Lamenting Couture 2009

Has the economy soured the creative minds of fashion designers, or are we seeing a huge evolution of couture in which the purpose of couture is becoming something we can wear in our everyday lives? If you can wear something on the street and not be stared at, it should be couture. It was definitely not “haute” couture.

One of the biggest disappointments that I had with the spring couture runways was that I couldn’t distinguish them from the ready-to-wear lines. Obviously Zaha Hadid inspired a lot of the trends- a lot of geometry and pleated layers going on (not surprising considering the Chanel Mobile Art installation). There was also an obsession with floral appliques- either humungous, like Valentino, or small and annoying like Saab, 20s-inspired numbers: think of pleats that look like the Chrysler Bldg, and Edwardian puffy sleeves.

Chanel was a disaster, basically recycling things from the past few years. Excluding the elaborate black and white head pieces (I wouldn’t quite call them hats or tiaras), I wouldn’t have been surprised if it were a ready-to-wear collection. Change the collection name to ready-wear and I would give it five stars.

Elie Saab was also disappointing- mainly because I was a huge fan (this collection is making me think twice). Scrimping on fabric, the flowing lines of long dresses were replaced with pieces that seemed cut off in mid-thought. Huge bows, appliques, and feathery metallic piping (I don’t know what the exact term is) made dresses look like tacky Christmas trees- only they were pastel in colour. Some fashion critics said that the collection was “minimalist” but obviously minimalism is an extremely subjective term because I found the pleating, the appliques, the sparkles all loaded onto delicate fabric just too much. Yes, the silhouettes were simple, but it was like having a mini burger piled eight inches high with condiments.

Bows, bows, and more bows  (too many bows) were “in” at Valentino. There were a lot of shapeless two-piece suits (probably for the 50+ clientele) and then some tight-fitting suits with huge floral appliques, which stuck out like enormous warts. Again, a lot of unflattering pleating and terrible eye makeup choice for the models, who looked liked they were sleepwalking.  A number of red dresses, however, were quite well done, though perhaps on the more minimal side of couture, thankfully preserving some classy element of the signature Valentino reds.

Fortunately, John Galliano was able to preserve the more fun side of couture by exaggerating and amplifying the elements that other designers used for his Christian Dior couture line. You can always count on John to provide the eye candy. Wish he would collaborate with Tim Burton; they would make a great pair.

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