Wednesday 17 August 2016

Unique Visions of Haute Couture: Adeline Andre & Bowie Wong in Paris

One of French couturier Adeline Andre's brilliantly hued and fluid designs in Paris. Cover picture and all photographs by Elli Ioannou
Adeline André and Bowie Wong are fashion designers at different places in their careers with contrasting aesthetics, yet both couturiers share a determination to maintain a singularly distinctive vision of haute couture, writes our special Paris correspondent Elli Ioannou

Bowie Wong's couture AW16/17 show in Paris 
FRENCH couturier Adeline Andre is a long established member of Parisan fashion while Hong Kong-born, Australian Bowie Wong started showing his collections in Paris just two years ago. Adeline André started out being taught by Salvador Dali and then working as an assistant designer for the House of Christian Dior. Bowie Wong originally studied design in Japan and costume design in Canada, then worked on major international theatrical productions before making the move to fashion.

Adeline André created a successful career as a haute-couture designer in Paris by opening her own fashion house. She has refined her skills and craftsmanship over four decades, pioneering and patenting the ‘three sleeve-hole’ garment, selecting locations for presentations for her collections in unique spaces before it became fashionable, and creating an intimate atmosphere with her models sometimes mingling among the guests.

For last month's Autumn/Winter 2016-17 collection in Paris,
 Diaphanous gowns at Adeline Andre 
Adeline André's show opened with lilting classical music and graceful, womanly models including the  silver-haired Axelle Doue, walking the runway in an austere space at the Palais de Tokyo.
The models glided around the square catwalk slowly, pausing and posing as if for a fashion shoot for Richard Avedon and David Bailey. The collection had her signature minimalist aesthetic with ethereal, elegant and fluid lines. There were Grecian goddess-like shapes and flowing organza in fuchsia pinks, pastels, ice mint and silver. Indicative of an established brand no longer having to prove itself, with a loyal clientele, the Adeline André presentation re-affirms the designer’s calibre in haute couture with her consistent and authentic vision that ensures the longevity of her fashion house. Her work seems to say simply "this is who I am".

French couturier Adeline Andre after her AW16/17 show
André's career in couture began with her own label in the 1980s, following an illustrious period of training in the 1970s. The couturier was born in Bangui, French Equatorial Africa but has spent her adult life in Paris.

At the start of her career she wanted to be a fashion photographer and went to London before returning to the French capital to study fashion. During this period she went to the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and took fine art lessons from Dali, preparing for her career in fashion.

 Ethereal ensembles in the new collection 
After graduating, Adeline André entered Christian Dior’s fashion house in 1970 as the assistant of Marc Bohan for the haute couture line. Three years later she started working for Louis Feraud, and afterwards for Castelbajac. In 1981 she formed the House Adeline André and registered her most famous fashion innovation, the "three sleeve-hole," now in collections at the French Fashion Museum, Palais Galliera in Paris, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and the Fashion and Design Museum in Lisbon. By the 1990s, André had became an invited member of the Syndicate Chamber of Parisian Haute Couture before becoming a permanent member.

Adeline André participates in gallery and museum exhibitions and has also designed costumes for ballet, opera and theatre. Her career has had many highpoints, including her dress #18 from her Autumn/Winter 1997/98 Couture collection being acquired by the French government as a work of art.

Australian couturier Bowie Wong after his catwalk show
Bowie Wong came to haute couture from another direction. The foundation and influence of Wong’s aesthetic is costume and theatre design. And for his latest presentation for the AW16/17 collection, as a guest of the Syndicate Chamber of Paris Couture, this was very apparent in its dark-hued drama. Wong’s theatrical influences started early as he grew up the son of a Chinese opera singer surrounded by the accoutrements of the stage. As a teenager Wong studied design in Japan before going on to stage and costume design in Canada. While finishing his degree in Canada, he was offered contracts on major theatre productions and international shows including The Paul McCartney World Tour and productions of the musicals Cats and Les Misérables.

Bold forms and shapes at Bowie Wong 
By 1997, Bowie Wong had moved to Sydney where he spent three years, deciding fashion was what he wanted to focus on. He launched his first complete collection and began to establish himself as a local Australian brand. Ten years later, Wong began to produce an annual couture collection of custom-made dresses and  evening gowns which was shown at Australian Fashion Week and dressed high-profile singers and celebrities. Two years ago, Wong left the runways of Australian fashion week to show among the top haute couture designers in Paris. This is his fifth collection shown in the French capital as a guest designer at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week.
He has said that couturier Elie Saab has been the mentor that encouraged him to branch out from his original Bowie brand in 2011, to fully express himself as a designer. Each collection symbolises a new transformation.  “Throughout my career, I have worked towards becoming myself,” he has said. “My designs, nowadays, embody who I am more than what I was doing before.”

Bowie Wong's exuberant yet all black couture collection
His latest collection in Paris at the grand and elegant Peninsula Hotel, opened with nocturnal sounds that hinted at the theme of the all-black show entitled Eclipse. Models with blowsy and bouffant Elizabethan-style hair by Kevin Murphy combined with pale make-up came down the runway with folkloric style leather-clad shoes. The models seemed like birds with exotic, ruffled plumage. There were leather ensembles of tops and layered skirts, alongside elliptical-shaped dresses using fabric constructed to appear like a large black rose. The atmosphere of the collection suggested 18th Century Valkyries with bold shapes and big hair.

According to Robert Greene, author of Mastery: “In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it”. This captures the ethos of Adeline André and Bowie Wong and the particular and personal designs they express in each of their evocative collections.

Tap on photographs for a full-screen slideshow to see more of Adeline André & Bowie Wong's collections 
Photographers wait for the Bowie Wong runway show to begin at Paris's Peninsula Hotel
Guests start arriving at Bowie Wong's Autumn/Winter 2016-17 show in Paris 
Exuberant forms yet a uniformly black colour palette at Bowie Wong

Evocative, sculptural shapes and whumsical shoes at Bowie Wong 
One of the outstanding pieces of three dimensional designs in the haute couture collection of Bowie Wong
Fluid black pieces contrasted with more bulbous confections in the new couture collection 
Models wearing the Eclipse collection presented in Paris by Bowie Wong
Both opaque and gleaming fabrics enhanced Wong's black palette 
A model poses after the runway show of Bowie Wong at the Peninsula Hotel

Sleek hair and red lips were a dramatic contrast to Adeline Andre's floating chiffon creations
An elegant, architectural sandal made the perfect counterpoint to Adeline Andre's long gowns
Blocks of colour made strong statements that were softened by fluid lines 
The combination of the pragmatic and the poetic at Adeline Andre gave her collection a wearability from morning to evening
Fuchsia Pink and Pillar Box Red worked surpisingly well together in the new collection
 Couturier Adeline Andre talking after her runway show at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris
Another unusual hue that formed part of Adeline Andre's soft, pastel palette
The flowing, abstract lines of one of Adeline Andre's long creations that could reflect her artistic training with Salavador Dali
The subtle, evanescent hues of this mauve evening dress seem to capture the French couturier's mastery of cut and colour
Fluidty and minimalism have long been a signature of Adeline Andre's work 
 The models slowly moving along the runway also stopped for photographers as part of the show
The open-toed shows in silver were an effective foil to the floating dresses
 Womanly models were a highlight of Adeline Andre's shows and showed her avant-garde vision
One of the three-hole sleeve designs that Adeline Andre patented in the 1980s
The beautiful, silver haired Axel Doue who featured in the Adeline Andre show
Guests waiting before Adeline Andre's haute couture show in Paris for AW16/17
The couturier Adeline Andre at the finale of her show in Paris 
 Models in the contrasting bold colours and pastel, diaphanous gowns leave the runway at the end of Adeline Andre's show in Paris

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