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Valentino, Akris and Elie Saab

In a busy 24 hours in Paris, three designers showed contrasting visions of female beauty and authority, ranging from a ballet-infused Valentino, to a Vienna-inflected Akris, to an English-laced Elie Saab.

Valentino: Sala Bianca, Beaux-Arts triumph

A real sense of triumph about Sunday’s epic show and truly classy collection by Valentino, the first since luxury behemoth Kering acquired a 30% stake in the house. 

Valentino Spring/Summer 2024 – Valentino

A collection, whose first half recalled the legendary Sala Bianca show in Valentino Garavani in Florence in 1962 which instantly made the founder into a fashion legend.
A spring/summer 2024 collection staged with great gusto inside the Beaux Arts, backed up by artist and chanteuse FKA Twigs, a troop of dancers in flesh-colored swimsuits jumping and gyrating over a series of platforms. Smearing the sand and mud within them on their bodies as they moved.

The collection centered on a truly remarkable series of stucco like dresses, Altorilievo, or High Relief, looks cut into baroque foliage, pineapples, flowers and doves. Stunning technically, and great to look at.
Semi naked, but always gentile, the cast clearly loved their clothes – always a great sign in a show, and surprisingly uncommon among lesser designers.
“I wanted to think about the female body, and emancipated it,” Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli explained to, in a post-show drink in the Beaux Arts garden cloisters. No wonder he called the collection ‘L’Ecole’.
A half-dozen all black looks featured anatomical cut outs, as did six great sinful Valentino red looks, bringing to a close a show that had half the audience on their feet at the finale. Led by Cher, Paris and Nicky Hilton and Sabato De Sarno, Piccioli’s former design director visiting from his new job as designer of Gucci.
In another smart play, practically every look featured a bag, notably the new V Logo Moon bag. It came in three sizes, and they all looked very spiffy.
The largest wrapped over the shoulder with jaunty attitude; the small wrapped around the wrist and held like a small bijoux for evening.
No sign of Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault, but Rachid Mohamed Rachid, chairman of Valentino, for once sat front row with his family.
“I think we can learn a lot from Kering,” smiled Rachid.

Akris: Mellifluous Mittel European mode

One thing you must hand to Albert Kriemler is his novel sources of inspiration and the subtlety with which he approaches each muse.

Akris – Spring-Summer2024 – Womenswear – France – Paris – © Launchmetrics

Kriemler’s ability to mine his own Mittel European culture will always made him a unique designer. Like this season when he harnessed the designs of Felice ‘Lizzie’ Rix-Ueno, an Austrian printmaker who studied in Venice under architect Josef Hoffmann, before moving to Japan where she set up her own design school. 
Lizzie’s sense of fantastical animals, bestiary of brilliance, and naïve florals all made appearances in Akris prints this season, though always maturing through Kriemler’s imagination.
Inspiration is a vital source for all designers, but few people mine that source better than Albert. Managing to uncover creators that are key to his culture, even if obscure elsewhere.
The result was a frequently very beautiful wardrobe, starring artful fabric poppy flower dresses; delightful pant suits overprinted with poppies, and a very cool white tent dress with Lizzie’s Easter Bonbonnière design.
Graphic pajama suits and shirt dresses were also very elegant. While Kriemler’s latest array of guipure lace suits and perfectly gathered white shirts had a refinement one could only applaud.
Backed up by a jazz trio playing hits like Les Champs-Elysées, off which this show was staged, this was an elegiac moment, blending fine art and fashion with finesse.
Aiding to the enjoyment and discovery of important artists, Albert made a classy show program with finely printed imagery and photos on high-grade paper. Like all his programs, one wants to keep them as clever mementos.
In fashion terms, Albert is an Alpine architect, material master and fabric fantasist of the first order.  As this collection agreeably reminded us.

Anglo-saxon Elie Saab

Lots of English lace and a summery mood at Elie Saab, who presented spring/summer 2024 on a sweltering fall day in Paris.

Elie Saab – Spring-Summer2024 – Womenswear – France – Paris – © Launchmetrics

Staged Saturday, the sixth day of the official Paris catwalk season, both the inside and outside of this show was packed, underlining the ever-growing global interest in fashion, and in Saab.
Several thousand fans milled around the concourse of the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art museum, beseeching to enter. Inside, the standing section was four deep, as the show began. Guests were greeted by a giant iridescent moon, suggesting moonlight romance and opulent revelries. 
Saab lightened up his touch this season and added a sportier element – from the belted jumpsuits and polka dot suits worn with matching bra tops, to the safari dresses suggesting weekend maneuvers in the desert.
Elie also favored the huge international trends of semi-sheer lace columns; and ladies-who-lunch lingerie for daywear. Above all, one felt Elie’s focus had shifted more to Britain and America, no bad thing as he builds his brand globally.
In a busy moment for the house, he has just released a new collab’ with Borsalino x Elie Saab, offering classic fedora hats with a monogram bijoux on the ribbon band.
But the Lebanese designer will always be about lavish parties and nocturnal nuances. Whether fabulous chiffon deep gorge gowns finished with myriad beads, or beautiful lemon linen embroidered dresses worn, like many looks, over cork platforms.
Climaxing with his super heroines in glistening columns and splendidly draped one-shoulder chiffon goddess gowns.
Taking his bow with a giant smile.

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