The poetry of flowers dying and dropping to the ground over the audience’s heads was the first vision of the show’s concept before it even started: “Beauty in decay.”
Those were the words of Creative Director Goga Ashkenazi, who seemed dedicated to taking the classic house and shaking it until it cracked open.
But what was inside, behind the surface of the classically beautiful, blush-pink, silk-satin column that opened the show, followed by a second classic in light blue? The latter was the colour of the ice caps and bubbling lava of the North Pole, where Goga had gone for inspiration.
Cracks in the fashion ice flow began immediately: first another silken dress pulling open at the breasts; then the same material and colours reduced to a frontispiece to trousers. That look became an ongoing theme: a Vionnet drape paired with shiny stretch-leather trousers, or accessorised with a handbag turned into a pull-along trolley.
It sounds confusing, and it was. The “destruction” vision has been around for two decades, from John Galliano through to Comme des Garçons. Galliano’s face-off between elegance and S&M reappeared at Vionnet as straps across the bust. Or maybe Goga was playing a riff on centurion sandals.
The theme of destruction produced some fine pieces, such as a cracked pattern that made the surface appear to be heaving with lava and a fur jacket in a jigsaw puzzle of pieces.
But the problem in revitalising this house is profound. The original Madame Vionnet created dresses that caught the still centre of a turning world. Goga did the opposite, throwing in all kinds of ideas, mostly concerning transparent materials creating a window on the body.
The chaos theory so rarely works in applied art, especially fashion, where the ultimate test is what a woman looks like walking the runway — or in the real world.