The Fantastic four

The maestros of fashion deliver creations that take us from everyday 
meanderings and elevate us to the fashionably sublime, says stephanie rivers

By Stephanie Rivers (FASHION)

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Published: Fri 15 Oct 2010, 11:25 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:28 PM


If dreams are the manifestation of our subconscious thoughts, then Karl Lagerfeld’s dreams are of a grand scale and surreal nature.

The Chanel S/S 2011 collection stemmed from the Sixties celluloid Last Year at Marienbad, with costumes designed by Madam Coco herself, showcasing what art imitating life or subconscious thought is like when coming to fruition.

The result was a surreal tour de force that produced not only a beautiful set — 80-piece orchestra, Versailles fountains, a monochromatic garden — but a daring and fearless collection.

The avant-garde film matched the avant-garde designs that were at once structured and bold, purposefully deconstructed as though carried out by Ninjas with scissors.

There were ripped, distressed selvedge, lattice-work perforation, swing coats, tweeds, raw edging, degrade chiffons, feathers and embroidery.

The highlights was one model strolling down the runway, which ran the length of the Grand Palais, with an umbrella shaped like a giant wide-brimmed hat; the second was the toddler in a cream short Chanel jacket paired with denim.

The crescendo came in the form of translating the film’s significant pieces for modern times, like a sea of black dresses with feathers, interrupted by the poetic visage of model Carmen Kass, in a peach layered feather dress undulating down the runway.


Designer Marc Jacobs was feeling a little bit camp and a little nostalgic for Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2011, channelling 1920s Shanghai Orientalism, the 70s and his animalistic side, literally.

There were wonderful cheongsam-inspired shifts, zebra stripes, tigers and touches of art nouveau.

The collection and venue were camp in the sense that they were highly styled, to the point of being over styled, but perhaps that was the point of it all, to be sans minimalism.

The House’s logo provided a delightful monogram for skirts paired with halters, fringe provided the tongue-in-cheek essence to the cheongsams, the animal head sweaters coupled with giraffe prints and model Kristen McMenamy’s zebra-painted torso spoke to the beauty of a jungle’s inhabitants; adding in loads of colour, as well as sequins which provided the 70s splash and spice that helped to serve up a gorgeous collection.

The handbags were structured and smaller than last season, with high slits, short shorts and mini cheongsams providing the sexy flashes of skin apropos for spring and summer.

With Vuitton breaking into the Asian marketplace, it is not known whether or not the Orientalism was a deliberate play to that audience or not; however, the outcome was one that would resonate with many, inside or outside the Orient.


One cannot imagine the pressure that Sarah Burton was under in taking over the reigns for the House of Alexander McQueen, or the thankless task it was to create the collection and steer it into a continued sea of prosperity, in the absence of her mentor and the man that created one of the most inventive labels of the last century, Lee Alexander McQueen.

But with a hushed assurance, Sarah produced an outstanding collection that carried the spirit and signature of McQueen himself but had a more feminine, softer slant to his sometimes-dark designs that made it her own.

The collection had the Edwardian jackets; the structured shoulders were softened, the layers as nuanced yet with a fluidity, grace and rawness. The collection started out white as though a blank canvas, graduating or captured by nature with the building of earthy prints and colours, till finally swathed in black.

The set, which under McQueen’s hand was normally dark and eerie, appeared lighter, more mother nature with a twin pagan spirit.

The standouts were the Edwardian jackets, the hand-crocheted lace overlay dresses, the hand-painted butterfly dresses, the exquisite black leather leaf dresses, the modern tuxedo suiting with gold-painted leafs and the brocade and feather suiting. Absolutely superb.


Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Picciolione had large shoes to fill when taking over the reigns of Valentino a few seasons back, one that started on unsteady ground. The pair set out from the beginning to modernise the label and to make it their own. With several seasons under their belts, they have finally relaxed and found their rhythm balancing it with signature references to the house and a homage to its founder, Garavani Valentino.

Many of the looks this time around had the essence of Mr Valentino but interpreted in a way that spoke to today’s ingénue without leaving the loyal ladies out in the cold. The pretty frocks included sheer ¾ sleeved dresses with ribbon-tied waists, sheer lace long-sleeve jackets worn over shorts, ruffle-front dresses with tie-closure necklines, raw silk dresses with double ruffle sleeve cuffs and tiered-ruffle bottom waist-length jackets paired with shorts that were at once beautiful and functional — the ingénue could wear the runway look as shown with shorts and the Fifth Avenue ladies could pair with pencil skirts.

If the omnipotent is in the details, then Valentino’s signatures were the thread of this collection, as witnessed in the intricacies of the looks from the Peter Pan-inspired collars, to the ribbon ties, to the ruffle detailing.

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