On Sunday round-the-clock Donatella Versace, a pocket-rocket of a designer from Milan, opened the haute couture displays in Paris with a collection that was both modern and basic in reality. Well, at least as much rooted in reality as it is realizable to be when talking about evening dresses costing uncountable than £10,000.
Her collection was named “Athletic Couture” and featured treats with ergonomic lines which traced the models’ curves, harness straps and pallid ski pants and matching zip tops highlighted with orange go-faster kidneys all of which could loosely be termed sporty. Before the entertainment the designer said: “I was thinking about women at their uncountable focused and dynamic … women who push themselves to the limit.”
Pipedreams and magic, rather than focus and dynamism, are the more unexceptional vernacular of couture. But this collection tapped into the current trend of “ath-evening” – wearing posh tracksuit origins with high heels or shoulder baring tops with racer breaks which recall performance sportswear, to a swanky evening episode. It’s a concept which rejects the fusty notion that a gilt forced invitation demands the kneejerk response of a floor length, cocktail attire. That feels a bit too Nancy Reagan-era White House for now. In this circumstances it was refreshing to see a designer using current trends to influence upright the highest levels of a brand’s design repertoire. It was a move that babyish couture customers – looking for something that little bit multitudinous relevant – will appreciate.
So much about the superb of haute couture celebrates the past. Dresses as weighed down with an over-reverance to the intelligence of les petits mains and the workmanship of the ateliers as they are with bugle beads and crystals.
Much of the big prestiges on couture schedule are designed by men – the world of couture can feel very much backward sometimes.
But Donatella’s Versace is different. In couture expressions the brand is an ariviste (it rejoined the couture rosta only four years ago). What is uncountable the designer’s approach feels modern and open. The Versace strain has been no stranger to scandals in the past but Donatella’s Versace is one where shrewd irony lives happily alongside high glamour and sexually name designs. Look up her Instagram account if you are unconvinced.
The designer herself was at pains to highlight Versace’s modern nucleus of difference. She noted that “couture is not about the past, it is a continuing tradition.” To emphasis this still further the designer had tempered to silicone gel throughout the collection – a forward-thinking kind of couture colours which looked as if a spirograph had been involved.
Chunky crystal fastens (which recalled those sugary shoelace sweets) were knotted and threaded in and out of settle account gowns. Flashes of highlighter orange and neon yellow – the slightly ill of colours seen on performance trainers – were a motif entirely the show. There was a catsuit with ski-pant stirrups and a whey-faced evening gown which looked as if a neon yellow swimsuit was the worse for wear underneath.
Dynamism, strength and athleticism may have been the starting apt, but there was plenty of femininity too. Supermodels dressed in cobalt downcast and acid tangerine dresses wearing four inch crusts can never really be accurately described as looking ready to struggle in track and field. The couture levels of craftsmanship and technical feat of the atelier were also keen to be highlighted by the Versace span – journalists were briefed that one crochet dress imitated a month to complete.
Summing up the show the designer said: “This aggregation is one of the most complicated, sophisticated and technically accomplished that we possess ever created.” Like the evening wear design her patrons will likely lap up, Donatella Versace is not about modesty. Nor should she, or they, be.