paris fashion week: manish arora

(images via vogue)

honestly, i must confess i’m a bit up in the air as to where i should come down regarding the manish arora a/w 2013 presentation at paris fashion week. to be sure, as always (see a/w 2010, s/s 2011, a/w 2011, s/s 2012, a/w 2012, s/s 2013), i liked the colour, the prints, the vibrancy, his thrilling little party dresses with their sculptural details, and his somewhat madcap pairings of colour and pattern together. but. didn’t it all feel a bit…safe for him?

now, i realize some of the hardcore manish arora fans out there will probably be vexed with me for even suggesting as much, similarly to the way those louise gray-ites want to send me dead cats for my caterwauling that she’s lost her edgy touch, but frankly, i couldn’t help but feel that today, if we took away the styling, what would we have? why, a lot of prettypretty print creations, dresses and separates, that would rival a lot of what we see on the london fashion week catwalks.

not, of course, that any of this is meant as a slam, and honestly, i’ve never had as much invested in mr. arora’s wildness as i did in ms. gray’s (for whatever reason), and i kind of think this softer side suits him equally well. he showed some fabulous prints for the upcoming fall, and his little black dresses adorned with stringy golden twine were particularly appealing, if a nice shakeup, with their texture, to the traditional cocktail fare, but they’re certainly not those structural, futuristic pieces of yore.

and so i was quite intrigued, as you might imagine, to learn that mr. arora drew on the subject of (what’s also known, where i grew up in oakland, as ‘the white collar san franciscan’s time to blow off steam and get down for a week’, otherwise known as ‘you’re not as hardcore as me, since all the kids in my warehouse do this every day without paying an admission fee several times that of our combined rent’), burning man, or, for what most of those who don’t particularly know it, an opportunity to put on costumes and get crazy (or new branding opportunities for topshop. yannow, whatever).

so in other words, it seemed a little odd that we were seeing mr. arora at his most subtle this season. but! alas, never fear, we’ve got critics to weigh in and tell us what to think of it all! and so, according to france 24, “Arora’s prints progressed from the ‘vast day landscape… moving to evening clouds mixed with neon motifs and a play of geometric lines with neon rays’, the house said in a statement. Elsewhere, there was plenty of Indian-inspired sequin embroidery and beading. ‘I didn’t want to forget that I’m Indian,’ he told AFP after the show. ‘I wanted to continue it (the Indian influence) but not so obviously, keeping the Indian touch in bits and pieces. Showing India in a cliched way is done already, (now) it’s about doing leather turbans with accessories, that was the idea to combine old techniques with new futuristic designs,’ he added.”

and similarly, wwd described how “Manish Arora is not known for restraint when it comes to pattern and color, but the dense digital prints he showed for fall felt more current than ever….Alternatively rendered in color against a dark backdrop of evening clouds, the patterns took on an Aztec vibe and were used to emphasize the curves of a peplum top. Arora broke up the hyperactive bursts with more sedate urban looks, such as a navy brocade top and matching skirt embellished with thick bands of copper and black sequins. Particularly appealing was the knitwear, a new category for the designer, which included a floor-length navy Lurex knit dress worn with piles of gold jewelry.”

and style definitively declared that “Arora does himself no favors by throwing so many ideas on the runway; the profusion makes it exceedingly difficult to extract key propositions, or standout looks. There were at least three collections jammed together here: one emphasizing splashy digital prints, another that hewed to the very Indian colors of pink and yellow and featured vaguely Deco black crystal embroidery, and then a natty group in textural navy and black that Arora had decorated with various kinds of jewel-like embellishment. In addition to that, there were a few ideas, distinct from the rest, that he seemed a bit less invested in, like the navy and green Lurex pieces or the velvet dresses heaving with chain.”

“The textural black and navy looks formed the collection within this collection that should have been the basis of the entire show,” they continued. “A little black dress with sculpted hips, which Arora had dappled with varied gold sequins that looked like they had spilled out of a junk drawer, was particularly fresh; it would have been nice to see him elaborate on that idea a bit more. But the trim skirts and tops with multicolor stones were nearly as fine and felt just as distinctive. You wouldn’t mistake those pieces for the work of any other designer. There were some strong looks elsewhere in the collection as well, but none of them came quite so fully formed. Arora has a lot to say, but this season the message kept getting lost in the mix.”

and, finally, there was suzy menkes of the iht, concluding, similarly to me that “his attitude has strayed from his native India, with less of the jubilant mix of color and print that had made his early shows so vibrant but crazy. He was right to think that this is not the moment to get success out of excess. But was his visit to Burning Man, the annual art and music event in Nevada, the way to pare down his Indian heritage and get to its soul? The show started with knits and with digital prints that are starting to look like a former hot trend. Mr. Arora countered the color with evening outfits in black tailoring set off with gilded jewelry. It was wise of the designer to move into new categories like fur and leather. But editing is a golden word when it comes to fashion shows.”

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