Franck Sorbier has become known for his impressive Couture presentations not just because of the artistry in the garments he presents, but for the presentations of his shows. Within the past few seasons his shows have increasingly become pieces of performance art instead of run of the mill runway shows, with dancers showcasing his designs in highly choreographed displays. His spring Couture 2016 show was no exception.
Entitled “Celestial Lovers”, this presentation took place amidst the ancient Asian statues of Paris’ Musée Guimet. Dancers wove their way among the sculptures, swirling to a hypnotic drum beat and intoxicating strings, while swathed in gilded tulle, crushed lamé and colour shot silk. Their tale was one of exotic star-crossed lovers that was as romantic and intriguingly beautiful as the show’s setting and the clothing on display. This was not just a presentation- this was performance art.
Inspired by ancient stories, medieval tapestries, Impressionist watercolours and an exhibition on 2000 years of Asian theatre, the collection presented an alluring array of sumptuously romantic garments with a heavy theatrical flair. With looks that referenced the dress of ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, 17th century France and Imperial China, there was much to admire among the 19 piece collection.
Starting with an earthy theme, Franck Sorbier presented a series of patchwork frocks constructed of textured silks and decorative mesh in rich ochres and organic splatter- print motifs. Short, ruffled and voluminous, these gowns seemed almost Pagan in their exuberantly feminine silhouettes, intentionally rough (almost ragged) construction and vividly contrasting embellishments.
The show progressed into more restrained designs with structured bodices, full skirts and elaborate draping becoming the norm in this section. Heavy silks, textured crêpes and metallic brocades were used extensively, and were enhanced by a variety of intricate surface treatments like golden embroidery, intricate beading, hand painted watercolor patterns, metallic calligraphy and elaborate gilding. The gowns here referenced multiple clothing periods from various cultures, but there was a distinctively regal inspiration to be seen throughout. Gowns with structured bodices and voluminous flounced skirts referenced generations of European court clothes, while flowing designs with structured folds and multi-layered draped skirts were obvious nods to both the toga and the robes of Imperial China.
The finale marked a return to the natural theme that started the show when a selection of metallic gowns of guipure lace and golden leaves appeared to climax the presentation. Gorgeously crafted and subtly dramatic, these pieces certainly were the best within the collection and made for a stunning finale. To me, they’re somewhat reminiscent of Alexander McQueen’s famous forest-inspired looks.
Franck Sorbier’s 2016 Couture show certainly was an intriguing event on the Haute Couture schedule both for the quality of the work presented, but as an interesting break from the traditional roster of high energy runway shows and reserved atelier viewings. Franck Sorbier’s shows are always memorable, but this one was spectacular- if a trifle distracting from the couture. His shows are pieces of performance art that allow the audience the opportunity to immerse themselves in the vision and thought process of the designer. How better to understand a collection than to see what the designer was thinking for each piece and the showing as a whole. Though this year’s show did focus slightly too strongly on the performance than the beautiful pieces, I think that for this house, this presentation style is important for both the house and it’s customers. How fab to own a piece of beautiful couture that comes with a little story attached!
In considering the performance-presentation, it seems fair to wonder if the couturier is trying to branch further into costume design. If so, this collection would make for a good starting point.
My major criticism is that I felt as if I’d seen many of these designs before- if not in Mr. Sorbier’s previous work, then on other runways in the past. It seemed like a rehash of previous seasons, but with an updated colour scheme and revamped silhouettes.
Still, Spring 2016 was a beautiful and interesting collection that echoed the house’s mainstays of colour, texture and restraint. It remained true to Mr. Sorbier’s lyrical and romantic aesthetic and he delivered a collection with a solid variety of looks.
It was pretty fierce.
Xx – Ana