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Friday, 17 February 2017

The New Femininity: Diaphanous Fluidity at Ralph & Russo

A cascade of lavender ruffles at Ralph&Russo on the runway in Paris. The tulle ball gown is embellished with 3D pleated silk organza and tulle flowers. Cover picture and main image by Elli Ioannour for Design & Art Magazine
Australian design duo Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo saw a gap in the luxury fashion market, starting out in London with one sewing machine and a dream to create a couture fashion house that provided beautifully-made, elegant gowns and daywear for an international clientele. This season they were back in Paris, showing a sophisticated and highly-polished collection that had clients ordering pieces before the models had even left the runway, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou

Voluminous red silk, organza ball gown
TEN years ago Australian designer Tamara Ralph had the dream of creating haute couture in London with business partner and fiance Michael Russo. In that short decade, the pair have had an extraordinarily rapid rise to the top of the luxury brand market. Since 2007, Ralph & Russo has gone from a single sewing machine in a tiny office to a Victorian mansion in Mayfair. Three years ago, they began showing their new collections in the rarefied atmopshere of Paris Couture Week, the only British company in more than a century to be considered skilled enough to be on the official schedule. Their growing list of global clients includes the super rich, royalty and some of the world's most famous actors and singers, such as Beyonce, Kyle Minogue, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie.

Silk chiffon from the runway to Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez appeared at the 2017 Grammy Awards in a silken, pale pink Ralph & Russo confection while Kirsten Dunst sat in the front row at their latest couture show in Paris wearing a creamy dress with 3D pleating, next to model Arizona Muse in quietly gleaming pale, grey lace. Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo have built a strong team of several hundred at their atelier in Hyde Park with skilled artisans including embroiderers, tailors and designers who work in toile, chiffon, velvet and silk. The size of the atelier is remarkable in Britain and is even larger than Chanel's couture atelier of around seventy seamstresses. Today they have two showrooms in London and Paris, and ten international boutique openings are planned to open this year from Miami to Macau. Last November, they won the Outstanding Achievement Award for their fashion house at the Walpole British Luxury Awards. Ralph has said she believes their success is due to their personal interaction with their clients alongside the house's outstandingly high level of quality and craftsmanship. Their accessories collection sold out when it was first launched in 2015 and they have since expanded it again recently.

Silk, scallop-edged suits
Ralph & Russo's Sping/Summer 2017 collection in Paris included fifty-five new pieces, most of them dresses, except one ~ a cropped top with wide trousers finished with pearl and glass beads. Overall this season, the Australian pair presented a more contemporary collection with daywear looks mixed with their signature red-carpet gowns. Opening the show were elegant, silk crepe looks decorated with topaz, pearl, and glass embroidery and neat suits with scalloped edges. The more practical looks included dresses with checks, knee-length belted suits and a tweed minidress with silk organza ruffled sleeves. The glamorous gowns included a black tulle strapless gown appliquéd with silk organza, a white tulle ballgown with ruffled skirt, black tulle cocktail dress with silk petals, glass beads and ostrich feathers, and a silvery, fringed and feathered dress.

The billowing evening gowns were the key to the show, finished with pearls, flowers, crystals and jewelled buttons, white feathers and pleated tulle flowers. The voluminous tiered silk skirts, some encrusted with hundreds and thousands of pearls, sequins and glass beads, shivered delicately with cascading bouquets of pleated organza that looked three dimensional.

 Alessandra Ambrosio in lace & a feathered cape
One of the most striking creations on display included a strapless red chiffon gown with a ruffled bodice and a dashing thigh high slit. Another dramatic gown in lilac was made up of swathes of delicate tulle flowers. Other ballgowns featured  multi-tiered ruffled skirts with lace racerback tops. Closing the finale of the Paris Spring/Summer 2017 show was willowy supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio as the Ralph & Russo bride. The Brazilian model wore a luxurious white tulle and pale grey organza layered bridal gown, adorned with crystals, glass bead hand embroidery and appliquéd with tiny metallic flowers. Covering her shoulders was a silk organza cape adorned with ostrich feathers This creation captured the new collection's mixture of diaphanous femininity with a powerful silhouette.

Tap on photographs for full-screen slideshow
Black tulle ball gown with an off-the-shoulder bodice and voluminous skirt, hand appliquéd with silk organza frills and embellished with glass beads, sequins, crystals and duchess satin flowers


Periwinkle silk chiffon and Chantilly lace gown with a flowing cape and cascading ruffles


Metallic pink and grey tweed tailleur with structured collar and tiered pencil skirt embellished with silver rhinestones and plastic fringing


Photographers gather around the front row to shoot Kirsten Dunst and model Amazon Muse
Actress Kirsten Dunst in creamy silk with model Amazon Muse
Pale blue silk organza gown, hand embroidered with silk thread, crystals and glass beads
Petrol blue tulle kaftan embroidered with floral metallic thread-work and tulle under-layer with glass bead embellishment
 Phones raised on the runway to capture the new looks at Ralph & Russo
Pale blue ball gown with square deep-split corset, embellished with metallic crystals in tessellated design, and contrast with a silk organza skirt with geometric ruffles
Pale blue tulle gown embroidered with metallic gold thread in floral design and hand appliquéd with satin and leather flowers
 
Cream silk faille tailored dress with off-the-shoulder collar and wide belt, hand embroidered with black pleated organza flowers, crystals, glass beads and jewelled buttons
 
 A surprising split at the back of the dress gives the cream silk dress a frisson of drama
Blush tulle gown with sheer pleated neckline and tiered bodice, hand embroidered with clusters of sequins and crystals
Blush sheer tulle gown with racer neckline and overskirt, hand embroidered with sequin clusters and lines of glass beads
Amethyst silk organza robe embroidered with metallic threadwork, scallop edging and a floral Sangallo cut-out design
White silk crêpe gown with crystal pleated tiered skirt, hand embroidered with sapphire crystals and sequins in a geometric design.
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Hyun Mi Nielsen's debut collection 'Nocturne, a Picture of a Night Scene'

Hyun Mi Nielsen's debut collection 'Nocturne, a Picture of a Night Scene'
In Paris, Christine Hyun Mi Nielsen presented her dynamic debut collection full of light and frothy ruffles, black leather and dark make-up, as a first-time guest member on the official Haute Couture calendar, writes Paul McDonnell. Photography by Elli Ioannou.

Inspired by Rodin's 'Hand of God'
HYUN Mi Nielsen founded her eponymous label last year, with the backing of a female investor, after she was supplanted at Balenciaga by Demna Gvasalia, from Vetements. Her debut collection is a reflection of her emotional journey after that departure and the drama and excitement of establishing her own label.

The strong contrasts in the collection's form, texture and palette illuminated her vision for her first showing as a guest member of haute couture. The blacked out face of a red-haired model was a powerful statement of what she had been through at Balenciaga. The models' army-surplus boots made a pragmatic contrast to the light, ruffled dresses of organza and tulle.

She says this inaugural collection in the French capital is inspired by Seventies style leather and Rodin’s 1896 marble sculpture ‘Hand of God’. The dramatic make-up choice for the models included dark and surreal looks that contrasted with the scalloped, curvilinear dynamism of the clothes.

Born in South Korea, the fashion designer was adopted by a Danish couple and educated in Copenhagen. Nielsen worked at Max Mara in Italy before returning to London, where she studied at the Royal College of Art. She went on to join Burberry and later Alexander McQueen as head of womenswear. She continued to work at other illustrious fashion houses including Balenciaga and Givenchy in Paris before taking on this latest challenge of starting her own label. A surprising debut collection filled with ideas that will be interesting to follow next season.

Tap pictures for full-screen slideshow
This curvilinear gown was created using undulating organza strips applied to tulle. Cover picture and main image by Elli Ioannou
Diaphanous  ruffles and corsetry contrast with army-surplus boots.
A blacked out face seemed to be a metaphor for the designer's experience at Balenciaga.
Transparency versus opacity were key themes in Nielsen's collection
[left] Heavy top stitching on a floral leather coat. [right] 70's burnt orange ruffles
Leather and scalloped ruffles created a scintillationg contrast of textures and materials
Dark, smudged lips enhanced a sense of surreal drama
Georges Tony Stoll's 'Black hand' inspired design.
Satiny ruffles in chocolate hues gave this blouse have a Seventies look
The charcoal-coloured make-up and red hair that made this look one of the show's most startling looks

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Medieval Majesty in Paris: Guo Pei's French Revolution

Guo Pei's haute couture show beneath the soaring medieval stone arches of a Parisian Gothic palace. Cover picture and all photographs by Elli Ioannou. Tap photos for full-screen slideshow 
If haute couture is about imagination, fantasy and exploring the realms between fashion, art and theatre, Guo Pei's ebullient show in Paris embodied it all. Her opulent collection made a strong contrast to Paris Couture Week's other often pragmatic presentations that were more like ready-to-wear. Instead, the diminutive couturier created an enthralling collection held in a French Gothic palace imbued with a richness and magic that only two years work and 500 artisans could bring to fruition, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou

 Crowns and coronets at Guo Pei 
POISED in velvety darkness, under the soaring stones arches of the medieval Salle des Gens d'Armes, a glimmering figure appeared to open Guo Pei's haute couture show in Paris. Emerging from the dim recesses of the vast hall to lilting music, an 18th Century gown with wide panniers could just be glimpsed, wearing a crown and carrying a candelabra. It was a filmy, phosphorescent Marie Antoinette, the ghost of the last Queen of France who had been imprisoned here during the French Revolution. As a red glow lit up the massive columns, the ghostly form disappeared and twenty-one gold and silver embossed creations floated down the runway, redolent of a medieval world evoked by the great, Gothic hall that was once part of the palace of French kings. Pei chose the stony glory of the Conciergerie as the backdrop to her Spring/Summer 2017 show because of its medieval history and connection to mythical kings and queens.

Medieval riches: encrusted with jewels
The Salle des Gens d'Armes was built under King Philippe IV (Philip the Fair, 1284–1314) and survives intact from the days when the Conciergerie was a medieval palace. The kings of France left at the end of the 14th Century for the palaces at the Louvre and Vincennes and it was transformed from a royal residence to a Palace of Justice where part of the building was converted into prison cells. By the late 1700s, the Conciergerie was one of the places where aristocrats were held in detention during the French Revolution including Marie-Antoinette just before she faced the guillotine.Today, much of the the palace is still used for the Paris law courts. Guo Pei drew on this history for her atmospheric and theatrical show, a strong contrast to many of the other haute couture presentations in Paris held in contemporary, minimalist spaces with collections that more prosaic and tailored for wearability and a new generation of couture clients.

 Ecclesiastical follies in silk and silver
Instead, Guo Pei created a show imbued with a richness and opulence, especially the extraordinarily elaborate embroidery and beadwork. Pei says she wanted to return to her design roots, making fashion more about art and ideas. She wanted the collection to be a metaphor for the spirit of devotion and power of faith embodied in ancient architecture and hand-crafted design through the forms of medieval warriors, saints and goddesses. Models wearing gold-encrusted gowns like monarchs and silvery ecclesiastical creations slowly made their way along the runway. There were tightly-laced, patterned bodices, billowing sleeves and bejewelled crosses. Crowns and crystal orbs above long, windswept hair completed the image of magnificent medieval queens.

St Gallen's frescoed dome on a dress
Called Legend, the collection was originally inspired by a trip that Guo Pei took when she visited the Swiss town of St. Gallen, well know for its embroidery and specialist fabric workshops. She was there to meet textile manufacturer Jakob Schlaepfer's art director Martin Leuthold. He took her to visit the town's cathedral where she became so engrossed with the paintings of the fresoced dome and the brilliant gold of the interior, she missed her plane. This turned out to be the inspiration for the Paris collection including using the cathedral's archive of medieval architectural drawings to create the printed silks. Afterwards she worked closely with Leuthold to create  gleaming woven gold fabric from metal fibre and silk thread.

Finale with Carmen Dell'Orefice in bold red
Another key inspiration for the richness of the collection was Pei's discovery of spools of rare gold thread in a tiny antique shop at the Saint-Ouen market in Paris. The thread was originally designed to be used for couture embroidery and Pei ended up buying the shop's entire collection, using it a year later for the embroidery in her new collection. 

Closing the show and flanked by two young male attendants was the legendary model Carmen Dell’Orefice. Wearing a specially-made, long scarlet robe of silk, woven with fine metal thread and sewn with jewels and beads on a fan-like cape, Pei says the gown is a metaphor for both blood and sacrifice. Dell’Orefice first appeared on a Vogue cover in 1947 and 70 years later here she is on a runway in Paris, part of Guo Pei's theatrical exploration of the nature of beauty and the spirit.
Additional reporting by Francois Belmont from Paris

 Designer Gou Pei walks out for the finale of her haute couture show in Paris











Guo Pei captures the opulence of ecclesiastical gowns with the rich embroidery


The finale of Guo Pei's haute couture show at Paris La Conciergerie, a former medieval royal palace
St Gallen's cathedral gold rococo interior was an inspiration for the collection



Tulle and pale silks are used to conjure a contemporary evening gown
The beautifully draped silks depict the soft pastels of the frescoed dome of Switzerland's St Gallen's cathedral.
Guo Pei's five hundred artisans in her ateliers create the embroidery by hand 
 Modern medieval warrior with rich, beadwork and queenly crown
Beneath the 14th Century groined arches another modern princess walks the runway
Detail of the gown showing it's structure and the extraordinary workmanship of Guo Pei's ateliers
Close up of the designer's rich embroidery
A crystal ball crown and boned sleeves make this one of Pei's most theatrical creations
The crystal ball gave an eccentric silhouette to this sinuous, shimmering gown

 Guo Pei's "Legend" theme was captured by the fantasy of this glimmering gown in pale pink silk
 
Guo Pei's silken gowns covered in the pastel baroque paintings from the dome of St Gallen's cathedral in Switzerland  
Other worldly grace amid the stone canopies of a Parisian royal palace
Like a figure from a fairytale, Pei's princess wears a floating crown and scalloped skirt with a gold-encrusted metal supporting structure created with wires
The guests at the Guo Pei haute couture show were enthralled by the pageantry
A boned bodice contrasts with a filmy gown and jewelled cross
Some of the collection had an "Alice in Wonderland" sense of fantasy
Marie Antoinette was imprisoned in the palace where the show was held and some of the models captured a sense of melancholy
 
Diaphanous shimmering silk and rich embroidery were a theme that ran through the show
A glittering crown was replaced with an elaborate beehive for this complex ensemble of curvilinear pleats
 
Roccoco romance in swirling sequins and gilded crown
The dramatic backdrop of the Conciergerie palace added to the theatre of the show
Glimmering silk and embroidery for a trouser and cloak ensemble
Silken petals and gold boots make this one of the most whimsical of Guo Pei's collection
A bejewelled diadem and feathered cape of filmy taffetta
Tall crowns and sinuous gowns made Pei's medieval monarchs look regal
The brilliant gold and embroidery encrusted creations gave the collection a feeling from another age
Close up you can see the layers of precious stones and hand-sewn details that make Pei's work extraordinary 
A silver encrusted creation that seems to be both ecclesiastical and from the Mad Hatter's tea party
Couturier Guo Pei takes her bow at the finale of her show in Paris
 
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