by NICOLE PHELPS
With a Madison Avenue store in the works for 2017, Elie Saab had a ready-made theme for his new couture collection: New York, New York. Sirens and horns blared on the sound system, and Saab printed a press book with quotes about the city from famous locals and visitors. It’s been a good week for the Big Apple; Gilles Mendel riffed on his adopted hometown in his first-ever couture show yesterday. Chez Saab, lit skyscraper windows were a decorative motif on the first few gowns, but beyond that the direct references to NYC were fairly few and far between. It certainly seemed to energize him, though.
The knock on Saab has been he’s got a look and he sticks to it, with one collection blending into the next. Over the past couple of ready-to-wear seasons he has made an effort to inject youthfulness into his aesthetic. Today, for the first time, he showed a handful of mommy-and-me dresses, the little girls’ frocks every bit as lavishly detailed as the women’s. There’s no quicker way to the fashion crowd’s heart than putting kids on the runway, but youthfulness wasn’t the point here.
This was an exceptional Elie Saab collection because of how expressive it was. Birds flocked on the skirt of a gown with a black velvet bodice; hearts appeared as prints and as crystal embroideries. And there were all manner of flowers—picked out in yellow, light blue, bordeaux, and black beads on tulle; embroidered in 3-D on Chantilly lace; and appliquéd in watercolor silk on another graceful gown. That hardly sounds like a novelty at couture, where flowers are many designers’ stock in trade, but Saab has always preferred a monochromatic look, most often with shimmery tone-on-tone embroidery. His embrace of change augurs well for his Upper East Side store, and for the brand in general.