I have always been a fan of Schiaparelli’s surrealist take on haute design. Long loving the work that took place under the direction of Marco Zanini, and then impressed by the direction of brand ambassador, Farida Khelfa, I was looking forward to seeing what new design head Bertrand Guyon had to offer for his debut couture show.
Until now, Mr. Guyon has been relatively unknown outside Paris’ haute couture ateliers, but he does have years of experience in the workshops of Maison Valentino, Maison Givenchy (under the direction of Monsieur Hubert himself) and from collaborations with John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. To top it all off, Mr. Guyon is a graduate of the prestigious École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, so he is more than qualified to fulfil the role of design head at Maison Schiaparelli. He certainly lived up to all the expectation!
Put simply, Mr. Guyon’s expertise came out in full force for Fall 2015.
The designer called his first collection “Le Théâtre d’Elsa” in homage to the surreal loving baroness of shock. “I knew a little of Elsa Schiaparelli,” Mr. Guyon said of his knowledge before coming to the house. “…now I know that I don’t know her… she didn’t do only extravagant things. She also did quite minimal… what interested me were these austere, simple, lesser known silhouettes, which don’t immediately remind us of Elsa Schiaparelli.” It was this minimalism that he focused on for Fall, choosing to base his collection in understated garments that referenced the house’s 1930’s heyday.
This translated into garments with a demure appeal, with Mr. Guyon’s lighter hand replacing Marco Zanini’s zany vibe with a more sedate and feminine approach that reflected his theatrical, vintage inspirations. Schiaparelli‘s latest collection proves that fun and elegance can coincide in perfect harmony: sharp tailoring tempered eccentric elements to maintain an air of glitzy Old- Hollywood glamour, while gorgeous (and cheeky) ornamentation payed homage to trademark Schiaparelli quirkiness.
Silhouettes reflected the elegance of the 1930’s, with clean lines and classic cuts that heightened the transitional impact of the collection. Far from being a historic review of Ms. Schiaparelli’s penchant for surrealism, the designer concentrated on luxurious fabrics and technical construction to create fabulous clothing with flatteringly elegant, womanly cuts.
The runway opened with a selection of tailored separates that could easily transition from day to night. Trim trousers, button- front shirts, swing skirts, chiffon blouses, patterned jackets and embellished asymmetrical dresses all appeared on the runway, peeking out from under fabulous embroidered capes, beaded brocade jackets and patterned fur shrugs.
As the show progressed into bolder territory, so did the range of color, print, texture and adornment. A hyper-pigmented fur jacket here, a richly embroidered metallic brocade there, a delicate hand-painted motif on gossamer silk… the list goes on. Mr. Guyon turned his hand to everything from silk biker jackets and quilted opera coats to mohair skirts and sequinned tunics. The results were all fabulous.
Of course Madam Elsa’s signature motifs (pierced hearts, stylized eyes, keyholes, stars, faces) were all on display, appearing as woven fabric patterns and 3-D embroidery and as funky statement jewelry. Yet amongst all the reverent homage, there were touches of modern art and fashion: glimmering biker jackets, sheer maxi dresses and t-shirt tunics to name a few. Ms. Shiaparelli was known for her collaborations with artists and these touches heavily referenced the works of artists Marcel Vertes, Christian Bérard and Nick Cave. Indeed Mr. Guyon’s best work was seen when he married his own sophisticated aesthetic with Shiaparelli’s surrealism to create subtle and intriguing looks.
Mr. Guyon toned the surrealism down for the finale, choosing to premiere a selection of spine-tinglingly beautiful evening gowns to close the show. These looks (elegant flowing dresses covered in hand-painted prints and trompe l’oeil embellishments) were relatively plain in comparison to the rest of the collection, but they were haunting in their impact.
The collection was in many ways a resounding success. Apart from being exceedingly beautiful, it was an offering that paid respectful (but not too literal) homage to the spirit and legacy of a legendary house- Maison Schiaparelli. With such an iconic and unique designer as inspiration, it’s easy for a designer to get lost in all the eccentricity, but Mr. Guyon navigated his way through the challenge with a deft hand. The results may have come off as a little bit safe at times- especially following the high-impact work of Mr. Zaniani, but it was a beautiful and strong first showing.
As is often the case when a new designer takes over a fashion house, I think that Mr. Guyon’s next season will be more suggestive of his true vision for the brand, thus allowing for more of his own design influence to appear on the runway. In time, I’m certain that Mr. Guyon possesses the ability to make Maison Schiaparelli as special and influential as it once was.