Fashion Royalty: Marisa Berenson, Elsa Schiaparelli’s granddaughter and legendary Vogue model, during Tom Ford’s Spring 2011 presentation; A model in an evening look from Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fall 1996 couture collection. That season Gaultier presented his designs in the 18th Century hôtel particulier that once belonged to Marie-Laure de Noailles, who was known for hosting surrealist salon’s attended by the likes of Cocteau, Man Ray and Salvador Dali.
Fast-forward to the Spring 2011 collections, and the most hotly anticipated show of the New York season wasn’t at the Lincoln Center (terminal), but at 845 Madison Avenue. There Tom Ford, another astute (and observant) designer, decided to stage his first women’s wear collection since 2004 within the plush confines of his flagship store.
This was an incredibly private and intimate affair, which required an even more exclusive invitation. Only 100 lucky buyers and editors were allowed in (to the obvious frustration of many in the industry). To add to the aura of exclusivity was a ban on cameras, apart from the one belonging to Terry Richardson. Some images from the show were released this past November, although Richardson’s photographs will appear within the pages of Paris Vogue in January (a joint editorial project between old-time collaborators Ford and Roitfeld).
In addition to the salon-like presentation, Ford resurrected yet another couture tradition, that of the “house model.” During couture’s heyday in the 1950’s, most clothes were shown on the reigning tastemakers of the day (or at least on models that approximated their looks). Gone were the sterile, white-washed presentations of past. Instead Ford kicked off his presentation by standing up and introducing a diverse group of women representing different ages, races and shapes. This unlikely (yet potent) mix included a singer Beyoncé, an actress Julianne Moore, a client Daphne Guinness and a sprinkling of legendary faces from fashion’s past, Lauren Hutton and Marisa Berenson. It takes someone with a fairly extensive knowledge of fashion history to tap into such references, and reinterpret them for a cotemporary audience.
In all, it was a very personal affair and to most industry insiders, Ford’s choice of presentation was a logical and refreshing reaction to the exhaustive media attention and instant copying by high-street chains. In a world oversaturated by hype and fast fashion, exclusivity has become the new luxury. It’s the kind of luxury experience that’s neither mass produced on the cheap nor over-exposed.
© THE POLYGLOT/ALEX AUBRY (all rights reserved) CHICAGO-PARIS