Paris Couture Day Two: Alexandre Vauthier, Ronald van der Kemp and Viktor & Rolf
Paris couture is not just about giant global brands dressing the world’s most pampered billionaires’ wives. It’s also about rampant experimentation, and fashionable irony, as seen in three collections unveiled Tuesday: Alexandre Vauthier, Viktor & Rolf and Ronald van der Kemp.
Alexander Vauthier: A Tale of Two Cities
“A little darkness reflects this moment, don’t you think,” comments Paris couturier Alexander Vauthier, who sent his entire collection to London to be shot by Alasdair McLellan.
The East London photographer shot both the look-book and Vauthier’s kicky and scratchy show video, allying UK grit to his Gallic glamour.
In the end, almost all Alexandre’s fall/winter 2021 collection was almost all in black, with dashes of crystals and silver, his response to this somber summer of never-ending pandemic.
Dark, yet dashing, and even diabolical; from the majestic leather jacket sculpted like orchids, to the décolleté black crepe jersey screen goddess dress.
And unquestionably couture with all the special workmanship that implies. Like the amazing glove leather leopard/jackets dusted in small showers of crystal courtesy of some brilliant embroidery by Lesage. Or the negligee dress in stalactites and shards of crystals, in another great performance again by Lesage.
Arguably Vauthier’s most impressive look was a sequinned dress worthy of only the best nightclubs, with a marvellously dense feather trim, courtesy of feather specialist Lemarié, which like Lesage is part of the Chanel group’s Paraffection, which has recently opened a mammoth new centre called 19M in northeast Paris, grouping over a dozen expert couture suppliers.
Indeed, the whole current season seemed to have been touched by 19M, with the likes of Maria Grazia Chiuri of Christian Dior praising the centre to the heavens.
Asked about it, Vauthier responded: “I love 19M. To be honest, to complete this collection I went there once a week, and each time I felt like I had witnessed a miracle,” he confessed.
Viktor & Rolf: Nostalgia Royal
Though they refused to reveal whether they are monarchists or not, Viktor & Rolf are clearly obsessed with royalty, albeit with supersized doses of irony.
So much so that every single look in their latest couture collection took the mickey out of the nobility. The result was Henry VIII meets Danny La Rue, or Honey Dijon goes on a date with Prince Charles.
“There’s been quite a lot of upheaval about the monarchy recently. That made us think how similar royalty is to the fashion system. Which has its kings and queens; its hierarchy; and its need for the show to go on, no matter what happens backstage. Which made us think of the concept of fakeness, versus real,” explained a pale Rolf Snoeren.
Using royal fabrics, again with a twist, like patchwork dead stock brocade and jacquard, or fake biodegradable day-glow furs made out of raffia strips; or faux gemstones to create arty, ersatz versions of royal ceremonial garments.
Their inspirations were also Disney queens, seen in the fake pearl crowns and Perspex tiara. While sashes were full of pithy sayings like: 'Don’t be a Drag, just be a Queen'; 'Royal Pain in the Ass' or 'Princess? No bitch, Queen!'
Ironically, the duo had actually been knighted in their native Holland in October 2018, under the Order of the Netherlands Lion, a Dutch royal recognition of merit for those in the arts, science, sport and literature.
A dozen royal looks on stockmen were presented in a tableau within the neo-classical Expiatory Chapel, a commemorative monument, built on the spot where the bones of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were eventually buried.
Where they royalists?
“I think the message of this collection is that everyone believes in Monarchy. And, this is where Marie Antoinette ended up, and I think it’s a truly beautiful place,” demurred Viktor Horsting.
Ronald van der Kemp’s Vaccines for the Mind
One voice in fashion always worth hearing is Ronald van der Kemp, the ever iconoclastic Dutch couturier, whose latest collection is named 'The Mind Vaccine'.
“It’s fashion equivalent of ethical designer drugs. People talk about diversity and I talk about bio-diversity. Fashion cannot keep producing lots of collections people don’t need. So we work with leftovers,” insisted Ronald, who presented his collection in person by rendezvous in the Dutch Embassy on Rue de Grenelle.
A mock surgical syringe full of blood perched on a stand greeted visitors to the elegant mansion. A bold, gothic gown was laid down on the first half-dozen steps of the embassy’s red-carpeted stairs.
An acknowledged master of upcycling even before the term was invented, van der Kemp sources from the unused high-level stocks of major Paris houses or provincial textile specialists.
One archive of beautifully coloured mousseline was turned into a fantastic patchwork bustier; while yards of golden raffia became a great full skirt topped by multiple chains.
Though born in southern Netherlands, his headquarters are in Amsterdam, near the flower market on the city’s large canal, the Singel. He cut his design teeth in New York, working for the great Bill Blass, before returning to Europe, where these days he fully concentrates on couture, with large doses of pointed irony.
A manifesto beside the syringe reads: “Get ready for responsible hedonism.”
Ronald also bonded dead stock floral mousseline, cutting and gluing it into a marvellous sylvan jacket that looked grown organically. While a series of old denim jeans were ripped into tiny strips and reborn as a “fake fur” shaggy jacket with lace inserts.
“Ban fake fur, I say, and not just the real thing. I respect designers who take an ecological stand, but quite frankly fake fur is made of plastic and far worse for the environment that the real thing,” argued van der Kemp.
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