THE PARIS-BYZANCE SHOW
BY ELISABETH QUIN
A snowy and rainy evening in Paris on December 7th 2010. After passing through the black wrought iron gate of the 31 rue Cambon, we climb the stairs to the Couture salon and go on through to a magic place that takes us back in time, 15 centuries into the past, to the banks of the Bosporus, at the heart of the Byzantine Empire. We are transported to a time when Constantinople was not yet called Istanbul, but the Sublime Porte between East and West! The walls are covered with bronze sequins, oriental lanterns cast a soft sensual glow and in this harem-like atmosphere one is tempted to lie down on the deep plush sofas, decorated with hand-painted cushions. Turkish Delight... Paris seems so far away... That is when a brilliant, ironic, timeless sound is heard, the sound of change rattling in a cash register to the tune of Money by Pink Floyd, from the album The Dark Side of the Moon. Karl Lagerfeld’s sense of humor strikes again. The presentation begins…
Tight fitting coats in black tweed, embroidered with gold thread, two-tone thigh-high boots, in black and eggshell white, a perfect pea coat, slim pants, tapered and tight as a second satin skin: the woman parading on the catwalk becomes many before our eyes to the psychedelic riffs of Pink Floyd, and is troubling in her elegant androgyny. She is the opposite of all the oriental clichés evoked by the names Byzantium and Istanbul. If she is a Sultana, then she has wings on her feet – dressed in flat sandals decorated with arabesques - her hips are narrow, her tiny waist is encircled with short tailored skirts, combined with a sassy reworked evening biker jacket. Our lady is dreaming of being a Sultana, just for a day or a night; it is not her destiny, just a game...
The accessories are extravagant in their refinement, 2.55 handbags, embroidered by Lesage, drawstring purses like small Chinese teapots, decorated with gem stones, the opulence of the bodices is subtly offset by the strict cut of the dresses they embellish.
Then come Maharani tunics and red satin slippers with precious-stoned heels, a strict black dress with a white satin collar, a black leather skirt and matching jacket with three-quarter length sleeves, tweeds in shades of wine, candied chestnut, oat, old gold, long, padded, bronze fingerless gloves...The work of fine craftsmen! Ethereal variations on the theme of the mosaic, the symbol of Byzantine art!
We love the emerald green harem pants, worn low, on the hips, or baggy, and the model in ribbed corduroy with its "high-class hippy" look...in fact, all the styles of the Orient and the South are suggested in this collection, from Pierre Loti to Justinian the Great and even Talitha Getty in Marrakech at the beginning of the 70s, when suddenly we see a superb evening dress in voile with openwork and embroidery... the models move with an almost opium induced nonchalance… a black and white tunic, straight out of the Crusades, mingles with an evening jacket covered in gold sequins, which is worn open, with an innocent beauty, because this type of luxury is anything but ostentatious, it is muted, like gold or another dusky surface...
And finally the supermodel Freja Beha appears for the last presentation, in a long black hieratic cape, an outlandish outfit, decked in noble fabrics, voile, lace, embroideries, offering a glimpse of the Empress of Constantinople, Theodora, as Karl Lagerfeld experienced and adored her... on one of the mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna.
Photos: Olivier Saillant