wind has blown through the houses. Working outside of the establishment, younger French designers like Alexandre Vauthier and Julien Fournié have brought energy and excitement back to couture.
Is couture a way to sale handbags and perfumes? Is it a platform for ideas that will translate into ready-to-wear? Is it a giant media event to promote the brand? By opting out of a fashion show and banning all photographers, Mr. Tisci seemed to say that couture is about merging old crafts and new techniques.
Inspired by Butoh–an experimental and subversive dance featuring extremes movements and broaching taboo subjects–and the dancer Kazuo Ohno, its most prominent practitioner, the collection was displayed on hanging mannequins . It was an elegant mix of extreme softness–chiffon in white and pale yellow–and the hard plastics of Gundman robots in Japanese animation. Several of the dresses featured a motif of embroidered cranes. In Asian cultures, white cranes symbolize longevity.
It’s easy to see Tisci’s devotion to technical perfection–pearls burned onto tulle, hand-cut organza sewn so that each piece curls out like an open fan, and hard plastic shoulder pads giving strength to delicate silk chartreuse. It’s also easy to see how the elements of soft silk, shiny leather, and plastics add to the hard-soft duality of each dress, much like the duality of a Butoh dance piece.
The only drawback of the presentation is probably its scientific approach. Clothes, no matter how extraordinary, need to be seen on a human body to convey emotion. When a model came into the room wearing an off-white silk dress, our complete attention to the detailed embroideries was broken with her warm human presence.