It pays being a woman with taste and deep pockets as newbie at design helm and owner of Vionnet, Goga Ashkenazi, shows. She knows that if this label is to survive and be more than just a rich woman’s plaything, that her offerings have to be relevant to a red carpet celeb crowd such as Carey Mulligan as well as the press who will deem her house on or below par.
So far it’s 50-50. Goga, leading the house as creative director and owner since last year, has immeasurably thrown herself into the financial as well as the creative, taking the decision to cut thousands of dollars from the prices of couture pieces (still staggeringly expensive) to make them more appealing to the young hip stars and rich luxe young women she hopes to augment her house. Ergo, the demi-couture is born.
Goga’s vision is to be applauded and her stabs at creating modernity in (demi-)couture acknowledged, but it takes more than vision and a healthy bank balance to throw fashion forward or to ignite the flames of desire.
This was a collection that at times seemed to lean heavily on Riccardo Tisci’s vision for Givenchy. Ultra advanced meets ultra desirable but instead was waylaid, largely as to create the new ‘new’ one must have the training and understanding in years and experience. And Goga, quite frankly, doesn’t, despite being an super glamorous woman with exemplary taste. Sometimes it takes more than sheer good taste to make a collection work. I have no doubt that the indomitable Madame Vionnet herself would have agreed. That’s the difference between creative directors as trained designers and their counterparts who aren’t.
The collection veered from the very. very good to the very very bad, or, in fashion parlance, ‘confused’.
Of the very good, was the floor length, Tibetan red pleat gown with black sequin shoulders and modernist black waist bands as was the red strapless, trailing gown with beige wrap detailing. Vionnet’s trad ruching, drapes, tucks, pleats and splices were in abundance – perhaps too much so.
Ashkenazi certainly made her nods to the House’s esteemed past using clear linear lines and graphic patterns and decorations, including the dragon motif, inspired by the illustrations of Thayaht, who sketched for Vionnet in the Thirties, and from the innovative vision of French artist Sonia Delaunay. But was it enough?
Of the bad, were the numerous body suits,with a slight retro feel peeking out of sweeping tulle capes. More Beyonce than classic couture. And, the green emerald dragon motif slink, tube number with long cape that seemed clunky and contrived, as did the strapless emerald green dress with black chunky embroidered & stone embellished frontage. If an Amazonian beauty catwalk model can’t wear it well, then God help the rest of us.
No one can contest the ateliers’ skilled hand work in this demi-couture collection including laser cut leather; degradè crepe de chine strips, individually hand-stitched in different tonalities and edgy snakeskin applications on fabric which were hand painted. But, this would be to break down couture into the parts instead of looking at the Gestaltist whole. Was the body (of work) beautiful in extremis? Non. But it does show promise in parts. Perhaps Ashkenazi would do well to delegate.