Elie Saab Paris, January 27th 2016 – Enter India. The setting for silhouettes in transition. At a time when the strict codes of Victorian fashion shift into the Edwardian era, a young English adventuress travels abroad. She stands at the crux of different worlds. India is her backdrop and her inspiration for a new blend of formalism and ease, opulence and elementary lines.
The context of adventure in a vast, multi-coloured landscape leads restraint into increasing informality. At first encounter, fabrics adapt to the change in climate, shifting to silk chiffon and crêpe georgette, relaxing within their new and expansive environment. Linear panels flow from a softly defined waistline, recalling the volumes of a Victorian bustle. Columnar silhouettes are adapted by asymmetry and draping.
This journey and contrast of worlds draws inspiration from the journals of Anglo-Irish noblewoman Lilah Wingfield. They recount her travels to India to witness the ceremonial splendour of the 1911 Delhi Durbar, celebrating the succession of King George V.
She describes a garden party held for the occasion at the Red Fort, near Delhi : “English ladies in exquisite hats and jewels which shone in the sun… Maharanis and Indian ladies in saris of every hue, all making a great glittering melee in the wonderful old buildings and exquisitely carved white marble of the Diwan-i-Khas.”
Adventuring deeper into the heart of the country, in Udaipur she witnesses, “the dazzling purity and symmetry of the white marble pillars on the paved courtyards interspersed with graceful palm trees, through which the glorious vista of the blue sky and lake was visible…”
Patterns of fine lace, embroidery and beading throughout the collection suggest elaborate architectural motifs and the bougainvillea, jasmine and palm tree foliage of an airy royal palace she might find. They uplift the muted tones and predominantly sporty silhouettes into the domain of the exquisite.
From the bustling markets of Bombay to ancient city capitals and great expanses of countryside a colour palette emerges in hues of argile, grey, English Rose, tundra and blue.
Accessories reflect an explorer’s spirit in flat, worked-leather shoes and detailed metal jewellery. Satchel bags and ornamented headpieces are appropriated from her new environment.
Structure and fluidity rebound, one off of the other, in the 2016 Haute Couture Spring / Summer collection. Through the perspective of the adventuress lies the intersection of convention and daring, new horizons and cultural encounter.