Oriental Fashion Show Paris - The Jewel Of The East
Ambitiously positioned smack bang in the centre of Couture Fashion Week, when the world is watching Paris almost as much as the World Cup -the two events being ironically similar in levels of drama and exhibitionism - the Oriental Fashion Show bursts onto the scene and certainly attracts attention.
Spanning two days and located at two of the cities most prestigious and historic palace hotels; the Hotel de Crillon and the Peninsula, the event showcases the creme de la creme of fashion designers from the East. This includes Arabia, Asia and North Africa, reflecting the path of the notorious Silk Road.
The event promised to marry the culture together with the richness and diversity of the clothing in the Orient, exhibiting Caftans, Wedding dresses and everything in-between.
I attended the show at the Peninsula Hotel, and was certainly treated to a spectacle. The riot of colours (some exquisite combinations, others definitely not to western tastes and more lurid), richness of fabrics, intricacies of embellishments, often with precious threads and gemstones on the garments really were something to behold. The cultural differences between east and west were certainly clear - these Eastern people don’t hold back! More was definitely more. Even the fabulous Icon Iris Apfel herself would have, at times, struggled to out-do the ensembles being paraded down the runway.
Temperatures in Paris reached over 30 degrees, and we were unfortunately crammed into a conservatory at the Peninsula Hotel - not their smartest move - as the show was long, featuring 8 different designers with entertainment interludes in-between. We were treated to the talents of Jeanne Moutelier, an incredible opera singer amongst others, but her efforts were slightly under-appreciated as guests began to melt in the searing heat and eventually all Caftans started to look the same.
Even if not everything was within the realms of western ‘taste’ , it was clear that an incredible amount of workmanship had gone into every piece. It was a shame then that the same levels of care and attention hadn’t been paid to the casting of the models, most of which were clearly untrained and couldn’t execute the required walk to really do justice to the garments. This is something I really hope they will revisit before the next event as there were frequent titters in the audience. Their amateurish efforts certainly kept us entertained and distracted us from being so hot and uncomfortable, but they also at times, sadly distracted us from the couture which was a shame.
Notable collections included Slava Zaitsev, the Russian designer dubbed ‘Red Dior’ following his success in his home country where he is a veritable national treasure. His collection was a sumptuous rainbow of Byzantine-inspired pieces richly embellished with gold thread - references to his heritage coming through loud and clear with every stitch.
The aptly named Hany El Behairy brought us the most incredible hand-beaded, silver shimmering wedding gown, topped off with a tiara and huge chandelier earrings (more is more) which, though too much for most of us would look fabulous on Beyonce. This was followed by stunning, delicately beaded, partly sheer figure-hugging gowns that were utterly feminine and more than a little reminiscent of early Elie Saab.
The final collection that really got my attention was by Saher Okal from Nazareth, who lost us in a dreamy, floaty sea of soft blue and turquoise chiffon, followed by the most beautifully sculptured wedding gown that oozed hollywood old-school glamour - his collection felt the most contemporary of all, and I can really see it translating across to our market. He is the definitely one to watch.
So will there be a place for the opulence of oriental fashion at London fashion week? For Saher Okal and Hany El Behairy yes, definitely. As for the others, I appreciate the workmanship but a Caftan is still just a Caftan.