Newspaper article International New York Times

Dark Opulence and Red Carpet

Newspaper article International New York Times

Dark Opulence and Red Carpet

Article excerpt

Opulence was certainly apparent at the Elie Saab show in Paris, but it also offered up some lessons for Hollywood.

Is it fashion or the red carpet that is changing? Although there were a fair number of done-up outfits at the Academy Awards over the weekend, Elie Saab opened his winter 2014 collection on Monday with narrow sporty pants in wine red, with a cloak or coat as cover-up. It was what the designer called "dark opulence," and far from flash.

In fact, the first strapless long dress had black burned into the wine, and long dresses continued in that vein -- give or take a split side or a semi-sheer fabric showing a hazy view of shorts and leg underneath.

The opulence was there all right, in fluffy pink fur jackets. But the sporty theme wound on with digital flower prints on black. Long sleeves were a constant cover-up.

Mr. Saab cited Mark Rothko -- and the American artist's linear focus with luminous colors -- as his inspiration, and there was an artistic feel to the long-sleeved dresses in emerald green darkening to black.

Perhaps the world, and a rain-soaked Hollywood, is learning to dare to cover up, rather than to bare.

"There are a lot of designers that are very good at putting men's clothes on women, Giambattista Valli said Monday, "but on the contrary, I like to dress women who are totally comfortable with their own femininity -- and they love dresses dedicated to them."

The designer was not being defiant, but rather was explaining his woman-as-flower look. Young models at his show stepped out with petal pieces, each a soft version of a triangle, opening at the sides of dresses.

This collection was as light as a feather. Not quite the thing for the seemingly endless winter in the United States this year, but quite convincing as work on intriguing surfaces. A texture on one of the coats might come from an animal print or from a brushing effect of what looked like dog hair. Or it was a ragged mix of fur and lace that appeared on a fondant-pink coat, with the same sweet color used for dresses.

The designer has been smart in the way that he segments his collections, so that haute couture is deliberately decorative and the ready-to-wear line in the same pretty spirit, but much simpler. …

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