Elie Saab's classic fall couture has foliage, shimmer — and capes for men

PARIS (AP) — Elie Saab again transported his VIP guests, including Avril Lavigne and Ellie Goulding at Paris’ Musee des Arts Decoratifs, to a realm of magic and splendor. With silks and velvet, the Lebanese couturier once again conjured a fantastical, almost fairytale world of bridal queens, gleaming foliage and midnight shadows. This season, the fashion world also had another peek at couture for men, which is a slowly growing phenomenon.

Here are some highlights of Wednesday's fall-winter 2024 couture collection.

Elie Saab gleams for men and women

The Lebanese designer’s fall collection came with dramatic flair, strikingly at midnight, enveloping the audience in a welcome dark mood. Models in black leather opera gloves and graphic bands of black satin set the tone.

Men’s couture capes, part of Saab’s theme since fall 2022, were embroidered with sequins and gleaming threads, resembling silver foliage kissed by morning dew. Saab’s opulent men’s couture line continues to add a new dimension to his brand, catering to a market segment that craves visibility.

In the predominantly women's display, organza whooshes swirled upward from the waist in a feat of artistry. As the collection progressed, the color palette softened. Tried-and-tested floor-length silhouettes dazzled in gemstone hues.

A standout piece was a shoulderless gown in powder red, where sequins on the bodice morphed into a sea of feathers cascading down the mermaid-like skirt. The transformation of textures underscored Saab’s craftsmanship.

While Saab’s designs may not always break the mold in innovation or surprise, the commitment to his signature style ensures that his creations remain timeless. His starry clientele appreciates the red carpet-ready classicism. Wednesday's influential front row was a testament to Saab’s enduring appeal.

Viktor & Rolf expand the box

Dynamic design duo Viktor & Rolf are often praised in couture for thinking outside the box. This season, they expanded the box – literally and figuratively. Couture looks paraded past a visibly amused VIP audience, morphing models with cubic and rectangular structures. One of the first creations featured minimalist fabric with rectangular shoulders, as if the model had been wrapped as a gift or encased in couture for some sort of luxury delivery. Topping off the look, she donned a red, dog-collar-hybrid neck adornment that added an extra layer of whimsy.

Elsewhere, the boxy structures beneath garments riffed on the concept of rigid shoulder pads, recalling in a tongue-in-cheek way the glamour years of Hollywood. The pièce de résistance was a clashing ensemble featuring a blue houndstooth shirt, pastel-striped mini skirt, and a Bordeaux embroidered jacket with gargantuan, box-like ‘shoulder pads’ towering above the model’s forehead. It was a sight to behold, blending past and future in a surreal collision.

“The human body intersects with three-dimensional, abstract geometric shapes like cubes, triangles, and spheres ... as well as from a child’s block set,” the house said, acknowledging “a certain absurdism.”

Known for their theatrical presentations, Viktor & Rolf once again delivered an engaging and entertaining show that transcended traditional fashion. Hairpieces were stiff and android-like, whimsically swept by the wind, enhancing the surrealist and ironic humor that has become their signature.

Their meticulous construction techniques and structural experimentation shone through, recalling past feats like exaggerated shoulder lines and detachable corsets from a Nosferatu-inspired show. This season’s designs were not just garments but a commentary on fashion itself, and the absurdity of couture. Viktor & Rolf have once again shown that they are the grand architects of high fashion, deconstructing and rebuilding the box with every stitch.

De Libran's nostalgic charm

French couturier Julie de Libran is renowned for her intimate shows. She often enlists her close friends as models and muses, evoking a nostalgic charm reminiscent of traditional couture presentations.

On Wednesday, de Libran took her signature style even further with the models, including the designer’s niece Julia and even de Libran herself!

Models held numbered cards, a nod to the historical way collections were once presented for a light and airy display.

This vintage touch was complemented by details like a pink feather trim on a limp-waisted gown, which exuded a 1930s flair. Yet, the gown’s vivid red hue injected a contemporary twist.

De Libran’s affinity for vintage-inspired fabrics shone through in a Bordeaux column dress and a coat with large proportions, both adorned with gleaming lamé velvet flowers. These pieces exemplified her commitment to high-quality craftsmanship and upcycling. Using exquisite fabrics from Lyonnaise mills, her creations are often unique and cannot be replicated, highlighting the artisanal nature of her work.

As a rare independent designer on the couture calendar, de Libran continues to captivate with her blend of nostalgic elegance and modern sophistication.

The art of the invitation

In the Paris luxury industry, the art of the chic invite is vital. Fashion houses vie to create the most inventive and flamboyant show invitations, often delivered by gas-guzzling couriers to each guest’s personal or professional address, with little regard for the environment.

The miniature masterpieces sometimes hint at the forthcoming collection, while at other times they are simply whimsical.

Chanel’s latest invitation, a pair of opera glasses, hinted at the show’s theme inside Paris’ opera house. Staying true to its classic roots, Dior sent out beautifully penned cards by an age-old calligrapher, evoking the maison’s timeless elegance. Schiaparelli’s giant gold key invitation reflected the surrealist legacy of founder Elsa Schiaparelli, promising an avant-garde showcase.

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