Sunday 27 November 2016

Fine Art and Fashion: Designers Drawn to Paris

A fluid and shimmering gown in deep blue and green was a highlight of Pascal Millet's ready-to-wear collection during Paris Fashion Week SS17. Cover picture of Marimekko in Paris and all photographs by Elli Ioannou. 
We look at some of the most artistic fashion designers showing in Europe today, the story behind their careers and their recent ready-to-wear shows at Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2017. These designers, often with fine art backgrounds, showed collections that are influential in the worlds of both fashion and design, Elli Ioannou reports from Paris

Veronique Branquinho: Edwardian romance
BELGIAN designer Veronique Branquinho is another successful graduate from Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts. She has an interesting background that goes beyond fashion design. Branquinho has worked as a magazine editor, she is an exhibiting artist with shows held in Tokyo, Shanghai and Moscow and a fashion professor in Vienna. She designed ranges of womenswear and menswear plus shoes and bags before relaunching her brand in 2012, in partnership with Onward luxury group. An industrial warehouse space was the designer's choice for her SS17 season at Paris fashion week.

Plunging pleats, lace and faded floral prints
The Edwardian aesthetic of the collection was enhanced with a predominantly nude colour palette mixed with 1920s style lips of plum red. There were nightdress styled pieces with frilled and lacy bib-fronts, plunging pleated backs, faded floral prints ~ a combination of fine, antique detail and modern lines. Patent ankle boots with all in one beige trompe l'oeil socks inspired by early 20th Century fashions. Visually the show had a strong design look with its overall presentation and the choice of a single classic colour to work with. The show had both a uniformity and a sense of both poetry and romance.

Fashion designer Pascal Millet in Paris
Pascal Millet's design career has been shaped by his experience of working at Balenciaga, Givenchy, Alexander McQueen and as head designer at Maison Carven. His clients include aristocrats and members of the royal family from the Middle East and Europe and stretch as far afield as Japan & Australia. His spring/summer 2017 ready-to-wear collection's inspiration was Princess Caroline of Monaco. In fact, very specifically a lacy white gown she wore at a 1976 Red cross ball. This embodied the beauty, sportiness and glamour he wanted to include in his new collection. Indeed the guests at the show held at the at the Foundation Mona Bismarck Gallery, included his aristocratic and royal clients, among the colourful fashion media and personalities.

Inspiration: Princess Caroline of Monaco
The start of the runway resembled a luxurious room fit for a chic royal. The zig-zag catwalk was spread out over three vast rooms. Each guest had an intimate, up close experience of the collection.The opening music with the silky voice of Sade set the scene. Models wearing satin suits referred to the Princess Caroline look with slick hair and a long, classic pony tail. The collection covered a wide gamut of styles. Highlights included jumpsuits, both long and short in a variety of fabrics; navy blue and green floral Seventies stye dresses with bohemian overtones; white flowing pants and shirts. The colour palette of oyster shell pink, white, khaki and royal blue was in evidence at other designers' collections including Valentin Yudashkin and Moon Young Hee. The overwhelming applause at the end of the Pascal Millet show is indicative of the designer’s strong following with loyal clients attending a reception afterwards.

Sculpted, metallic corsets
Valentin Yudashkin has been showing at Paris Fashion Week since 1999 at both the pret-a-porter and haute couture weeks. He is one of the only Russian designers to be accepted into the Fédération Française de la Mode. He has his designs represented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre Museum and the Californian Fashion Museum. Yudashkin is also one of the main figures behind Moscow Fashion week, helping to grow the fashion industry in Russia, as well as nurturing emerging young designers. The designer presented his SS17 ready-to-wear collection at the Westin Vendome hotel's opulent salon where the fashion media and clients rubbed shoulders in the front row. A pre-show live satellite by the designer addressing the audience felt very regal. The new artistic director of the brand is Galina Yudashkina, the designer's 25 year old daughter.

A symphony of metallic & neutrals at Valentin Yudashkin
A metallic, mirrored runway added an artistic edge to the show, as the models were reflected as abstract shapes as they moved swiftly along the catwalk. The collection had overtones of glam meets Seventies chic with a predominantly white, pink oyster shell, bronze and royal blue colour palette. The fabrics and shapes ranged from silk shorts to white suits. This spring summer 2017 collection had more of a fresh look, with pale safari style suits, accented with white Oxford shoes. The collection had a range styles inspired by men's fashion. This included a black sleeveless jumpsuit with tuxedo lapels. Signature gowns included metallic corsets resembling armour. The collection's new direction was influenced by the new artistic vision Galina Yudashkina. She took a closing bow with her newborn son, on behalf of her father, to a standing ovation from the audience.

Designer Christian Wijnants backstage in Paris 
Belgian designer Christian Wijnants is also a graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Based in Antwerp he has already achieved many accolades. His graduate collection won the Dries Van Noten Award for Best Collection (he later worked at the design house). Wijnants also won the Grand Prix at the Festival d’Hyeres, the Woolmark Prize and was nominated for Swarovski Collective Prize for Innovation and opened a flagship store in 2015. His ready-to-wear collection in Paris, held at the Galerie de minéralagie et de Géologie, was inspired by aerodynamics and influenced by the artist Christo’s recent installation The Floating Piers at Italy’s Lake Iseo.

Brilliant floral prints & fluid forms at Christian Wijnants
The collection included floral prints, polka dots and monochrome kaftans in burnt orange and Royal Blue parachute jumpsuits. Softly tailored blouses and nylon coats were padded and ribbed while the washed and crushed silks created extra tactility.
 Wijnants new trousers are straight, wide and extra long, giving an easy elegance to every look. Knitted pleats featured in ensembles with jacquard florals and raffia finishings popping out of delicate knitwear. Harness tops with a nylon armature alternated with blouses with kimono sleeves and ballooning backs. The 
thick black Japanese wooden platform sandals give a sturdy basis to the lightweight garments.
Creative contrasts at Moon Young Hee 
The Paris-based Korean designer Moon Young Hee's aesthetic can be partly attributed to her cultural background as well as having studied French literature rather than fashion design. Her new collection for Paris ready-to-wear was presented at the historical halls of the University of Medicine in the district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the French capital. As it was the final day of Paris fashion week, there was a serene atmosphere among both the journalists, photographer and guests.

Detail of a silken blue skirt and jacket
The high ceilinged hall, lined with windows on one side and statues on the other, felt somewhat medieval in tone yet inviting. The SS17 collection included wide trousers, long skirts, light raincoats, extra large coats, amorphous jackets, men's style shirts and translucent blouses. There was a mixture of materials ranging from nylon to silk with models of diverse cultural backgrounds. Today, Moon Young Hee has a flagship store on the banks of the Seine opposite the Louvre.

Abstract & artistic contrasts at Anne Sofie Madsen
Anne Sofie Madsen is a graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. She trained under John Galliano in Paris, before moving across to work for Alexander McQueen as a junior designer. In 2014, Anne Sofie Madsen presented her first fashion show at Paris ready-to-wear fashion week. For the SS17 season, the brand is part of the Swarovski collective. The collection was presented with a backdrop of columns of audio-visual digital floral art. Models with Seventies style high-school mistress spectacles and pinned curly hair presented a collection showing the strong imprint of her early mentors at John Galliano and Alexander McQueen: more art than fashion.

Anne Sofie Madsen’s designs are built on contrasts and ambivalence where fashion is replaced by something more abstract.
“I find inspiration in the contrasts and borders between the primitive and civilized, the exotic and classic, the barbaric and elegant, the futuristic and historical,” the designer says. “I am fascinated by the point where fashion replaces the body with something abstract ~ an idea or ideal rather than an organism. I want to capture a couture finish and an attention to detail within ready-to-wear. I aim to reinterpret the traditions of handwork and the use of techniques within couture into contemporary materials and silhouettes.”

Bold colours and sharp shapes at Alon Livne 
Alon Livne is a young Israeli designer who began his career working at Alexander McQueen in London and Roberto Cavalli in Florence. Winning the Israeli version of Project Runway gave him a lot of media coverage. Livne's style is elaborate and sculptural fused with couture detailing. First showing at MBFW in New York, won him celebrity clients including Naomi Campbell and Lady Gaga. The singer Beyoncé even commissioned him to design the costumes for the Mrs Carter tour.

Sculptural forms & couture details
Showing for the first time at Paris Fashion Week for the ready-to-wear season, the designer presented a show melding live theatre and art installation at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. Alon Livne was inspired by Sixties Japanese pattern maker and graphic designer Kazumasa Nagai. The models were like live sculptures, rotating after long periods of time, with a backdrop of a flowing liquid pink fountain. Presentations like Alon Liven's are a great way for young designers to enter the prestigious world of fashion week and often offer a visual respite from the classic runway, allowing for raw creativity and experimentation.

Strong prints at Marimekko
The Marimekko presentaton was done in a manner more like early fashion shows of the Fifties and Sixties. It was shown in an intimate space at the Ambassade de Finlande in Paris. There were intervals of runway shows then models mingled, posed and lingered among the guests who had an up close and personal experience of the brand's new SS17 ready to wear range. The collection reintroduced five key Marimekko garments from the sixties and seventies, selected from the archives by creative director Anna Teurnell. The Monrepos, Linjaviita, Liidokki and Korppi dresses and the Kentauri skirt are among the more recognizable ready-to-wear pieces in Marimekko’s archives. The new collection paid homage to the brand's playful use of print and silhouette which is it's signature.

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