February is national Women’s Heart Health month and, hopefully, all of you celebrated Wear Red Day on February 3rd. If not, you still have the rest of month to help raise awareness of this important issue and encourage the women in your lives – including yourself – to get heart screenings. For fashion types, the Red Dress Collection is the highlight of Fall/Winter Fashion Week in New York every February. Celebrities strut their stuff down the runway in red outfits designed by fashion’s biggest – and newest – names. Check out GoRedforWomen.org for more information. Being a Francophile fashionista myself, I thought I’d take you through the red Haute Couture dresses presented during the shows in Paris in January. Almost all the shows featured at least one look in red and some had many from which to choose. Here are a few of my favorites, along with some notes on the Creative Director merry-go-round that is Haute Couture.
Valentino Garavani may have retired but the house that bears his name continues to create stunning looks in the color that also bears his name, Rosso Valentino. I’m sure that this particular shade of blue-red exists somewhere on the Pantone color wheel under a different name, but to us HC junkies it will always be quite simply “Valentino Red”. My favorite runway look is utterly elegant in its simplicity. Flowing silk crepe de chine in an off-the-shoulder silhouette that covers the upper arms highlights the wearer’s movements and in the grand tradition of Monsieur V himself, you can be sure that “full length” is full length. After all, no one – least of all his successor, Pierpaolo Piccioli – can forget his famous quote: “An evening dress that reveals a woman’s ankles while walking is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.”
Maria Grazia Chiuri decamped from Valentino to take the helm at Christian Dior, bringing with her a modern woman’s sensibility about the art form that is HC. In my favorite look, we see not only full length, but also full volume in a proper ball gown with a straight strapless bodice. Here, texture completes the story that volume begins. Beguiling in its dreamy simplicity, this gown comes alive as the wearer moves. Whether descending the grand staircase at the Met or sipping a cocktail on the Grand Tier with the Chagall Murals as a backdrop, you’ll be as radiant as the Sputnick chandeliers.
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Speaking of radiant, Zuhair Murad drew inspiration from a fireworks festival to create a spectacular collection featuring bursts of brilliant color, including the red I needed for this story. As the go-to designer for celebrities like Beyonce and J.Lo, you can always expect the sex appeal to be high in his creations. My favorite of the red looks in the collection features illusion embroidery on the bodice that evokes fireworks and a silk Duchesse satin skirt with ruffles down one side. Monsieur Valentino would be appalled, but that’s the beauty of the Haute Couture. There’s something for everyone!
HC would not be Haute if there wasn’t a touch of the theatrical among the offerings and everyone’s favorite enfant terrible John Galliano does not disappoint with his collection for Maison Martin Margiela. Widely acclaimed as his breakthrough collection for the storied house, HC aficionados like myself see this as the first collection where the melding of the iconic DNA of the brand and Galliano’s own creative genius is seamless. He applied the minimalist aesthetic of Margiela to the very essence of HC, the construction, stripping away all the embellishment and reducing the garments to what he calls “the memory of the emotion”. Bravo, monsieur, bravo!
No red themed runway review for February – women’s heart health month – would be complete without a reference to the Queen of Hearts. Fashion people are often described as heartless – an occupational hazard – but I assure you, dear reader, we do have hearts and the eternally vivacious queen of our hearts is Carmen dell’Orefice. The 85 year old silver maned model proves that youth is a state of mind – and heart. She closed the Guo Pei Haute Couture show in spectacular fashion, flanked by two clearly ballet trained pageboys. Brava, la Diva, brava!
The iconic image of the Lady in Red transcends time, but for the month of February let us remember that red signifies love and matters of the heart – both emotional and physical. So, dear reader, make sure that you, and all the women you know, know that you are loved – and heart healthy.
A must-read for all women is Women and Heart Disease: The Real Story by Dr. Jacqueline A. Eubany.
– Joseph Uncogo
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