As the world awaits the arrival of the torch at the opening ceremonies to mark the start of the 30th Olympiad in London, the fashion world has just marked the end of our own biannual Olympics – the Haute Couture shows in Paris. The Olympic logo – five interlocked rings – was originally designed to represent unity among the five inhabited continents. I drew inspiration from this ideal of global unity in selecting my favorite looks from the recent fashion games for this brief report.
The 2012 fashion year began with Karl Lagerfeld presenting 150 shades of blue in his Spring 2012 couture show for Chanel. For Fall 2012, Elie Saab sent just a few looks down the runway in the most ethereal shade of – wait for it – cerulean blue. Yes, for those fans of The Devil Wears Prada who never really knew what color that was, here is your answer. For fall 2012, we see the continued evolution of the burgeoning return to ladylike dressing. High necks and long sleeves for evening have firmly established themselves in the world of high fashion. Being covered up has never looked so modern. Granted, sheer fabrics and strategically placed sequins ensure that dresses that go from neck to wrist to ankle have never been sexier.
While the Christian Dior label has – since the end of World War II and fabric rationing – never been a stranger to volume, the fashion world waited with baited breath to see the first collection of Raf Simons for this storied house. Simons’ design aesthetic for his eponymous line is “body conscious” to put it mildly and no one look better embodies the fusion of his own vision and the DNA of the brand than the bright yellow gown that went down the runway about halfway through the show. The top is pure Simons – sleek, fitted, sheer and sexy – but the hem is quintessentially Dior – full, feminine and undeniably French. The two aesthetics are perfectly fused in this one look and this may be the finest example from these recent fashion games of unity!
Black was as ubiquitous in the Fall 2012 couture collections as one would expect. So, to narrow my search for the gold medal entry I turned instead to that other fashion obsession, the “new”. The recent decision by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to allow Ulyana Sergeenko to avail herself of the Haute Couture designation had everyone wondering just who she is and what she would send down the runway. Although the collection proved to be stereotypically Russian in inspiration and execution, Sergeenko did hit most of the key trends of the season – long sleeves, high necks, full skirts and sheer fabrics. Not bad for a first time participant, but only time will tell if she can earn even a bronze medal in these high stakes fashion games.
My commitment to my Olympic logo inspiration almost failed me in my search for something green. Thankfully, Giambatista Valli and his woodland themed collection saved the day! The models floated through the salon as gracefully as nymphs and then suddenly several looks appeared – as fleetingly as a stolen glimpse of a fairy. Printed organza floated diaphanously while delicate appliqués fluttered subtly like leaves caught up in a fall breeze. There is a reason why green is the color most associated with envy and these dresses will be sure to invoke that cardinal sin wherever they appear.
While Ulyana Sergeenko’s Russian-themed collection provided many fine examples of red dresses, perhaps even earning her a silver medal in this category, the world’s fashion judges would all agree that the gold medal has to go to the House of Valentino. Long famed for Rosso Valentino, the Valentino couture shows always feature at least one look in the designer’s signature shade of red. One of this season’s scarlet offerings – a veritable case study in couture construction – brings the brand to the head of the pack.
Each season, the Haute Couture inspires fashion folk the world over. Here we see the direction that fashion will take as the ready-to-wear shows unfold in New York, London, Milan and Paris. By the end of the ready-to-wear season in October we will all know if the course of fashion has truly changed. Until then, I set sail on the Queen Mary 2, arriving in London in time for the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. I am not sure what fashion I shall encounter along the way or at my destination, but stay tuned for reports from the field.
– Joseph Ungoco
Blue: Elie Saab Fall 2012 Couture
Yellow: Christian Dior Fall 2012 Couture
Black: Ulyana Sergeenko Fall 2012 Couture
Green: Giambattista Valli Fall 2012 Couture
Red: Valentino Fall 2012 Couture
Image Layout: Second City Style