Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Fairytales and Fables at Shiatzy Chen's SS19 Show in Paris

Fine grained, beautifully tailored coat-dress worn with new mesh booties at Shiatzy Chen's SS19 ready-to-wear show in Paris
Fables and fairy tales were at the heart of Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia's new Spring/Summer 2018 show for Shiatzy Chen in Paris. Frothy confections of black and white lace were mixed with sporty, stream-lined looks and finely embroidered tops and jackets making an engaging and wearable collection, writes Antonio Visconti. Edited by Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Pink trees, pomegranates, cranes, rabbits
and Pekingese people Shiatzy Chen's
new collection
THE fairy-tale graphic designs of pink trees, pomegranates, hedgehogs, a white rabbit, a red-crowned crane, a Pekingese,  and mahjong for Shiatzy Chen's new show in Paris gave a hint of what was to come. Founder and creative director Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia based the new collection on an imaginary, magical world of beauty and transformation where mahjong tiles turn into butterflies and beetles, the East wind blows and time stops and the pomegranate trees are laden with fruit. The set design of the show with a bright blue door, path of mahjong tiles and Chinese symbols also gave the whole collection a fable-like atmosphere.

These ideas form the basis for the prints and designs of the new season's collection with its light, frothy confections of lace mixed with sporty and stream-lined looks and delicately embroidered tops and jackets. Cranes, ducks, rabbits and landscapes with bridges and storks are printed or embroidered on coat dresses, silk bomber jackets and long, column dresses with a Mandarin collar. Many skirts and dresses were quite short mixed with longer mid-calf looks. But it is the beautifully worked Chinese embroidery with a modern ethos is at the heart of Shiatzy Chen's collections.

Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia based the new collection on an imaginary, magical world of beauty and transformation

Delicate embroidery is part of
Shiatzy Chen's signature idiom
Eighteen years ago, Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia started collaborating with Xiang and Suzhou embroiderers in China to apply spun-yarn embroidery, counting stitch, french knot, appliqué, drawn-thread and cut work to her designs. All of the new collections feature different themes that highlight exquisite embroideries. The designer's contemporary tailoring is combined with traditional embroidery to create something new and fresh. 

This season the collection included a variety of stitching, with delicate flower motifs in brilliant colour against a black background (see at right) plaid designs and new fabrics including a specially developed jacquard plus lace, satin and cotton. The palette was dominated by black and white leavened with vivid pink, deep purple and blue, gold and carmine. There were some new standout lace-up, mesh booties that looked both stylish and comfortable and will no doubt be highly desirable plus sporty sandals and Mary Jane shoes. Other accessories included travel bags, jade bracelets and purses with leather stitching and colourful patterns.

Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia originally founded Shiatzy Chen in 1978 when she was 27 years old and her aim was to create a new Chinese aesthetic that mixed traditional craftsmanship with a Western idiom. Today, the luxury fashion house is often called the Chanel of Taiwan. Growing up in a family of seven children where she was the eldest, in Taiwanese Changhua, a city with a rich cultural history, Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia needed to develop skills to help the family and decided to design clothes. Although she was not formally trained in fashion she learnt by working at her uncle's factory.

Shiatzy Chen was founded on a new Chinese aesthetic that mixed traditional craftsmanship with a Western idiom

Diaphanous stripes and polka dots
cinched with a Shiatzy Chen
belt
By the 1970s, she and her husband, Wang Yuan-hong, a businessman in  textiles, founded the Shiatzy International Company Limited. The designer worked for more than 30 years to establish her name in the local market as one of the few homegrown designer labels in Taiwan with a clientele including politicians and celebrities as well as international clients such as Elizabeth Hurley and Victoria Beckham. In 1990, Shiatzy Chen set up a studio in Paris to stay on top of fashion trends and to learn more about Western dressmaking techniques. The studio is also used as a place to train Taiwanese dressmakers and designers.

Shiatzy Chen opened a flagship store in Paris in 2001 and has continued expanding with emporiums around the world including Beijing and Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur.  More than ten years ago, the company opened a second large factory of 6000 square meters, in Shanghai alongside the existing one in Taipei. The new factory was designed by German architect Johannes Hartfuss to accommodate a workforce of more than 1,000 employees, including dressmakers and embroiderers.

Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia is proud of her Chinese roots and uses this influence in her work with subtlety and imagination

As light and frothy as whipped cream,
this lacy SS19 creation
Ten years ago, Shiatzy Chen debuted at Paris Fashion Week, making it just the second Taiwanese design house to have shown on the official schedule. By the next year, in November 2009, the company became a member of the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode (FHCM).

It was Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia's insistence on high-quality craftsmanship and her team's dedication and focus that allowed the designer to enter the hallowed halls of the Paris fashion world. The whole family is involved in the Shiatzy Chen business. Didier Grumbach, former president of the FHCM, has said that while Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia is proud of her Chinese roots she uses this influence in her work with "subtlety and imagination" combined with a high level of quality and design.

He went on to say that this makes Shiatzy Chen close in spirit to French luxury brands and was another reason it was elected as a member of the French Federation.

See more highlights from Shiatzy Chen's SS19 Paris show below
Founder and creative director Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia based the new collection on an imaginary, magical world of beauty and transformation.
Cranes, Mandarin ducks, rabbits and landscapes with bridges and storks are printed or embroidered on coat dresses like this one above.
Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia originally founded Shiatzy Chen in 1978 when she was 27 years old and her aim was to create a new Chinese aesthetic that mixed traditional craftsmanship with a Western idiom.
Ten years ago, Shiatzy Chen debuted at Paris Fashion Week, making it just the second Taiwanese design house to have shown on the official schedule.
It was Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia's insistence on high-quality craftsmanship and her team's dedication and focus allowed the designer to enter the hallowed halls of the Paris fashion world.
Today, Shiatzy Chen as a luxury fashion house is often called the Chanel of Taiwan,
The designer's contemporary tailoring is combined with traditional embroidery to create something new and fresh. 
Beautifully worked Chinese embroidery with a modern ethos ~ here subtly tone on tone ~ is at the heart of Shiatzy Chen's collections.
  

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

From Arte Povera and Contemporary Grunge to New Realism and the Gilded Age: Kristina Fidelskaya

A long, diaphanous black blouse is combined with gleaming, celestial blue trousers and Pre-Raphaelite grunge hair. Photographs and cover picture by Elli Ioannou for DAM

Kristina Fidelskaya founded her luxury ready-to-wear brand in 2014 after completing a fashion design degree at the École supérieure des arts et techniques de la mode (Esmod) in Dubai. She launches her new Spring/Summer 2019 collection in Paris this season combining arte povera, contemporary grunge and a new realism. Report by Antonio Visconti and Elli Ioannou for DAM

UKRAINIAN designer Kistina Fidelskaya's new Spring/Summer 2019 collection was shown in Paris last night. The designer says that luxury is not shouting wealth out loud but showing it in "small gestures that speak of care, of attention, of love." This is translated into designs that mix the rough with the smooth, matt with the shiny and light, floating fabrics ~  that don't need lining ~ with heavier fabrics. She wanted this season to be about subtlety and details

The designer says she finds inspiration in the New Realism movement and explores shapes, volumes and finishes defined more by their differences than their similarities. The designs are mostly free of decoration and are made up of textured layers that she says are "essential" but not minimalist.

The palette is summery and includes blush-hued nudes mixed with creamy whites and blacks. Dashes of yellow and metallic touches are like brushstrokes on a canvas. The designer refers to Arte Povera and is drawn to materials that evoke the natural world and she mixes this aesthetic with techno-taffeta, metallic viscose gazar, laminated silk poplin and a Vichy check.

The silhouettes play with ideas of gender and are partly inspired by David Bowie. The designer stretches this to influences as far afield as Deauville and looking back to the Edwardian Gilded Age. She says the collection has an edge of contemporary grunge that expresses the freedom of what she terms a "post-consumerist" society. Ideas and clothes merge to embody a new aesthetic that is both austere and clean-cut yet still filled with sudden clashes of texture, colour and proportion.

See highlights from the show below. Tap on photographs for full-screen slideshow
 A fine cotton, Nehru-collared shirt with interesting caped sleeves is tucked into and partly drawn through the waistband of check trousers in dark navy and white.  

Metallic viscose in that shimmering sky blue adds a brilliant sheen to a light, caped jacket and shorts with an elasticated waist.
Floating, semi-transparent blouses in white have long sleeves and string-like ties that fall below the knee and are combined with black shorts.
The silhouettes play with ideas of gender and are partly inspired by David Bowie. 
The designer says the collection has an edge of contemporary grunge that expresses the freedom of what she terms a "post-consumerist" society.



Monday, 17 September 2018

Life is a Cabaret: Jean Paul Gaultier's Theatre of Fashion

A play of transparency and words: Smoking, No Smoking were key to Jean Paul Gaultier's latest haute couture collection in Paris. Main pciture and all photographs by Elli Ioannou. Cover picture of the Tony Ward haute couture show by Anna Cappello
Jean Paul Gaultier's latest haute couture collection was one of the highlights in Paris last month. The French couturier dances to his own muse and imbues his creations with a vision of the world where clothes say more than just what you are wearing. While his fashion shows are like a cabaret, he will premiere his first autobiographical revue at the Folies Bergère this October. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento and Elli Ioannou

An electric blue pleated skirt and jacket contrasts
with the predominantly black and white
AW1819 collection
TODAY, French designer Jean Paul Gaultier creates two haute couture collections a year and he puts all of his vibrant energy and swirling ideas into making them more like performance pieces. His designs are a form of self expression but are also full of witty social, cultural and political commentary. He also manages the difficult feat of creating avant-garde pieces that are also beautifully tailored and wearable.

This time as writer, director and set designer, Mr Gaultier is also taking his work into the theatre. The couturier is currently rehearsing his autobiographical revue called Fashion Freak Show in Paris. He says it is a new form of theatre that combines both a revue and a fashion show and includes actors, dancers and circus performers with dozens of specially designed new outfits.

Mr Gaultier is planning on taking the audience on a journey from his childhood and early career to his most flamboyant fashion shows and nights spent at Le Palace and London. He also pays tribute to other artists that have inspired him from filmakers Pedro Almodovar and Luc Besson to singers like Madonna and Mylène Farmer and dancers such as Régine Chopinot and Angelin Prejlocaj.

 It is a new form of theatre combining both revue and fashion show with actors, dancers and circus performers

To bring the project to fruition he collaborated with Tonie Marshall, who co-directs the show. The designer says it will have music from disco to funk and from pop to rock and new wave ~ a playlist that he says has inspired him throughout his life. The revue will open in October at the cabaret music hall of the Folies Bergère and run until December.

The swirling smoke and filmy curtains at the cabaret-like
haute couture show in Paris
It is nearly four years since Jean Paul Gaultier stopped producing ready-to-wear collections for men and women. Instead, Puig Beauty and Fashion Group, the brand's Spanish majority shareholder who bought out Hermès stake seven years ago ~ after the designer was creative director from 2003 to 2010 ~ now focuses on Jean Paul Gaultier perfumes and the couture line.

Haute couture had originally brought Mr Gaultier great success when he started the collection in 1997, initially without the backing of a large company. Here he found his creative playground where he was able to express his eclectic and experimental aesthetic even more freely than in his pret-a-porter collections.

Jean Paul Gaultier's designs are a form of self expression but are also full of witty social, cultural and political commentary  

A beautifully tailored iteration of Le Smoking,  
in silk and sequins for the AW1819
haute couture collection
In Paris last month, the designer presented a lively show of his new work at the Jean Paul Gaultier headquarters at 325 Rue Saint-Martin in the Marais. The atmosphere was like a film set and the grand building like a small palace that provided the backdrop to Mr Gaultier's private party where everyone was invited to celebrate. Walking up
the grand staircase, with its encrustations of decorative plasterwork and tall mirrors, guests arrived along with the media, camera crews and lots of champagne. Unlike the start of many fashion shows, it felt welcoming, fun, colourful and inclusive: we were being invited inside his home and his tribe was there to celebrate.

The atmosphere was relaxed like a cabaret club and cocktail party, a contrast to the often solemn and impersonal nature of other couture shows. Waiters and waitresses served drinks wearing the signature Gaultier breezy white and blue striped sailor tops.

This autumn/winter 2018/19 season, the theme was Le Smoking, the tuxedo for women originally created by Yves Saint Laurent and a leitmotif that has long run through Jean Paul Gaultier's work. There were different iterations of the tuxedo from short and shapely cropped jackets with silk lapels and voluminous capes to elegant, long gowns with bustier tops that showed Mr Gaultier's fine tailoring.

The couturier manages the difficult feat of creating avant-garde pieces that are also beautifully tailored and wearable

A long train in diaphanous silk organza
forms a curling trail like a cloud of smoke
But this season, le smoking was expressed quite literally with not only beautifully cut black and white suits but also with faux cigarettes made into ear broaches and necklaces. He uses the cigarette ~ with all of its fraught contemporary connotations ~ as a symbol of freedom of expression.

Appearing from a backdrop of filmy white curtains amid curling smoke, models waved electronic cigarettes, pipes and cigarette-holders as they walked the white, raised runway.

The domed ceiling had a neon blue projection of the words smoking or no smoking and the electronic soundtrack was filled with the sound of matches lighting, smoke being breathed out and the occasional cough. A diaphanous, organza dress in pale, gossamer greys with a long, floating train closed the show suggesting nothing more than a sinuous curl of smoke.

The collection was presented on a classic, white runway with a neon blue stage backdrop and it felt like a theatre or cabaret space. The choreography on the runway moved between models walking straight along the catwalk to more theatrical moments when male and females took off their jackets and exchanged them with each other.

From early in his career, Mr Gaultier has been questioning gender roles, long before androgyny had become the dominant trope in avant-garde fashion. This time, he used the free the nipple campaign as a comment on restrictive dress laws and social media controls with models wearing transparent plastic shields. For the finale, a man and a woman came out topless except for these wedges of clear plastic that reached up to their faces. One read in French: Tetons Libres and the other Free the Nipple harking back to the designer's young days as French fashion's enfant terrible.

From the start of his career, Jean Paul Gaultier has been questioning gender roles, long before androgyny became the dominant trope in avant-garde fashion

Free the Nipple and Tetons Libres on the transparent
shield-like tops that the models
wore like fashion armour
Apart from the transparent shields, looking like a form of armour, the models wore long leather gloves and black and white skirt-trousers. The stiff plastic quadrilinear shapes were also used on other outfits as oversized wraps and rectangular counterpoints on sleeves and shoulder junctions. Black and white gaiters were worn with stockings and socks adding to the burlesque aesthetic of the collection.

Jean Paul Gaultier has created revolutions in the fashion world that reverberated beyond the rarefied world of Paris and were reported on by the international press, eventually ending up as pop culture references. Two of his stand-out creations were the satin conical bra and sculptural corset he designed for Madonna's 1990 Blond Ambition tour that made him known on the world's fashion stage and the “man skirt” created for the Jean Paul Gaultier menswear collections in 1985. He subverted ideas of traditional masculinity and femininity by including these skirts for men and kilts in his work. Twenty years later, Mr Gaultier organised Braveheart: Men in Skirts exhibition at the Costume Institute of New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which showed his designs and those by Dries van Noten, Vivienne Westwood and Rudi Gernreich. The aim was to show designers who used the skirt in men's fashion as a way to upend social codes and redefine ideals of masculinity.

The exuberant front row being photographed
before the Jean Paul Gaultier AW1819 show
Mr Gaultier has always worked beyond the tight confines of haute couture, designing costumes for both theatre and also major films. And he has continued to work with singers like Madonna, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Beyoncé, Rihanna and Katy Perry, designing their stage costumes.

His gowns are also worn on the red carpet by actors such as Marion Cotillard Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett and many others.

Starting out, Jean Paul Gaultier didn't have any formal training as a fashion designer but as a teenager he had the chutzpah to send his sketches to famous couturiers. Pierre Cardin was the first to recognise this young talent and took him on as an assistant in his studio when the designer turned eighteen years old in 1970. A year later, after training with Cardin, he worked for French designers Jacques Esterel and Jean Patou.

The aim was to show designers who used the skirt in men's fashion as a way to upend social codes and redefine ideals of masculinity

Mr Gaultier's own first collection was launched in 1976 and by the early 1980s he had become well known for playing with traditional gender roles and his work inspired by streetwear and popular culture plus his use of models who were androgynous and tattooed and often didn't fit the rake thin frame that was (and often still is) considered the ideal in fashion.

Jean Paul Gaultier runs down the catwalk at the end of
his latest couture show in Paris
For this latest haute couture show, instead of having just a single model walking the runway, Mr Gaultier also paired male and females side by side, wearing variations of the one look. The designer also made a special homage to the Fez, part of an early menswear collection where he collaborated with hat designer extraordinaire Stephen Jones. This time, the hats were jauntily worn by both male and female models in pale greys with long tassells. A male model wearing a Fez and a mouth guard, ceremoniously removed it as a symbol of freedom of speech while others playfully danced on the runway.

At the end of the entertaining show, Jean-Paul Gaultier dashed out, running and waving his arms, expressing the joie de vivre that still infuses his work with the fun and sense of play which differentiates him from the formal sobriety that dominates other haute couture houses in Paris. It will be interesting to see whether the upcoming revue about his own life at the Folies Bergere matches the drama and theatre on his catwalks.

Tap photographs for slideshow highlights from Jean Paul Gaultier's AW1819 Haute Couture Show
Jean Paul Gaultier creates two haute couture collections a year and he puts all of his vibrant energy and ideas into making them more like performance pieces.
The designer also manages the difficult feat of creating avant-garde pieces that are also beautifully tailored and wearable.
His designs are a form of self expression but are also full of witty social, cultural and political commentary.
Haute couture had originally brought Mr Gaultier great success when he started the collection in 1997, initially without the backing of a large company.
It is four years since Jean Paul Gaultier stopped producing ready-to-wear collections for men and women. Instead, Puig, the brand's Spanish majority shareholder now focuses on Jean Paul Gaultier perfumes and the couture line.
 Starting out, Jean Paul Gaultier didn't have any formal training as a fashion designer but as a teenager he had the chutzpah to send his sketches to famous couturiers.
Pierre Cardin was the first to recognise this young talent and took him on as an assistant in his studio when the designer was eighteen.

A year later, after training with Cardin, he worked for French designers Jacques Esterel and Jean Patou.
Black and white gaiters were worn with stockings and socks adding to the burlesque aesthetic of the collection.
Mr Gaultier' first collection was launched in 1976 and by the early 1980s he had become well known for playing with traditional gender roles and his work inspired by streetwear and popular culture.
The collection was presented on a long, classic runway with a neon blue stage backdrop and it felt like a theatre space or cabaret.
 There were different iterations of the tuxedo from short and shapely cropped jackets with silk lapels and voluminous capes to elegant, long gowns with bustier tops that showed Mr Gaultier's fine tailoring.
The French couturier dances to his own muse and imbues his creations with a vision of the world where clothes say more than just what you are wearing.


From early in his career, Mr Gaultier has been questioning gender roles, long before androgyny had become the dominant trope in avant-garde fashion.


He subverted ideas of traditional masculinity and femininity by including skirts for men and kilts in his work.

Jean Paul Gaultier has created revolutions in the fashion world that reverberated beyond the rarefied world of Paris and that were reported widely by internationally, ending up in popular culture.
Mr Gaultier has always worked beyond the tight confines of haute couture, designing costumes for both theatre and also major films.

He  has continued to work with singers like Madonna, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Beyoncé, Rihanna and Katy Perry,
designing their stage costumes.


With his haute couture collections, the designer  found his creative playground where he was able to express his eclectic and experimental aesthetic even more freely than in his pret-a-porter collections.
His gowns are also worn on the red carpet by actors such as Marion Cotillard Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett and many others.
This time le smoking was expressed quite literally with not only beautifully cut black and white suits but also with faux cigarettes made into ear broaches and necklaces.
Le Smoking given another form with its voluminous shape and scalloped tulle edging, finished off with a a pop of colour
with the red tights.  
A male model wearing a Fez and a mouth guard, ceremoniously removed it as a symbol of freedom of speech while others playfully danced on the runway. 



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