As she transitioned into her next song at the intimate after-party gig, Florence Welch spoke softly into the microphone, “It’s incredible: Karl and I met this summer for a photoshoot, he told me about the runway show in October, his inspiration and the all-white underwater decor, and he said, ‘You should come and perform at the show’. I never thought it would happen, and I certainly didn’t imagine that I’d be standing singing in a white seashell in front of 2500 people."
"What The Water Gave Me" just so happens to be the name of a hit track on the new Florence and the Machine album to be released in late October. As far as Karl Lagerfeld was concerned, this coincidence was reason enough for him to style himself a modern-day Lohengrin and set the tone for the show’s soundtrack.
Florence performed as the closing styles paraded across the runway. With her incomparable voice, there was no question of preceding her act with another singer. The music was instead conceived as an integral part of the collection, complementing the idea of an imaginary underwater world, graphic styles and aquatic colors, bodies dripping with pearls and faces softened by the wet-look hairstyles of models gliding across under-the-sea decor that seemed to belong on some strange unfamiliar planet.
Although we will never know the true mermaid’s song, and haven’t really tried to know it, the build-up to the show was marked by a yearning for mythology. Hence the eclectic selection of electronic and orchestral renditions of Wagnerian works: Ride of the Valkyries (subtitled "nervous") was heard in a version by experimental musician Curd Duca, and in a more classical interpretation by Herbert Von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. But the Grand Palais is no concert hall. A runway show needs a certain energy, which is why an album by Gui Borratto, an electronic music producer from Sao Paulo, was chosen to provide the rhythmic backdrop for this ostensibly unnatural marriage that came together like a match made in heaven. A flurry of harp glissando – resurrected from an old B52’s CD! – announced Florence’s emergence from a giant gleaming seashell like a true Lorelei, her voice and hair charming the spectators and putting a spring in the step of the models.
The soundtrack was produced exclusively for the Grand Palais show, thus preserving the magic of the moment.
Photo © Olivier Saillant
Spring-Summer 2012 Ready-to-Wear
1. Curd Duca "Nervous Ride Of The Valkyrie"
2. Plastikman "Snares"
3. Gui Boratto "Strike"
4. Gui Boratto "The Drill"
5. Richard Wagner "Tristan Und Isolde Opera, Wwv 90 Prelude"
6. Richard Wagner "Tristan Und Isolde Opera Wwv 90 Liebestod"
7. Curd Duca "Whistle Tannhauser"
8. Plastikman "Rides And Snares"
9. Florence and the Machine "What The Water Gave Me"
Aftershow, October 4th
1. "Shake It Out"
2. "Cosmic Love"
3. "What The Water Gave Me"
© Benoît Peverelli
Jules Verne? Wes Anderson? Georges Méliès? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea? This stunning recreation of the ocean floor, this immaculate white landscape of seaweed, stingrays, sharks and shells, daring the dream with candor and an optimistic, rather than desolate, idea of fashion.
So, captivated by an extravagant dream, enthralled, and traveling even before the show commenced, spectators awaited the various versions of the underwater theme throughout the collection.
It was a masterpiece: deceptively simple but never dull. Mermaids in slinky sheath dresses were not on the program. Instead, there were more youthful and light silhouettes than ever. Lots of long, tapering limbs, knee-revealing dresses and skirts, luxurious and loose knitwear, wonderful white sweaters worn over full skirts, the very image of elegance without pretension. We loved the mini-mini shorts in laminated denim worn under unstructured jackets, the little top embroidered like a bed of sea anemones, jackets sensually cut along the small of the back, the dress embroidered with bronze-colored scales. The collection seems to capture the shimmering light of the sun on the waves.
The tweed is iridescent with Lurex and mother-of-pearl applications chiseled onto suits. Extensive work on the materials reinforces the modernity and the energy of the profiles: rhodoid, neoprene and plastic accentuate the feeling of lightness. A silicon lace biker jacket designed by Sophie Halette is complimented by sinewy black plastic piping for the ultimate refined look. It is as though two hands had dived into the sea foam and brought back a jacket.
Subtle humour permeates the collection. The dress with embroidered shoulders bears a trompe-l’oeil of lacy seaweed below the waistline. Karl Lagerfeld has been having more fun than ever!
Heels shaped like coral branches or beaded shells, earrings and rings in the shape of sea urchins, shell-shaped clutch bags, rectangular quilted bags enchained like certain packages recovered by the sea customs… all enraptured the audience. The haunting black and white or silver-colored ankle boots gave movement and a subtle touch of the Swinging Sixties in London to the shapes.
The evening was sumptuous and youthful, with lengths remaining above the ankle, diaphanous volumes, lace, gemstones, sparkling embroidery, a spirit in-keeping with both the celestial and the aquatic.
Pearl, the iconic motif of the House of Chanel, was in its element! Assembled in delicate belts on some short dresses, it transformed into a sort of skin embroidery to create almost an almost surreal alignment down the spine.
Lightness, inventiveness and refinement for an intensely invigorating collection that ends with a Botticelli-style appearance of the singer Florence Welch, emerging from a giant shell to sing, accompanied by a harp player.
While her striking voice filled the Grand Palais, Paul Valéry’s words in ‘The Graveyard by the Sea’ came to mind:
“A freshness, exhalation of the sea,
Restores my soul . . . Salt-breathing potency!
Let's run at the waves and be hurled back to living!”
This collection was exactly that, living!
Photo © Olivier Saillant
© Benoît Peverelli
According to Karl Lagerfeld, Zhou Xun “is a mix of a young Coco Chanel and Zizi Jeanmaire.”
© Benoît Peverelli