Three couturiers, none of them born in Paris – Rahul Mishra, Stephane Rolland and Tamara Ralph – offered contrasting visions of elegance, though all of them inspired by a beguiling search for fashion excellence.
Rahul Mishra: We could be heroes
Few couturiers are as idiosyncratic as India’s most famous couturier Rahul Mishra, whose inspiration this season was the insect population.
Led by a giant silver month who appeared in the very first look of his remarkable show held inside a disused post 9th arrondissement office that has been hosting daily shows in both last week’s menswear and this week’s couture seasons.
“Insects have been around for 300 million years. They have created this whole kingdom that pollinated 90% of the species we see today. They created all the flowers and plants that humans consume,” explained Mishra, who like many Hindus does not eat meat or drink alcohol.
Rahul created several Petrie dish shapes to display his embroidered and crystal butterflies, which were sewn on the front of cocktail dresses. Just like the one which star Indian influencer Ananya wore in this show, the better to reach her 24 million Instagram followers.
Arguably no couturier outside of Italy and France has ever matched the couture quality of Mishra’s collection. His remarkable atelier and team – he has some 3,000 sewers in India – even able to make entire gold or silver mesh cocktail dresses out of pure embroidery. And conjure up shining crystal bugs and bees that were remarkable. Followed by stunning golden suits leaf suits with leaves that shot spectacularly into the air or a brilliant top that was a platinum lepidopteran fluttering its wings.
All very sagely styled by the stylist of the moment, Jenke Tailly.
His other inspiration was apparent in the program, essentially the famed poem Snake by D. H. Lawrence. Riffed on in a gazar look where the image of a golden cobra seemed dusted on to the gown.
Plenty of star power in the audience, led by Charithra Chandran who played the part of Edwina Sharma in Bridgerton. And who ruled the front-row in Mishra’s super heroine silver winged top.
“Today, many insects are extinct. And there is a basic instinct when you see a snake or a lizard to kill it, due to human conditioning. But these creatures who have come before us, have created this planet where we live. That’s why I think of them as superheroes,” Mishra stressed.
“We are building a house in the hills in India. And what is disturbing is that children want to kill those insects, which is why I created the Petrie dish looks, so a new generation can see these beautiful beings,” he elaborated. Hopefully this show will help change that attitude.
Tamara Ralph: Goddesses in Shangri La
Tamara Ralph staged her second collection as an independent couturier and the results showed a couturier much more fully in control of her atelier.
Where last year, she appeared to be forming her couture team, this season she impressed with the impeccable finish of this collection, shown in a gilded Grand Empire salon in the Shangri La Hotel.
Australian-born but Cote d’Azur based Ralph showed dashing tailleurs cut below the knee and made in dazzling beige gold wool bouclé. She cinched her jackets at the waist with modernist metallic belts, that all looked great.
While her screen idol chiffon gowns in canary yellow and sweet peppermint recalled Adrian at his best.
Tamara has always had a sense of humor, seen in her conceptual golden columns, whose torso was finished in the mock-up of a stockman. It read: Couture Atelier Tamara Ralph Paris 2024.
Surely a must-have red carpet look for an adventurous nominee of the award season in LA. Which is where Ralph has found avid new fans. No less a crew than Beyoncé, Penelope Cruz, Demi Moore, Halle Berry, Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba have worn her dramatic couture.
Not bad going at all for a brand which debuted the Paris season only last year.
Stephane Rolland : Desert delights
Stephane Rolland, a generous gent, likes to stage a big show. So much so Ralph he big heartedly staged a giant catwalk in the Salle Pleyel and invited 20 students from two top Paris schools to open the show, each with one look each.
Pupils from IFIM and Esmod fashion colleges who presented looks on a 15-meter-wide runway that covered all the center of the famed concert hall. Few shows will be bigger this season than Stephane’s, whose spring-summer 2024 collection was inspired by the desert.
Huge screen projected images of wind-blow dunes, caravanserais, camels and horsemen traversing the Sahara. Before which the cast appeared in diaphanous hooded tunics in rosewood cashmere; silk gazar asymmetrical dresses; and extra length houppelande dresses in crepe.
Looks were trimmed and completed in braided leather, glistened with crystals and jazzed up with silicon vines.
A highly exotic collection in terms of shape and silhouette, albeit in a restrained palette of burnished gold, salmon, tobacco and taupe. And all accessorized with modernist statement amulets and necklaces
All 32 Rolland looks striding out on a huge sandy carpet, as a giant eagle appeared on the screen, and the soundtrack boomed out Scheherazade, before trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf serenaded the final model – in a dark gazar cape dress with raffia fringes – off the catwalk with a wonderful jazz solo.
In a season of dial down couture, Stephane Rolland’s grandeur felt rather uplifting and refreshing.
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