Elie Saab captivates Paris couture with a fusion of past and present

In the stone cloisters of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs adjoining the palatial Louvre, Elie Saab unveiled his latest collection to a rapt audience of VIPs, including Alicia Silverstone, on Wednesday.

Amid the historic venue, Saab presented a couture show that astounded attendees with its intricate detailing and magnificent silhouettes — and lived up to the venue’s grandeur.

Here are some highlights of Wednesday’s fall-winter 2023 couture collections:

Saab’s cinematic sirens strut in silk

Staying true to his glamour-focused ethos, the fall collection saw Saab recraft history’s contours through a modern lens. Drawing inspiration from heroines of period pieces — Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth,” Charlize Theron in “Snow White and the Huntsman,” and more — Saab reinterpreted these timeless figures.

Complex embellishments, intricate textures, and sparkling jewel tones of ruby, amethyst and emerald danced across gowns, paying homage to the regal, cinematic muses. Medieval symbolism came to life through sequined Tudor roses and flowering branches vining their way up the gowns, melding historical reverence with Saab’s sophisticated artistry.

Dramatic capes of crystalized crepe and velvet dentelle layered atop matching gowns, wrapped in an enigma of enchantment and luxury. Touches of whimsy came to life in pearl drops and gilded bees humming through embroidered foliage, and ethereal gowns with near-transparent sequins in playful fantasies.

Models wear creations for the Elie Saab Haute Couture Fall/winter 2023-2024 fashion collection presented in Paris, Wednesday, July 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Models wear creations for the Elie Saab Haute Couture Fall/winter 2023-2024 fashion collection presented in Paris, Wednesday, July 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Saab has shown once more that while his inspirations may travel through time, the core of his collections — an unflinching commitment to glamour and the celebration of feminine beauty — remains the same. It is this consistency that continues to endear Saab to his clientele.

Bikinis, bows, and mannequins: Viktor & Rolf’s surrealist spectacle

Couture at Viktor & Rolf is like a master class in suspense. Season after season the anticipation among fashion critics is palpable over what their latest surreal innovation and creative madness will be. Known for a history steeped in the avant-garde, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren are unafraid to challenge norms, often framing their fashion as a commentary on society.

Their fall couture show kicked off with an audacious splash. Bikinis, the epitome of summer wear, were intricately fastened with a lattice of ribbons, an allusion to the paradoxical bondage of fashion. This lattice motif exploded into a kaleidoscopic spectacle on a pale blue bikini that seemed to amplify the model into an oscillating subatomic particle, a look heightened by audacious yellow heels.

Bows and ruffles, traditional symbols of femininity, were deconstructed and recontextualized. A bold red swimsuit was bisected by a single, defiant bow, while another garment saw bows fluttering upwards like a flight of butterflies – a surreal moment that testified to the duo’s poetry. Their knack for placing the unexpected could not be missed.

Viktor & Rolf’s coup de grâce was the Instagram-ready moment featuring a model adorned with a headless male mannequin in a tuxedo, perched on her shoulders. The mannequin made a reappearance, this time seemingly leaping into a model’s arms in a startled embrace.

In a world of predictability, Viktor & Rolf once again served up the unexpected, ingeniously weaving in the threads of humor, critique and surrealism. Their couture shows challenge the status quo, one garment at a time.

Yuima Nakazato’s display of craft and illusion

Up-and-coming designer Yuima Nakazato, hailing from Tokyo, demonstrated a growing confidence and maturity in his latest collection presented at Wednesday’s couture show.

Known for his unique blend of traditional Japanese techniques with innovative, sustainable approaches, Nakazato’s collection began with a surprising piece: a cascading tribal necklace that initially appeared to be made of red coral but was, in fact, ingeniously composed of keys.

Nakazato’s visual illusions were further showcased through prominent jewelry pieces like a blood-red pendant, almost resembling scavenged carcass remains.

The designer’s signature style — the fusion of contrasting elements — was prominent. Vivid, hard jewelry was starkly contrasted with fluid, draped garments that delicately moved with the models. A white top appeared to have been clawed by a wild animal, further reinforcing the collection’s untamed spirit. Nakazato’s exploration of sustainable textiles and commitment to waste reduction are notable.

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