by AMY VERNER
As guests were taking their seats, ambient music gave some indication that Elie Saab had looked to China, or Asia more broadly, for inspiration. This was confirmed from the first look, with gowns moving through harmonies of construction and craftsmanship that conjured empresses and women of high rank displaying their beauty and influence.
Richly jewel-toned in velvet and satin, or else ethereally light in satin or tulle, the silhouettes were all manner of ceremonial, romantic, and regal. There were floor-sweeping trains and thigh-high slits; peaked shoulders and one-shoulders; kimono sleeves and cape sleeves; enveloping robes and stricter columns. The embroideries were exceedingly lavish, suggesting auspicious flora and fauna but more abstract than figurative, as though rendered in movement, as well as tracery patterns that would be found on royal garments. There were also a number of dresses whose surfaces displayed not a single sequin or bead; most certainly, these will be well received for existing outside the theme.
In the collection notes, Saab is quoted as saying, “I was drawn to East Asia’s rich culture, and the more I let my mind dive into it, the more I explored imperial volumes within the collection, using signature touches that remain true to the Maison.” Waist emphasis qualifies as one of those signature touches: This season, more often than not, the dresses were enhanced with belts comprised of contoured golden discs.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack largely toggled between Thom Yorke and Ryuichi Sakamoto, underscoring the contemporary East-West trope that, for whatever reason, proves endlessly alluring in fashion and beyond. Apart from hair and makeup that played up a more caricatured look, this sumptuously executed collection treated the traditional elements with artistic respect. But it’s interesting to consider that on the same day that Christine Lagarde was named the first woman to lead the European Central Bank, these dresses seem to elevate women within a fantasized realm.