Right about now, one million tulip bulbs are blooming all over New York, a gift from the government of old Amsterdam to that of New Amsterdam. So now you’re probably saying to yourself “here he goes again – floral for spring…How novel!” Well, although floral is a staple of spring collections, what I find fascinating is how designers continually reinvent this classic. Let’s look at the Spring Summer Haute Couture Collections and draw inspiration for the season.
You may recall that the set for the Chanel Haute Couture show for Spring Summer 2015 was six months in the making. The hand cut paper flowers were the perfect backdrop for a collection brimming with fresh ideas. Karl Lagerfeld is, after all, the master of reinventing classics. Witness the classic shift dress and coat completely transformed by the addition of a border of silk flowers. Why even Anna Wintour chose Chanel Couture for the Met Ball.
Giambatista Valli has fast become the darling of Hollywood starlets – or that of their stylists? Regardless, the designs are always fresh and innovative and this season is no different. One of my favorite looks is this maxi-peplum over a maxi skirt. The play on proportion, in both the silhouette and the floral graphics, is at once eye-catching and fascinating. Speaking of fascinating, note the return of the French fascinator. This is not to be confused with the Philip Treacy “excuse me, Madam, but there’s a bird on your head” kind of fascinator that is more suitable to the Royal enclosure at Ascot. This is a simple length of net covering half the face that brings mystery and allure back to high fashion.
Alexis Mabille took spring floral to a new level in 2012 when he sent his models out wearing 3’ diameter flowers on their heads. This season his take is slightly more subtle. My favorite look is a pale pink chiffon gown that could easily be vintage Balenciaga from the 60s or Halston from the 70s were it not for the sheer modernity of the cut. This is couture at its finest. A seemingly simple cut that flows with the wearer could just as easily have looked like a lumpy potato sack without the skilled artisanry of Haute Couture seamstresses. Add just a touch of Lesage embroidery at the shoulder and you have perfection!
Elie Saab may be best known for strategically placing embroidered flowers on Halle Berry’s 2002 Oscar gown, but this season he provides a truly fresh take on floral by deconstructing – if not decomposing – the classic design elements. The tea stained tones of this floral graphic evoke bearded irises in their native muddy waters. Like wilting lilies, the dresses seem to cling to the beauty they have left in a somewhat melancholy, yet exuberant, way.
I couldn’t leave you on a somber note, so we not turn to the riotous designs of the dynamic duo who bring us Flowerbomb, the perfume. Viktor & Rolf are well known for the cheeky designs and their Haute Couture collection is yet another way for them to exhibit their fashion quirkiness. If we fashion folk exist in a “reality” that most normal people can only imagine, then Viktor & Rolf design for those fashion beings who exist in hyper-reality. The blending of 2-D and 3-D floral elements in these playful designs heightens the sense of dimension.
I’ve enjoyed picking this little bouquet of few spring Haute Couture flowers with you. I hope you find it inspirational as you plan your wardrobe this season and, if not, I hope that I at least brought a bit of color into an otherwise dreary day.
– Jospeh Ungoco
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Tags: 70s Halston, Alexis Mabille, Chanel Haute Couture, classic fashion, Elie Saab, fascinators, florals, Flowerbomb, flowers, Giambatista Valli, Joseph Ungoco, male box, spring fashion, Viktor & Rolf, vintage Balenciaga