nyfw: marchesa

(images via wwd)

if–and i’m being bluntly honest here–marchesa has never been my favourite label (and has maybe even ranged at times into the full-on question mark category for me’ see opt’s brief coverage–f/w 2011, s/s 2012, s/s 2013), then all the same, i’ve never really understood those who seek to dismiss it entirely, declaring that it’s simply a success because of…yannow, film money (you can look it up if you’re interested in hearing more). i certainly don’t believe that to be true, yet there are definitely times i can get with the program of raising my eyebrows at keren craig and georgina chapman’s work, though i guess we could equally argue that it may be a case of certain actresses cheapening the dresses that would be otherwise good, rather than the other way ’round.

ahem. right, so. let me not get distracted, for lord knows, i love to meander along through the archives of practically any house. alors. as for the  f/w 2013 presentation, i’d say it was more subdued than usual, with less of the big-named models the designers have liked to stock their runways with, while the usual bling was certainly all in attendance. however, for my part, i actually liked (and i think this tends to be true, for me with them) those looks which were simplest, like carolina thaler’s gorgeous, asymmetrical, slightly origami-influenced white strapless number which fell just below-the-knee, or sara blomqvist’s slightly architectural black peplumed jacket teamed with a gauzy, layered skirt, accentuated ever-so-slightly with hints of gold.

as for the critics’ takes, the ap reported that this season, the designers were inspired by “17th-century equestrian portraits. In particular, a painting by Francisco de Goya called ‘Portrait of Maria Teresa de Vallabriga on Horseback.’ ‘Highlighting Goya’s influential style of dark shaded color applied in layers, the techniques used to craft this collection are derived from the same grandeur of exquisite detail and romance,’ the designers said in their notes. Chapman also fancied a red equestrian jacket, and Craig was ready to step up the already elaborate threadwork. Marchesa’s various themes ‘depend what we’re in the mood for,’ Chapman said, ‘and I had a vision of a red equestrian jacket.'”

meanwhile, in a slightly different take, for the upcoming autumn season, according to fab sugar, “Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman traveled East — Far East, to be specific. The fearless twosome offered up full-length ball gowns, mermaid-hem dresses, and modern tea-length styles in lustrous reds, silvers, and black duchesse satin. The avant-garde gowns were given an Asian-inspired spin with traditional Mao collars, sheer tulle balloon sleeves, and intricate gold-leaf embroidery and styled with triple-strap pumps and sleek side-parted updos.”

“both the pants and their elaborate embroidery wove their way into the designers’ work this season,” shrieked vogue. “Of course through Chapman and Craig’s ultra-feminine and gilded lens, that inspirational find became, one imagines, the black satin bustier top with an exaggerated and dramatic peplum worn with matching cropped pants with gold, floral threadwork down the sides—one of several pants-for-night looks. The women then took the equestrian motif a few steps further by echoing the buttoned-up nature of a riding costume with high-collared gauze shirts with billowing sleeves worn under a strapless dress or blousing out over a corset….What began as a label best known for frothy Fantasyland looks has become something a bit more, well, realistic. Really. And this is a good thing. The dresses this season felt more reined in; they exhibited a stronger sense of tailoring and their proportions are more in line with the parameters of life off the red carpet.”

hmm. yes, ‘reality’. keep on keepin’ on, i guess. riiiiight. yes, anyway. so we actually got some decent reportage, comparatively speaking (to the above) courtesy of usa today, relaying that “‘(i)t was based on Goya’s Portrait of Maria Teresa de Vallabriga on Horseback. Equestrian feel with a Spanish vibe and matador trousers. Georgina really played around with the draping,’ says Craig. This time, the women offer up plenty of pants coupled with black duchess jackets, satin strapless bustier tops and high-collared satin coats, along with their signature evening gowns. ‘A lot of the embroidery is taken from matador trousers and jackets. You see a lot of threadworks in bright colors,’ says Chapman.”

finally, though, we heard from wwd writing that “(p)laying toward flushed feminine types, the designers chose a palette in a range of reds — from blush to burgundy to blood — crafting dramatically constructed gowns and coats with cutaway skirts from that rich duchesse, often traced with regal gold embroidery. On one hand, it’s the fabric of princess dreams; on the other, when used too liberally, it brings to mind fancy drapes. There were instances of both in this collection, with the winners coming from the short or slim school of thought. Lest the lineup sink in satin quicksand, Chapman and Craig lightened things up. Layering sheer gauze shirts with corset dresses brought a sense of breathing room to the look; a delicate black tulle dress cut lean and off-shoulder with nude floral embroidery was sweet perfection.”

(check out a short collection video here)

nyfw: marchesa

(images via style)

coming straight out with it—marchesa is one of those labels i don’t really get.  when i see their catwalk presentations in all their shined-up, model-fied, new york fashion week glory (see f/w 2011, s/s 2012), they appear every bit the way one images the house’s founders, georgiana chapman and keren craig envision them in their heads, ethereal, glamourous, and the whole bit.  but then…it’s like the reality the day after a drunk shopping spree, when the hangover begins to kick in, and one doesn’t look quite so fanciful and new when we see the manifestations of the gowns on the red carpet. 

somehow—and this is the part, i’ll be frank, doesn’t really make sense, considering that we should probably allow that many of these actress-types have much the same crews to make them look as marvelous when they’re going to appear on a red carpet in a marchesa creation as those girls on the nyfw catwalk—the dream has disappeared, much like what happens after those fabulous shows at the variety theatre in the master and margarita. no matter the loveliness of the ladies we’ve seen (nor the smashing quality of the frock on the catwalk, for that matter!), somehow, the effect in ‘real lifeis one of cheapness, flimsy, almost ice-capades-like gaudiness, rather than the effortless luxe the designers—presumably—intended, and captured, at least for a single flash. 

so.  in other words, we’ve got a new nyfw show full of s/s 2013 marchesa looks to examine.  are you ready to begin?  i find myself scarce knowing what to say, for i know however pleasurable we may judge the experience for the moment…well.  i suppose the most hardcore of fashion critics would just assess that it’s bad styling on the part of the afore-linked actress-types, and perhaps that is correct.  after all, for how much pull ‘celebrity style’ gets in the fashion universe these days, it’s not like it’s every really fool-proof (or anything even close right)?  so maybe we ought consider that, too, and give the designers at hand a break. 

and so.  the time has come, i think, to hear the critics’ cries.  “Like Vera Wang,” explained uk vogue, the “designers chose India as their source of inspiration for spring. While Wang used the influence in a roundabout way, Craig and Chapman used it more literally – a good thing as it melds with their aesthetic more fluently. This meant ornate embroidered jewels on shimmering fabrics in pale green or sunset reds. Fluttering tassels and fringe dripped from gilded textiles. Each piece is an exquisitely thought out and expertly crafted work in itself, deserving of close inspection to truly appreciate its splendour. In terms of shape, the designers were less fanciful than in the past, keeping the lines closer to the body and curbing their explosive, gravity-defying feats.”

and suzy menkes of the iht commented, in a write-up tinged with irony, that “(t)he duo were thinking Bollywood rather than Hollywood for an Indian-inspired collection that also had a link to the Beatles maharishi era of the late 1960s. The result was embellishment to the max, from pearls seeding the neckline of a dress wavering with white silk fringing to a rich, burgundy dress with ornate decoration. Flat sandals and more simple tunics with pants or lightly draped dresses made this collection in some ways less fancy than Marchesa’s previous bouffant-skirted red-carpet offerings. There was only one strapless bustier in sight.”

elsewhere, wwd, too, argued that the designers “approached India so literally — draped dresses with elaborate surface adornments, colorful saris, midriff-exposing ghagra choli — one almost expected an elephant to come down the runway or the models to break into a Bollywood dance number for the finale. That’s not to say the collection didn’t have its high points. Many of the pieces were exquisite, including a languid, white draped gown worn with gold-embroidered illusion tights and the last tulle dress in silver embroidery on Carolyn Murphy [bottom].”

meanwhile, after describing “the look” as “Indian princess. Draped, sari-inspired gowns in rich brocades and paisleys with tulle under-skirts. Cocktail dresses embroidered with gold leaf or shimmying with silk fringe. Lacey, bejeweled tunic tops worn with cropped pants,” the la times opined that this was “(a) bit too costumey perhaps. But they do design with the red carpet in mind, which is about as costumey as it gets,” and i suppose that’s their way of being sanguine, though in truth, it portends dark things, when keeping in mind all of that discussion above. 

but anyway.  “this collection was at its best when the sari-folding was integrated into the silhouette itself,” said us vogue, “showcasing the rich diversity of shapes that can be conjured by this elegant draping of fabric onto the body—viz a fuchsia cocktail dress with a cascading hem, or a bordeaux tulle dress appliquéd with gold painted lace. Other times, the Indian theme was little more than a fragrant reminder—such as a peacock blue and turquoise paisley evening look that came embroidered with crystals, and which could swish through the night wherever it’s worn on the globe.”

fand the nyt’s cathy horyn’s offered that “(o)n the subject of modern India, filmmakers…have been tour guides, taking us well beyond raj dreams and sari nightmares. Provided a designer uses a strong contemporary filter, the contrasts could produce interesting fashion. Unfortunately, Georgina Chapman just popped on rose-colored glasses for a Marchesa collection slanted weakly toward the Beatles’ trip to India…Ms. Chapman presented many jeweled necklines, Capri pants and cascading hemlines, some in tones of coral and peacock blue that approached in gaudiness a 37th Street wholesaler. When the clothes were simplified, Ms. Chapman did fine, but many had a costume flavor.”

finally, though, i thought style hit just the right note in relating that “India also provided them an eloquent palette…And when Craig and Chapman integrated those elements into their own aesthetic—rather than merely aping the Bollywood look straight—they conjured some knockouts…Some of the looks here were a little off, though. Granted, Marchesa traffics in dream moments, but that doesn’t give them a pass for overcooked gowns impossible to walk in, and it doesn’t entirely explain loony conceits such as full-length tulle skirts worn over bedazzled shorts. (The latter looked cool for a second, but then you thought: Hey, wait—that’s ridiculous. And the spell wore off.) The main issue here, though, was that Craig and Chapman’s friendly obsession with India entailed too much mimicry and not enough interpretation.”

(check out the catwalk video here)

nyfw: marchesa

(images via ny mag)

it’s probably no secret that i, like everyone, have favourites and preferences (and i hope, now that i’ve said that, you’re not, like, “bitch, we know.  they’re blaring!”) on the catwalk, one of which has never really been marchesa.  don’t get me wrong, after the a/w 2011 miss havisham-inspired fest (see my top look here), my mind started to open a little wider to the duo, realizing that they were perhaps more than their frothy ballgowns that fancy movie start-types wear to their fancy movie-type events. but because of that, they’d never really been a passion of mine. 

however, for the s/s 2012 season, designers keren craig & georgina chapman opted to stag their first actual runway show at new york fashion week (in lieu of a presentation, with models standing, slowly wilting, as the guests lingered amongst them).  this meant, among other things, the show opened, as style described, with personality (meaning she’s actually known to have one) model karen elson in “a flapper-y number with swingy beaded fringe—you could have mistaken it for something she picked up at a great vintage shop.” 

so, oh gumdrops.  vintage and not a pinch of tulle in the first look.  did that mean we were in for something extra special?  well, yes and no.  the label wasn’t quite ready to give up on that princess-y ethereal thing they so adore, but they were at least trying something of a new direction for spring.  “I came across Ilya Repin’s painting ‘Sadko’ while researching one night and fell in love with the idea of a romantic underwater story,” ms. chapman told the nyt’s t magazine.  the nyt’s eric wilson adds in his review that “Ernst Haeckel drawings of tentacles and jellyfish” were also an inspiration, perhaps leading to that dose of modernist arty-ness that tempered the frothy vision. 

with the wsj calling the show a “Great Gatsby fantasy ball,” marchesa showed a host of dresses “you wear only once: too memorable and possibly too fragile for more.”  silver beading, tulle, mesh, silk fringe, crystals, chiffon, and organza were the primary ingredients in a recipe that turned out stacked an layered creations that were meant to shimmer with movements, embroidery and the sequins carefully placed just so to create trompe d’oeil illusions of coral and sea flora connected to the models’ bodies. 

“Dresses with long feathers captured the movement of plants in the water, and sheer illusion fabrics allowed embellishment to float, seemingly unattached to anything. There was scalloped edges, of course, and some looks had an outerlayer of chiffon that made it seem as if you were looking at the beaded underneath through a dreamlike filter,” wrote the washington post, quoting ms. chapman as saying “It’s all got a watery, magical feel.” 

“We wanted the dress to retain a sense of floating lightness, and we quickly learned that all that organza got quite heavy when applied to a corset, so we chose to make the interior bodice a simple sheath of tulle,” ms. chapman told t magazine of a particular creation, noting the complexities of transferring their format to the runway to the wp (indeed, they needed to make some changes that would allow their girls to move!  it leads one to wonder how those that have donned their creations to events in the past have fared). 

but in the end, if i went into the thing feeling a bit skeptical, at least i had gained a newfound appreciation for the artistry that goes into the house’s garments.  of course one can’t deny the beauty of their work, even if not particularly motivated to go out into the world looking so faerie-like.  to quote wwd, though, “(t)hese clothes are far from subtle, but they were never intended for the faint of heart.”  i guess some of us can have them and others can simply admire them from afar. 

(watch the catwalk finale video here)