Collection Spotlight: Elie Saab AW16 Couture

Under the soaring, opulent ceilings of the Pavillon Cambon in Paris, strains of Gershwin tunes mixed with the noise of taxi horns and busy traffic, filling the palatial room with the unmistakable soundtrack of New York City and underscoring the Big Apple theme chosen by Elie Saab for his Fall 2016 Haute Couture presentation. Neon outlines of modern city towers illuminated the walls; a motif revisited on the first looks sent down the grand staircase, and reinterpreted on capes and dresses as shimmering architecture-inspired details. Gold threads illustrated lit skyscraper windows. Rich burnout velvets framed the curves of the iconic Chrysler building on the skirt of an evening gown. It was an innovative, exciting beginning to a fresh collection from Saab that felt more expressive and personal than his sometimes predictable but much beloved version of monochromatic glamour.

Aside from the décor, the soundtrack, and these first ensembles, the Gotham City theme wasn’t as consistent throughout the collection as was the marked influence of 1940s Hollywood glamour, shown in strong shoulder details, nipped-in waists, sweetheart necklines and an occasional peplum.

As the presentation progressed, a sense of unrestrained romance and artistic freedom unfurled, becoming prevalent sensibilities most successfully expressed through a graphic bird motif rendered as a print, a beaded appliqué, or even when implied via spirited sprigs of feathers occasionally decorating the shoulder or hip. Plumes – along with velvet – proved to be an important material in this collection, as wisps of luxuriant ostrich feathers added graceful movement to several looks. Rows of smaller, black and white feathers were fastened onto fabrics with jet and gold beading, creating a fabulous optical illusion one could almost mistake for an ethnic print were it not so sumptuous upon closer examination (and the silhouettes of these garments so refined).  Aside from feathers and fowl, love was also in the air.  A suite of looks featured romantic red hearts in various iterations of couture craftsmanship, and many models carried crystal-encrusted, heart-shaped evening bags.

Especially memorable in this collection was the introduction of miniature versions of the va-va-voom Haute Couture gowns, created for the little girls who daintily floated down the runway alongside the matching, more mature looks on the grown-up models. Puff sleeves, empire waists, soft layers of skirting and delicate embellishment made for the ultimate princess party wardrobe.

Somehow, even with so many references, motifs, colors and novelties, this showing from Saab felt beautifully cohesive – perhaps not always visually or literally, but certainly emotionally – as the overriding feeling expressed through the clothes was the joy of a modern woman in love, unafraid to spread her wings and conquer big city nights… in Haute Couture, of course.

About the Author

A fashion stylist, event designer, and style writer, Lucas Somoza has a keen eye for all things beautiful. Based in Paris, Lucas regularly collaborates with Olivia throughout Paris Fashion Week, producing editorials and contributing reviews of designer collections. You can follow Lucas on Instagram at @LucasSomoza.